- Operation Palliser
Operation Palliser was a British Armed forces operation in Sierra Leone in 2000 under the command of Brigadier (now General Sir) David Richards. Initially, its scope was limited to evacuation of non-combatants only. Subsequently, apparently on the initiative of Richards, it expanded into critical support of the government and eventually resulted in the end of the civil war .
On 7 May, 2000, the Permanent Joint Headquarters directed the deployment of a Joint Task Force Headquarters. The JTF comprised the UK Spearhead Battalion: elements 20 Fd Sqn Royal Engineers, 1st Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, (minus its A-company, but reinforced by D-company 2 PARA and elements of 2 PARA's support company), the Pathfinder Platoon, the Special Air Service, elements of the Special Boat Service and Royal Air Force Hercules were deployed to conduct a Non-combatant evacuation of UK, EU, and Commonwealth citizens. Following the evacuation the main aims were to keep control of the airport, patrol Freetown and allow UN supplies to be flown in to the country safely.
Royal Air force Support Helicopter Force also were tasked, with combined efforts from 7 Sqn and 18 Sqn self deploying four Chinook HC2 medium lift helicopters, crews and engineering support from RAF Odiham to Lungi Airport, Freetown. The first pair of aircraft arriving in theatre under 36 hours from first call. Using practiced "fast run" techniques the aircraft were equipped with 3 Robertson extended range tanks (ERTs).
In support of the effort a number of Royal Navy assets were diverted:
- HMS Illustrious with elements of 801 NAS, 899 NAS and No. 3 Squadron RAF embarked. HMS Illustrious and her task group, Task Group 342.1, had been on Exercise Linked Seas and the group was diverted.
- RFA Fort George
- HMS Ocean
- HMS Argyll
- HMS Chatham
- RFA Fort Austin
- RFA Sir Bedivere
- RFA Sir Tristram
Illustrious and Fort George had been diverted from NATO exercises in the Bay of Biscay, with RAF aircraft embarked for the exercise. Aircraft of both No. IV Squadron and 801 Naval Air Squadron made a number of patrols in support of the mission.
A Forward Logistic Base was established in Dakar to support the mission.
On 17 May, 2000, the rebel leader Foday Sankoh was captured by Government forces and transported to a secure location by helicopter.
Operation Palliser ended on 15 June, 2000; however a continuing UK commitment provides training support to the Government of Sierra Leone.
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