18 August 2022
Duncan Evans takes a look at one of the more obscure medals awarded for service during the first Gulf War.
We covered the little-known Kuwait Liberation Medal in the September 2019 issue of The Armourer, which was issued by the grateful Kuwait government to Allied forces. However, there was also another medal issued by one of the involved parties, this time by Saudi Arabia. When Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi troops occupied Kuwait on 2 August 1990 it prompted Operation Desert Shield, a massive re-enforcement of Saudi Arabia to deter further Iraqi incursions. The US feared Saddam Hussein would attempt to seize Saudi oilfields which, combined with those of Kuwait and Iraq itself, would give it control of 65% of the world’s oil reserves. When King Fahd of Saudi Arabia also called for help, the US sent troops on 8 August, along with two naval battlegroups.
The key to retaking Kuwait though, was building up a coalition of troops, starting with a series of UN Council resolutions on the issue. The most important was Resolution 678 which gave Iraq the ultimatum of withdrawing from Kuwait by 15 January 1991 and specified: ‘… all necessary means to uphold and implement Resolution 660,” which was diplomatic language for authorising military force.
All told, the coalition against Iraq drew support from 34 countries, with US personnel making up 73% of the 956,600 troops involved. The UK, Canada and Australia all committed forces, with the UK providing the most from any European country. British operations in the Gulf were given the title Operation Granby.
The main British Army ground force was the 1st Armoured Division, which was involved in the ground assault that began on 24 February. The US VII Corps launched the assault into Iraq, supported on the left wing by the US XVIII Airborne Corps with cover from the French Division Daguet. The 101st Airborne dropped 2,000 soldiers 155 miles into Iraq to bottle up fleeing forces while the British 1st Armoured took the right flank of the advance, before turning east and mounting a flank attack on the elite Republican Guard. After just two days of fighting the 1st Armoured had destroyed over 200 Iraqi tanks, crushed four Iraqi infantry divisions and defeated the Iraqi 52nd Armored Division.
A Challenger 1 tank of the British forces fighting in Operation Desert Storm
By 26 February Iraqi troops were streaming in retreat from Kuwait down the main Iraq-Kuwait highway, where they were so extensively bombed it became known as the Highway of Death. On 28 February, after 100 hours of fighting, President Bush declared a ceasefire and Kuwait had been liberated.
The Medal for the Liberation of Kuwait (Naut Tahrir al-Kuwait) was instituted by King Fahd ibn Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia to members of the coalition forces who participated in Operation Desert Storm and the liberation of Kuwait between the dates of 17 January 1991 and 28 February 1991. Unlike the medal issued by Kuwait itself this one only came in one class and covered a much shorter time period. All 53,462 British servicemen taking part were eligible for it but only a few have been authorised by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to actually wear it.
Left: The medal on its own, showing the central globe, wording and national emblem
The medal itself is made from a white metal, approximately 45mm across, with a star containing 15 long and 15 short rays, with round tips. It is surmounted by a gilt medallion with a silver globe to the centre featuring a gilt map of Arabia. Around the bottom is a wreath with the words ‘LIBERATION OF KUWAIT’, repeated in Arabic script. Above the medallion are the crossed swords and palm tree, which is the official emblem of Saudi Arabia. There are various definitions for these elements, but generally the palm tree represents vitality and growth of the country while the swords represent justice and strength from faith. The reverse is unadorned except for a pattern, presumably of date fruit from the palm tree, and the fixing for the suspension ring.
The ribbon has a centre of green with red, black and white stripes from the edges, the colours representing the Saudi Arabia national colours. The service ribbon bar features a gilt device of palm tree over crossed swords.
The case of issue is a green box with the national emblem and the words, “Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’ in English and Arabic on the lid. Inside is space for the medal, ribbon and ribbon bar, with a catch at the front.
Production of the medal was shared between Spink and a Swiss company for the original medal, but subsequently a flatter version, more practical for wearing with other medals, was manufactured in the USA.
Left: The reverse of the medal with pattern and the suspender fixed to it
Examples are fairly easy to find, although it’s rarer than the Kuwait-issued medal and is often mis-labelled as that medal as well. A quick search on eBay found a perfect condition, cased example for £49.99 and a miniature for £14.99. The cheapest medal on its own was selling for £22.49 and the box on its own for £20.70.
- Original medal: from £22
- Boxed version: £50
- Flat, US version: £25-£35
- Miniature: £15-£20
Left: An immaculate condition medal in case of issue with ribbon bar
Right: The miniature version isn’t as well made with the arms looking cruder
Can't get to the newsagents for your copy of The Armourer? Order it online (now with free postage!) or take out a subscription and avoid the general public for the next 12 months entirely. And if you're confined to quarters, stock up on some bookazines to keep you entertained.
Buy the latest copy or any back issues, either in print or digital editions by clicking on The Armourer.
It's our latest bookazine, Tanks of WWII, a 164-page guide to the tanks, commanders and battles of WWII. With over 170 tank prototypes, variants, models from the Axis and Allied nations, plus blueprints, rare photos and 3D illustrations. This collector's bookazine can be yours for just £9.99. Click here for your copy.
Discover the story of The Blitz in WWII with this 132-page guide that covers all the military and human aspects of the Blitz. It doesn’t just look at London, it looks at all the UK cities attacked. It looks at the aircraft used, the losses and the heroic stories. It uses hundreds of original images which have been colourised to bring them to life. It costs £9.99, click here to buy your copy.
Celebrate the heroes of the Battle of Britain with a commemorative bookazine, with colour images throughout, for £8.99. Get your 164 page copy here.
Buy a copy of Aircraft of the RAF, featuring 595 flying machines, for £7.99 by clicking here.
Or how about a copy of the Collecting German Militaria bookazine for £7.99? Click here to buy this.