Declaration of war by the United Kingdom

A declaration of war is a formal declaration issued by a national government indicating that a state of war exists between that nation and another. In the United Kingdom, only the Monarch has the power to declare War and peace, under the Royal Prerogative.[1] There has been a debate[2][3] regarding whether the Prime Minister should have this power. This was attempted in 1999 with the introduction of the Military Action Against Iraq (Parliamentary Approval) Bill however Queen Elizabeth II refused to grant her consent[4] to allow it to be heard in Parliament so it was dropped.[4]

Contents

Formal declarations of war by the United Kingdom

The following table refers to declarations of war since the original Act of Union in 1707.

War or conflict Opponent(s) Initial authorisation Declaration Monarch Prime Minister Conclusion
War of the Quadruple Alliance Spain Spain 17 December 1718 George I None Treaty of The Hague, 17 February 1720.
War of Jenkins' Ear Spain Spain 23 October 1739 George II Robert Walpole Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, 18 October 1748.
War of the Austrian Succession Kingdom of France France 31 March 1744 Henry Pelham
Seven Years' War Kingdom of France France 17 May 1756 Declaration on France Thomas Pelham-Holles Treaty of Paris, 10 February 1763. British victory. Birth of the British Empire.
 Spain 4 January 1762 Declaration on Spain George III
American Revolutionary War Kingdom of France France 17 March 1778 Declaration on France Lord North Treaty of Versailles, 3 September 1783.
Spain Spain 1779 Declaration on Spain Treaty of Versailles, 3 September 1783.
Fourth Anglo-Dutch War Dutch Republic The Netherlands December 1780 Declaration on the Dutch Republic Treaty of Paris, 20 May 1784.
Napoleonic Wars  France 18 May 1803 Henry Addington
Crimean War Russian Empire Russia 28 February 1854 Declaration on the Russian Empire Victoria Earl of Aberdeen Treaty of Paris, 30 March 1856
Anglo-Zulu War Zulu tribe 11 January 1879 Ultimatum by Sir Henry Bartle Frere Benjamin Disraeli The war ended the Zulu nation's independence.
First World War German Empire Germany 4 August 1914 Declaration on Germany George V H. H. Asquith Armistice with Germany, 11 November 1918. Treaty of Versailles, 28 June 1919.
 Austria-Hungary 12 August 1914 Declaration on Austria-Hungary Austria: Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, 10 September 1919.
Hungary: Treaty of Trianon, 4 June 1920.
 Ottoman Empire 5 November 1914 Declaration on the Ottoman Empire Treaty of Sèvres, 10 August 1920.
 Bulgaria 15 October 1915 Declaration on Bulgaria Treaty of Neuilly-sur-Seine, 27 November 1919.
Second World War Germany Germany 3 September 1939 Declaration on Germany George VI Neville Chamberlain Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany, 12 September 1990. The Potsdam Agreement on 2 August 1945 agreed the subdivision of Germany following the surrender on 8 May 1945. Austria was part of Germany when War was declared, and was formally re-established at the Treaty of Vienna on 15 May 1955.
Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946) Italy 11 June 1940 Declaration on Italy Winston Churchill Armistice with Italy, 3 September 1943. The final peace treaty between Italy and the Allies was signed in Paris on 10 February 1947.
 Finland 6 December 1941 Declaration on Finland Moscow Armistice, 19 September 1944. The final peace treaty between Finland and the Allies was signed in Paris on 10 February 1947.
 Hungary 6 December 1941 Declaration on Hungary The final peace treaty between Hungary and the Allies was signed in Paris on 10 February 1947.
 Romania 6 December 1941 Declaration on Romania Armistice with Romania, 12 September 1944. The final peace treaty between Romania and the Allies was signed in Paris on 10 February 1947.
Empire of Japan Japan 8 December 1941 Declaration on Japan Treaty of San Francisco, 8 September 1951. This followed the Surrender of Japan on 15 August 1945 and the Occupation of Japan which began on 28 August 1945.
 Bulgaria 13 December 1941 Declaration on Bulgaria Armistice with Bulgaria, 28 October 1944. The final peace treaty between Bulgaria and the Allies was signed in Paris on 10 February 1947.
 Thailand 25 January 1942 Declaration on Thailand

Military engagements of the United Kingdom (not formally declared)

War or conflict Opponent(s) Initial authorisation Declaration Monarch Prime Minister Conclusion
Malayan Emergency Malayan Communist Party
*Malayan Races Liberation Army
16 June 1948 Undeclared guerrilla war against Malaysian Communist Forces George VI & Elizabeth II Sir Winston Churchill
(1948-1955)


Sir Anthony Eden
(1955-1957)


Harold Macmillan
(1957-1960)
  • Malayan independence 31 August 1957 under non-communist government;
  • 31 July 1960 independent Malayan Government declares state of emergency over;
  • Communist leader Chin Peng exiled from Malaya
Korean War  Democratic People's Republic of Korea
 People's Republic of China
25 June 1950 No declaration of war; authorised by UNSC Resolution 84 Sir Winston Churchill
  • Ongoing (no formal peace treaty signed);
  • Armistice signed 27 July 1953;
  • Division of Korea
Mau Mau Uprising Flag of Kenya.svg 'Mau Mau' 20 October 1952 State of Emergency declared by British Governor in colonial Kenya Elizabeth II Sir Winston Churchill
(1952-1955)


Sir Anthony Eden
(1955-1956)
  • Rebel leader Dedan Kimathi captured on 21 October 1956;
  • Kenyan independence on 12 December 1963
Iranian coup d'etat State Flag of Iran (1925).svg Imperial State of Iran (elected Government) 15 August 1953 No declaration of war; coup d'etat orchestrated by the intelligence agencies of the United Kingdom and the United States Sir Winston Churchill
  • Overthrow of elected Government;
  • Restoration of absolute monarchy in Iran until 1979 revolution
Suez Crisis Egypt Egypt 31 October 1956 No declaration of war on Egypt Sir Anthony Eden
  • Egyptian political victory;
  • Coalition military victory, with subsequent forced Anglo-French withdrawal;
  • Israeli occupation of Sinai (until 1957);
  • United Nations cease-fire;
  • UNEF deployment in Sinai[5];
  • Straits of Tiran re-opened to Israeli shipping;
  • Collapse of the British Eden government;
Aden Emergency National Liberation Front (NLF)

Front for the Liberation of Occupied South Yemen (FLOSY)
10 December 1963 State of Emergency declared in British Crown Colony of Aden and Aden Protectorate Sir Alec Douglas-Home
(1963-1964)


Harold Wilson
(1963-1967)
  • 30 November 1967 British forces withdraw from Aden;
  • No agreement on succeeding government;
  • NLF seize power and establish People's Republic of South Yemen
Falklands War  Argentina 2 April 1982 No declaration of war on Argentina Margaret Thatcher
Gulf War  Iraq under Saddam Hussein 17 January 1991 No declaration of war on Iraq; authorised by UNSC Resolution 678 John Major
  • Ceasefire 28 February 1991;
  • Iraq forced to withdraw from Kuwait and accept UN resolutions
Bosnian War
(NATO intervention in Bosnia)
 Republika Srpska 16th July 1992 No declaration of war on Republika Srpska; authorised by UNSC Resolution 816
  • Dayton Accords
Bombing of Iraq (December 1998)  Iraq under Saddam Hussein 16 December 1998 No declaration of war on Iraq Tony Blair
  • Ceasefire
Kosovo War
(NATO bombing of Yugoslavia)
 FR Yugoslavia 24 March 1999 No declaration of war on Yugoslavia
British intervention in Sierra Leone (Operation Palliser) Sl RUF.png Revolutionary United Front 7 May 2000 No declaration of war on Revolutionary United Front;
Intervention in Sierra Leone Civil War
  • Shift in balance of power in favour of Government of Sierra Leone
  • Rebel forces repelled from area around the capital, Freetown
War in Afghanistan Afghanistan Taliban 7 October 2001 No declaration of war on Afghanistan Tony Blair
(2001-2007)


Gordon Brown
(2007-2010)


David Cameron
(2010-ongoing)
  • Removal of Taliban government;
  • Ongoing
Iraq War  Iraq under Saddam Hussein 20 March 2003 No declaration of war on Iraq Tony Blair
(2003-2007)


Gordon Brown
(2007-2009)
  • No peace treaty signed;
  • Saddam Hussein overthrown;
  • Coalition Provisional Authority governs Iraq (21 April 2003 - 28 June 2004)
  • 30 April 2009 - British withdrawal from Iraq
Libyan Civil War Libya Gadaffi Regime 17 March 2011 No declaration of war on Libya; authorised by UNSC Resolution 1973 David Cameron
  • Ongoing

See also

Notes and references

External links


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