Gulf War illnesses

Twenty-five years after the start of the First Gulf War, the Legion launched a new campaign to focus on veterans with 'Gulf War illnesses'.

On 17 January 1991, combat operations commenced in the First Gulf War, which saw 53,462 Service personnel deployed to the Persian Gulf region in Operation Granby.

Shortly after the conflict ended, reports started to emerge from the United States of clusters of unusual illnesses occurring amongst Gulf War veterans. Similar reports of ill health among UK Service personnel emerged in 1993, and among other coalition forces, including those from Denmark, Canada and Australia. In all these cases, previously fit veterans had developed unusual diseases, illnesses and symptoms.

Whilst all of these symptoms already occurred within the Armed Forces and the population more widely, such as headaches and nausea, what remains unusual about ill Gulf War veterans is that they report more of these symptoms than expected, and at a greater intensity. They are also more likely to have chronic fatigue, cognitive problems, reduced coordination, hypertension, skin conditions, and PTSD.

Our recent Freedom of Information request revealed that 1,300 Gulf War veterans currently claim a War Pension for conditions connected to their Service in the Gulf. Yet research suggests that as many as 33,000 UK Gulf War veterans could be living with Gulf War illnesses. It is  therefore disappointing that there has been little meaningful research regarding best practice to alleviate some of the associated symptoms.

our campaign

We believe it is important that Gulf War veterans who have developed illnesses as a result of their Service should be properly supported and that there should be improved awareness of the specific health needs of this particular group of veterans.

We call on the Government to:

  • invest in research that will improve recovery outcomes for this particular group, and
  • set up formal communication channels to convey the results of US research developments to Gulf War veterans living here in the UK.

We are delighted to be supported in this campaign by the National Gulf Veterans and Families Association, and invite all Legion supporters to joins us in raising awareness of this campaign.

Read Ian's story to find out more about why we're campaigning on Gulf War illnesses.


Have you been diagnosed with a Gulf War illness or are you a family member or friend of someone who has? If so, please complete our short survey to help us find out more about the illnesses of the Gulf War veterans community.

Your feedback will directly inform our campaign and will help us demonstrate to the Government why it is so important to properly support veterans with Gulf War illnesses.

Support for Gulf War veterans

If you served in the First Gulf War and believe that your health has suffered as a result, there is help available.


In the first instance, it is advisable that you contact your GP, making sure that you identify yourself as a veteran. Tell them that you are suffering symptoms that you believe are related to your time in Service.

You can also contact:

Veterans and Reserves Mental Health Programme
Freephone: 0800 032 6258 E:

Combat Stress 24hr Helpline
Freephone: 0800 138 1619  Text: 07537 404 719 E:

National Gulf Veterans and Families Association
T: 0845 257 4853 E:  NGVFA provide a 24 hr helpline (funded by a grant from the Legion) for paid up NGVFA members. Information about joining is available on their website.

Further information can also be found at:

NHS Choices – Veterans


For further information about Gulf War illnesses, please visit the Gulf Veterans illnesses section of the MOD’s website.


The Legion can help veterans claim compensation for injuries and illnesses sustained during Service. We do this by providing independent advice and information, and we can represent veterans at a tribunal for free, if they want to take further action.

For a claim form, help with an Appeals Tribunal, or for general advice:

Get in touch with us via the links below or find out more about compensation for War Pension Scheme recipients here.


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The Royal British Legion was part of the Gulf War Group, set up with representatives from veterans' organisations, medical and scientific fields, parliamentarians and veterans themselves. On 9 May 2007, the Gulf War Group hosted a one day conference for veterans and launched their report Gulf War: a legacy of suspicion, which consolidated the evidence and debates surrounding Gulf War illnesses. The report outlined the steps required to recognise the sacrifice these veterans have made, and improve support provision.

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