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Operation Pallister - 42 Cdo - Sierra Leone Civil War Intervention

Updated: Aug 21, 2023

Unit/ Formation: 42 Cdo RM

Location: Sierra Leone

Period/ Conflict: 2000's

Year: 2000

Date/s: 14 May 2000

The United Kingdom began a military intervention in Sierra Leoneon 7 May 2000 under the codename Operation Palliser. Although small numbers of British personnel had been deployed previously, Palliser was the first large-scale intervention by British forces in the Sierra Leone Civil War.

In early May 2000, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF)—one of the main parties to the civil war—advanced on the country's capital,Freetown, prompting the British government to dispatch an "operational reconnaissance and liaison team" (ORLT) to prepare to evacuate foreign citizens.

On 6 May, the RUF blocked the road connecting Freetown to the country's main airport,Lungi.

Two marines from 42 Commando, Royal Marines guard the sandbagged entrance to Lungi Airport, Freetown during Operation PALLISER. © IWM UKLC-2000-049-003-006

The next day, British soldiers from SAS and 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment (1 PARA), began to secure the airport and other areas essential to an evacuation. The majority of those who wished to leave were evacuated within the first two days of the operation, but many chose to stay following the arrival of British forces.

Four RAF CH-47 Chinooks were also deployed, two from the Balkans and two from their base in the United Kingdom. The RAF lacked aircraft large enough to transport Chinooks and so the helicopter crews flew themselves to Freetown. The 3,000-mile (4,800 km) flight undertaken by the two aircraft based in the UK was the longest self-deployment of helicopters in British history.

HMS Illustrious, with her air group, and the Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) including 29 Commando , 539 Assault Sqn RM, and Fleet standby rifle troop arrived on 14 May.

42 Cdo were deployed mounting river patrols on key waterways which separated Freetown from the airport at Lungi being protected by the Parachute Regiment.

Later 42 Cdo moved into Freetown to replace the Parachute Regiment and took control of the City.

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