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CYPRUS 1963-65

"A" Company:

From Barracks at Episkopi, 24th Dec. 1963, 3 Platoon was sent by plane to Nicosia where fighting between the Turks and Greeks had been going on since the 21st Dec. On the 26th Dec. the rest of the Company was moved by convoy to Nicosia. On arrival they were sent to a transit camp at Nicosia Airport. Then the Company moved into the Walled City and occupied a girls school. There, the New Year was seen in.

From Nicosia, the Company next moved to a position near the Turkish village of Lefka and set up a tented camp between the Greek and Turkish positions. Then they moved back to Nicosia and into a block of flats, setting up sand-bag positions on the roof overlooking the Mason-Dixon Line. Several potential flash-points were calmed by the application of common-sense and hours of talking. Private Abdullah (who had served with the Cyprus Police and spoke both Greek and Turkish) was a great asset to the Company in these matters.

Being relieved by 1 Para, the Company moved to Limassol and then back to Episkopi where 1 Platoon took over the Police Station. 4 Platoon moved to Mallia and a dangerous situation was restored by Sergt. Longden and his section, who flew in by helicopter under considerable small arms fire.

Return to Episkopi in April, guarding the Base and service families. In August the Company moved once again to the Troodos mountains to defend the Radar site. Then back to Episkopi. The Company supplied a Guard of Honour for the departing administrator of the Sovereign Base area (Air Chief Marshall Sir Denis Barnett, GCB, CBE, DFC) on 25th October. They then were in duty for the arrival of his replacement, Air Chief Marshall T.O. Prickett, CB, DSO, DFC in the evening. The Company next flew to Dhekilia base on security duties. The next move was to the Troodos hills then back to Episkopi. Battalion training in November.

February 1965 started packing for the move back to the UK.

"B" Company:

Dec. 1963 the Company was on stand-by. On Christmas Day orders came for the Battalion to be ready to move off at 0800 hrs the next day - "It was a fine sight, the long column of vehicles moving at best speed with Union Jacks fluttering in the air. We remember how both Greeks and Turks were pathetically glad to see us, and how we were clapped and cheered as we drove through Nicosia."

Camp was set up at the RAF Station, which was named "Alexandria Camp." 27th Dec. patrols were mounted round the suburbs with the RAF Regiment - "Both Greeks and Turks were shut up in their houses or else standing armed guard. There were many casualties and gaunt unshaven faces everywhere. Everyone was glad to see us and relaxed when we came by. There were occasional shots to be heard but no real fighting."

28th Dec. the Company moved into the Ledra Palace Hotel, causing a small EOKA force to rapidly vacate the hotel! They had been using the hotel roof to fire on the Turkish Embassy. Support Platoon and Company HQ manned the hotel roof and road block and patrolled the area. 6 Platoon guarded the residency and 7 Platoon took over the C.I.T.A. building. The situation was calmed down by the presence of the Company.

3rd January 1964, the RAF Regiment took over the area and "B" Company returned to Alexandria Camp to join the rest of the Battalion. A few days later the Company moved to Ormophita to assist the Rifle Brigade. After fierce fighting in this district of Nicosia, the Turkish residence had fled and their homes were looted and burnt by the Greeks. Patrols were mounted night and day and order restored. On 11th January the Company rejoined the Battalion and it moved to Xeros (Greek) and Lefka (Turkish). They spent a fortnight under canvas, sitting between the two communities. On 21st January the Battalion moved back to Nicosia and "B" Company was stationed in the Trakhonas district. The Battalion was to guard the newly drawn-up "Green Line" that would separate the Greek and Turkish communities. The situation was tense as the Turkish Army was threatening to invade the island. On 17th February the Company handed over their position to 1 Para and moved to Ktima after a night at Episkopi. On 23rd February the Company was relieved at Ktima by 26th Regt. R.A. and returned to Episkopi. 27th February the Company moved to Troodos and relieved "D" Company. 19th March the Company moved to Polemidhia Camp. Left the camp on 26th March for Episkopi. In June a platoon went to guard HQ UNIFCYP. They wore the blue beret and only just missed out on a UN medal. To Troodos on July, then back to Episkopi in August, then back to Troodos!

November we joined in Battalion training. December back at Troodos again! Christmas was followed by a disaster. Privates Yabsley and Hanson were killed when their car crashed on the road between Nicosia and Limassol.

"C" (Training) Company: The Company provided canteen facilities for the Battalion in Nicosia and Lefka.

"D" Company:

28th December the Company moved into the old city of Nicosia and took up a position at the Paphos Gate; covering the Police Station there. The next move was to be to the Greek village of Stombi (in the west of the island), but due to trouble at Polis (a mixed town) the Company patrolled there for two days. The next move was to Lefka to keep the peace between the two communities of Lefka and Xeros. A period on the Green Line in Nicosia was followed by a move to Troodos. Then to Polhemidia Camp. Three more visits to Troodos (April/May, July, and August/September) for training. Battalion training in November then back to Troodos. January 1965 moved to Dhekelia on guard duties.

HQ Company:

Reconnaissance Platoon - The Platoon was issued with Ferret armoured cars for Internal Security duties. On Christmas Day 1963 two cars were sent to escort the High Commission in Nicosia. A Greek "Security Force" fired at a bazooka at a building being used by the Recce Platoon and they returned fire with their Browning .30 cal. When the Battalion moved off to Lefka, the cars carried out long-distance patrols with the 14/20th Hussars. Once at Lefka they carried out daily patrolling and when the rest of the Battalion returned to Nicosia, the cars and Drums remained in Lefka for another five weeks. One incident involved negotiating the release of three bus-loads of Greek hostages taken by the Turks. After rejoining the Battalion in Nicosia the Battalion moved to Episkopi. When the Greeks attacked the village of Mallia, two sections of the Recce Platoon, the Drums, a troop of the Royal Dragoons and Sergt. Longden with six men (who were helicoptered in just at the attack started) were involved in the incident.

Mallia, 8th-10th March 1964

Captain M.A. Crush, O.C. Recce Platoon, Glosters
(Back Badge, 1964)

On the evening of 8th March I went to Mallia. My detachment consisted of one section (two cars) of Ferrets of the Recce Platoon and the Corps of Drums. We relieved a troop of Royals and a platoon of "A" Company, and Sergt. Ramsden's section. They had been sent to Mallia the previous night when firing had been reported and that morning had been caught in some very close and heavy small-arms fire between the Greeks and Turks. We settled in and patrolled the village throughout the night. I went to the Tukish school at the top of the village about 0630 hrs on 9th March, and whilst there firing began from the hills to the east of the village and to the south. After observing the firing and locating from where it came (some of the shots were landing 50 yards from us although there were no Turks there) I went to the Greek Police Station and invited their comments. They stated that the Turks had started the firing and had fired upon the Police Station and some buses coming along the road from Arsos. I told them that this was untrue to my certain knowledge and despatched the drum-major to Arsos to find the buses and escrot them past Mallia. I also told the Turks what the Greeks had said but they replied that they had not fired at the police station or the road. They agreed that as long as the Greek fire was from some distance they were safe and would not return fire as this was a waste of ammunition. The Greek police and other "security forces" remained aggressive and said that if the Turks fired one shot, they would wipe out the village. The drum-major returned to Mallia as there were no buses at Arsos.

I returned to the Turkish school and watched the Greeks continued firing. As I could get no help from the police I decided to go to the firing position myself and ask them to stop firing. I got out of my Ferret and walked there. Several shots were fired over my head at first, but this soon stopped. I approached the position and spoke with them. There were 15 men in civilian clothes. The leader spoke with a cockney accent and was manning a Bren Gun, the rest had rifles, a sub-machine gun and a large quantity of ammunition and grenades. The spokesman said that they had not fired a shot all morning. They also insisted that they had only just arrived but then added that my night patrols had provocatively shone their headlights on their position. As I left, one of them held a grenade as though he was about to throw it at me and the whole group laughed. I returned to the police station and spoke to Mr Benjamin, the Limassol District Officer, on the radio. He said that all firing was to cease. I thanked him and went to tell the Turks. Several new Greek Security forces men arrived in Mallia, repeating Mr. Benjamin's orders.

That night I was told by one of the irregular leaders that the Turks would make trouble that night. I told the CO that I was sure that the Greeks intended to attack either that night or next morning. He was able to send another section of Ferrets under Sergt. Ramsden. I stationed my section on the hill by the Turkish school for the night and Sergt. Ramsden's section and the Drums patrolled the village. Just after dark 8 shots were fired, but true to their word, the Turks did not return fire. Sergt. Ramsden went to the police station to enquire about the firing. At 0400 hrs on 10th March two long bursts of automatic fire were heard to the south-west about half mile from the village. At 0555 hrs a loud hailer from the police station started speaking to the village. It was interrupted by a burst of fire and then the other positions started firing heavily. Bullets were landing close to us and over the heads of the Drums and my other section in the Tukish coffee shop opposite the Greek police station. My orders were to maintain these two positions and deny them to either side.

The firing continued. About 0730 hrs the Greek police sergeant told me that they were attacking the Turkish school in 15 minutes and I had better remove myself. I told him that I was staying and that any firing upon the school would be fired upon by my soldiers. I also repeated that I would allow no Turks there either. The sergeant phoned the divisional gendemarie commander and he spoke to me. He repeated the demand to leave the school and warned me that his men were using anti-tank weapons. I repeated that I was staying and that my men would defend themselves. I gave orders that of attacked we would return effective fire. Shortly after there was a loud explosion from the school, followed by bursts of machine gun fire at the Greek position to the east. Sergt. Ramsden reported that a bazooka shot had hit the roof and that he had fired upon the bazooka team. All shooting stopped. Soon after the police sergeant told me that his superiors had agreed not to attack the school!

I went to the school and soon after the CO arrived by helicopter. Another helicopter brought Sergt. Longden and six riflemen from "A" Company who took up position around the school. As they landed, a section of Greek irregulars advanced towards the school. The CO and I told the Greek section commander to go away. They withdrew reluctantly. The next two hours were spent taling to the Greek police and their superiors, visiting the Turks and reporting the situation. Throughout the firing continued and the Greeks attempted to close in on the east side of the village without success.

By 0930 hrs the CO had exhausted all avenues of persuasion in trying to prevent the attack. We heard that there would be a meeting at 1100 hrs between Lt-General Gyani and Major-General Carver to discuss Mallia. We told S/Inspector Pavlides of this and he started shouting that no time could be wasted and the attack must go in there and then, which was significant. The Greeks started telling the villagers over the loud hailer that they would attack in five minutes time and that the British could not save them and that if we got in the way, we would be shot too. 3 Troop, The Royals, had joined us by going around road blocks erected by the Greeks along the main road to Mallia.

Firing began in earnest and the Greek Irregulars started moving into the Turkish quarter. They used bazookas and sten guns. The Turkish defenders began to withdraw and I realised that they would probably make for the school. I decided to get up there and with my second car and followed by the Royals Troop commander, we followed the main street up which the fighting was moving. As we rounded a corner I came across six women running screaming from a house. I heard sten gun fire and saw a small girl of about 8 running behind the women. She had a bullet wound in the thigh. They were being followed by by the cockney section commander. I drove between him and the women and motioned the women to go on down the hill. This they did, a woman carrying the child. Three more irregulars came from the house and looked very pale and shocked. (I visited the house later and found a man of 62 with a sten bullet in his leg and his arm. There was another older man lying dead in the courtyard and a trail of blood leading to a bed in which he must have been lying when he was shot).

At the top of the hill I found that refugees had started pouring into the school. There was nothing that could be done to stop them. Sergt. Ramsden searched them and confiscated any arms or ammunition found and piled them up under guard. A large pile was formed and I decided to use them as a bargaining instrument. By radio I told the Sub-Inspector that I had the arms and that the refugees were in "our" school but all unarmed. I told him that he could have all of the arms we had collected if the firing stopped immediately. After consultation with his superior, the order was given over the loud hailer to stop firing. About this time the Press arrived and I considered it important that they got a full picture of what had happened.

We patrolled the streets and looked for casualties. The ceae-fire had been called for only half an hour, but I got my men into the village and the Greeks were unable to start again. I arranged that any searching for arms would be done by combined Greek police and British patrols. In our search we found four old Turkish men shot, all in their own homes. There was also a Turkish man and his wife shot in their house, the woman was still in bed. We collected these casualties and placed them under guard. The Greek police asked us to hand them over, which we refused. They were returned to their relatives and buried near the Mosque.

The whole situation was typical of the callousness and arrogance which had so often been the tenor of these actions. Many innocent and unaware people suffer because of the sins of the politically-minded few. We can however, feel some consolation in that our presence probably avoided considerably heavier casualties.

note: Staff Sergeant L.A. Ramsden was mentioned in despatches.