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Timeline: British forces in Iraq

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 30 April 2009

Key events and films describing the British military involvement in Iraq between March 2003 and April 2009.

British soldiers in Basra, Iraq (credit:Getty Images)

2003

20 March: Royal Marines launch an amphibious assault on the al-Faw peninsula in southern Iraq as the US-led invasion begins. The UK's commitment to the campaign peaks at 46,000 troops in March and April.
6 April: British forces enter Basra, Iraq's second city.
9 April: Helped by American troops, cheering Iraqis pull down a statue of newly-deposed dictator Saddam Hussein in a square in central Baghdad.
1 May: Standing on an aircraft carrier underneath a banner reading "Mission Accomplished", then-US president George Bush declares that major combat operations in Iraq have ended. By the end of the month, the UK's military involvement has been cut to around 18,000 troops.
23 June: Six British soldiers with the Royal Military Police involved in training Iraqi police officers are killed by an angry mob near the southern city of Al Amara in Maysan province.
14-16 September: Baha Mousa, a hotel receptionist in Basra, is beaten to death while in the custody of British soldiers from the former Queen's Lancashire Regiment.
13 December: US forces arrest Saddam Hussein in a hiding place near his hometown of Tikrit.


2004

May: The number of UK military personnel in Iraq drops to 8,600.

30 September: Responsibility for Iraq's territorial waters is transferred to the Iraqi Coastal Defence Force, which later becomes the Iraqi Navy.

2005

30 January: Iraqis vote in the country's first democratic elections for five decades. Ten British military personnel are killed when their RAF Hercules is shot down near Baghdad.
26 February: Three British soldiers from the 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers are jailed and thrown out of the Army for their roles in a prisoner abuse scandal at an aid camp in Iraq in May 2003.


18 March: Private Johnson Beharry becomes the first person in over two decades to be awarded the Victoria Cross after he heroically saved the lives of his comrades in two separate incidents in Iraq in 2004.

2006

31 January: The death of Corporal Gordon Pritchard, 31, of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, takes the number of British troops who have died in Iraq since the invasion to 100.
13 March: Then-Defence Secretary John Reid announces the withdrawal of 800 British troops but says the move does not signal the start of a complete pullout.
13 July: The British commander of coalition forces in southern Iraq, Major General John Cooper, signs over responsibility for security in Muthanna province to the Iraqis.
21 September: UK and Italian forces transfer Dhi Qar province back to Iraqi control.
12 October: General Sir Richard Dannatt, the head of the British Army, sparks controversy when he calls in an interview for British troops to be withdrawn from Iraq "sometime soon". He says their presence is exacerbating security problems in Iraq and the difficulties Britain is experiencing around the world.
30 December: Saddam Hussein is executed by hanging.

2007

21 February: Then-Prime Minister Tony Blair announces the first step in a phased withdrawal of British forces with the return of 1,600 troops over the following months.
18 April: Britain returns control of Maysan province to the Iraqi authorities.
2 September: The last 550 British troops stationed at Basra Palace in the city centre begin withdrawing to the main coalition base at Basra's airport.
2 October: On a visit to Iraq, Prime Minister Gordon Brown says the British force in Basra will reduce to 4,500, with 1,000 troops home by Christmas.
16 December: Basra, the last of the four provinces that had been under British control, is handed over to the Iraqis.

2008

25 March: A major Iraqi Army-led operation against militants in Basra is launched on the orders of Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki but against the advice of British and US generals, who think it is too soon. The operation, codenamed Charge of the Knights, comes close to collapse in the early days, but with extra US and UK military back-up the Iraqi forces achieve a significant victory over the insurgents.
1 April: Then-Defence Secretary Des Browne tells the House of Commons that plans to withdraw further British troops from Iraq have been put on hold as fighting continues in Basra.
22 July: In a speech to Parliament Mr Brown paves the way for significant troop cuts in Iraq, saying there will be a "fundamental change of mission" in the first months of 2009.
17 December: Mr Brown announces that British combat operations in Iraq will be completed by May 31 2009 and nearly all UK forces will be withdrawn by 31 July.
31 December: United Nations Security Council Resolution 1790, which provides the British military's mandate to remain in Iraq, expires. It is replaced by a new status of forces agreement between the UK and Iraqi governments.

2009

1 January: Basra International Airport is transferred to Iraqi control.
31 January: Provincial elections in Basra pass off peacefully.
31 March: Major General Andy Salmon, Britain's top commander in Iraq, flies out after handing military command of coalition forces in Basra to the US.
30 April: Britain ends combat operations in Iraq with a sombre remembrance service for the 179 UK servicemen and women killed in the conflict. Nearly all of the remaining 3,700 British troops in the country begin returning home.
30 July: An independent inquiry into the Iraq war is launched. Its chairman, Sir John Chilcot, confirms that Mr Blair will be among the witnesses and says his panel will not shy away from criticising anyone found to have made mistakes.

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