(Back Badge, December 1957)
On Saturday 27th April 1957, while out training, "A" Company was recalled and received urgent orders that they were to proceed to Milikouri, in the depths of the Troodos, and search a village from top to bottom for terrorists and their hides, arms, ammunition and anthing that could be connected with EOKA activity. Milikouri at this time had been cordoned off for seven weeks by the Duke of Wellington's, and had been searched once, but not very thoroughly. We were all extremely keen and every officer and man of the Company was certain that we should find Grivas or one of his henchmen. It was estimated by the powers that be that there were 150 houses in Milikouri and that the search would take three to five days. Little did they know.
We arrived at Milikouri on 28th April and having received instructions from the CO of the Dukes, a plan was formed. Half the Company were to search the village during the hours of daylight. The other half were to be divided into six night ambushes to prevent anybody leaving or entering the village in the dark. In all there were ten search parties and each consisted of one United Kingdom Police Sergeant, an NCO and two men. The Police Sergeant was the expert, and the others were really labourers.
In our ignorance we thought that it would not take long at all to search a village of 150 houses. We soon discovered we were very wrong. It was decided by the experts that 20 houses a day would be cordoned off and searched. We thought that this was too little, but soon found that 15 a day was as much as we could cope with. Every bit of furniture was taken out of each house. Walls were measured. Any hollow sound in walls or floors was thoroughly investigated and nothing was left untouched that could possibly hide a man or weapons. Nearly every house had a large cellar which contained not only vats of wine but all the rubbish accumulated for years. One team took two days to search one house. We searched and searched and finally completed the village on 9th May, having taken 11 full days. There were 182 houses. Our discoveries included one old sporting gun, some very old gun-powder and a possible one-man hide. We had tried hard, but the main thing we found was an excellent friendship with "D" Coy., the Duke of Wellington's.
Throughout the search the inhabitants of the village were extremely friendly and had to prevented from helping the search parties. The Press were allowed in on the last day and we discovered that some of our Cypriot "friends" came forward with complaints varying from ill-treatment to pilfering. However, the authorities and press were able to investigate every claim and "A" Coy. came away completely exonerated, but we learned a valuable lesson about certain Cypriots.
Operations in the Mountains
(Back Badge, December 1957)
On 10th May 1957 "D" Company left for the Paphos Forest, where we were to operate under command of 3 Infantry Brigade. During the 5 weeks in the hills we took part in 3 operations, the end of "Lucky Mac," "Lilo" and "Sandspray." We served under two brigade HQs and 3 infantry battalions. Finally we spent the last week training, with the operational role relegated to the background. The Brigade area was the wooded hill country SSW of Kykko Monastery, a favourite haunt of Grivas, on the edge of the area where the disasterous fire occurred last year. We were allotted the southern end of 1 KOYLI area, where 3 rivers joined and a convenient saddle track provided a good line of approach into and out of the area. In the middle was a dominating 2000 ft hill with the peaks christened Og, Gog and Magog, which we came to know very well. The roads were improved logging tracks unsuited for use by heavy military vehicles, as a result of which the accident rate was very high. The method of operating was to deny the hillsides to terrorists by means of OPs and the river lines by patrols. By night ambushes were laid on likely approaches and all movement was considered hostile. We soon found our mountain legs and everyone became very fit.
After a week, fresh tactics were used. Each section retired to a previously prepared ambush or OP position for 3 days while all transport, unwanted stores and men, moved out. A deadly hush fell over the hills during operation Lilo. On the last day, soon after dusk, Corporal Spibey's section opened fire on the figure of a man moving past them. No body was found and wether it was a true contact or not cannot be established. Life was about to return to normal when news of three suspected terrorists to the west came through. "D" Company did a quick right-about-face with No. 11 Platoon, plunging off into a delightful glade far from the reach of vehicles. Donkeys were impressed for supply carrying and the gunners, by whom the Platoon were surrounded, helped with their helicopters. A week was spent searching for hides before the operation was called off. Major-General Kendrew descended from the skies upon us just as 2nd Lieut. Neather brought a party of searchers back to camp. The General spoke to the men and expressed interest in Private Atkinson's jungle boots, a Kenya relic. We were under the command of the Duke of Wellington's for this operation, "Sandspray."
We now reverted to training, during which we fired our 2-inch mortars, threw grenades, fired plenty of jungle lane practices and patrolled vigourously. After five weeks we were relieved by Support Company and, after three days lazing in the sun on the beach at Morphou Bay, we returned to camp. Memories:
The officer who refused to follow his compass and took 4 hours to do a 20 minute climb. The officer from a neighbouring unit who strayed into a training ambush. "I'm not sure where we are corporal," "you are in the middle of a ***** ambush!" answered Private Callaghan's delightful Irish brogue. Corporal McLoughlin berating the YMCA bookseller for failing to stock beer. The bathes in the streams; the 3 days of storm, which washed away all the tracks, tree trunks and flooded all our camps. 2nd Lieut. Neather's speed up and down hills. Corporal Bailey's tireless work on the wireless sets, and the endless honking of horns as vehicles crept round the winding roads. The colour-sergt's face when the eggs broke in his beret. Lastly, the thought that surely there must be a small piece of flat ground if one looked for it long enough.