The following Article was originally printed in the
January 1975 issue of The Maroon Beret Magazine
THE REGIMENT IN CYPRUS
Last year was the 15th Anniversary of the Turkish Invasion of Cyprus in 1974. At that time the soldiers of The Canadian Airborne Regiment came under fire and again today we have Canadian service personnel and ex-Airborne soldiers exposed to hostile fire in the Middle East.
The invasion in 1974 was covered in Vol. 1, No 4 of The Maroon Beret January 1975 edition. As a special project to mark the occasion, the Regiment has had the original edition translated into both official languages and produced for the association membership.
The Regiment would like to dedicate this anniversary production to those now in the "Gulf". Our support and thoughts are with them and may God bless.
THE EDITOR'S STATIC LINES
As you read through you will find the articles are laid out in four parts. The first three report "The Coup", "The First Offensive", and "The Second Offensive". When read in consultation with the map you should sense the situation in the Turkish enclave prior to and after the first round of fighting and finally after the "Turkish Peace Force" went all out to establish the last line shown on the map. A somewhat telegraphic style of writing has been used to offer the situation exactly as it unfolded. The conclusion should have the effect of focusing your attention on what the war meant.
THE COUP D'ETAT
The following is a letter written by a regimental officer to his family at home He has kindly agreed to allow it to be published. It is as good an eyewitness account of UNFICYP's activities, as a result of the coup, as can be found, and thus will form the basis of this story. It is dated Thursday 18 July, 1200 hours
Just a few hurried notes on what I saw, the day of the coup.
Mon 15 Jul 0835 hrs I was just starting a routine meeting with the CO when the sirens went. A few minutes later we heard several explosions and gunfire and the Ops Offr came in and said that UNFICYP was on general alert - reason: unknown. At 0845 I left HQ Nicosia, District at Wolseley Brks (by the Ledra Palace) for our administrative base (BBC) near the airport 5 miles away There was quite a bit of shooting going on as I made the trip and I was finally stopped at a road block on the hill to the airport just beyond the final round about. National Guard soldiers were manning the roadblock and my jeep was about the 7th vehicle stopped. There I waited for 3 hrs. At 0855 the head of a column of 14 T-34 tanks and 6 BTR 152 APCs came through the roundabout and headed downtown. By 0910 they were engaging the Presidential Palace (reduced to ruin within the hour) the House of Representatives, the Paphos Gate Police Station and the Athalassa Tactical Reserve Unit (TRU) HQ and the Cyprus Broadcasting Corp. Two tanks stayed at the roundabout and, at irregular intervals, fired their .50 cal machine guns in the air. At 1100 hrs three BTR 152s with troops went out to the airport to finish off the TRU there. By noon the Greek Cyp National Guard were in full control of Nicosia. That afternoon there was only sporadic fighting and an attack on the Archbishops residence and they took control of the central hospital with troops and a quad .50 cal AA Mount.
Throughout the time I was at the road block I had access to the UNFICYP Motorola Command Net and they could get a play by play of the action. Quite interesting. By the time I got to BBC (1200) Log Coy had gone through its battle procedures and was ready - very professionally done even for the 'hodge-podge' that is CAN CON base.
That afternoon and evening Col Beattie the Cdn Contingent Commander and DCOS UNFICYP was busy drafting messages to DND and External Affairs as we have no embassy here. We also learned that "M" might still be alive and well, and living in his old stomping ground of Paphos. I then returned to Nicosia for an 0 Group then returned again to BBC to brief Log Coy. I learned that al Olympic Airways 707 (Greek) had landed at the airport! At 0100 Tues morning: finally went to bed at my house on the Green Line. There was a lot of firing throughout the night. Tues morning I drove through town to work. The streets were deserted except for the tanks and some long-haired wild-eyed reservists. I spent the morning with Col Beattie and learned of "M"'s escape and pleas to the people and request for UN assistance. We also planned the evacuation of the 7 leave persons that were stranded on the island.
That evening there was a violent small arms fire fight at the courthouse which backs onto Wolseley Barracks. It was a bit too close for comfort with quite a few stray bullets flying around. There were several other minor fights around town, as well.
On Wednesday the curfew was lifted for a few hours and downtown Nicosia looked like normal except for the tanks and troops. The local police stations were open again and people were responding to the order to turn in all firearms. I didn't do very much that day.
Thursday. Some of the tanks have left and the curfew has been lifted during daylight hours. The airport has been opened again and we are expecting a Herc this afternoon to take out the leave persons.
I won't go into the political dealings in Athens, London, Ankara, New York, etc and the escape of "M" as you probably know more about it than we do although we do get the BBC World Series from the Sovereign Base Area. My main concern is still with the coup coming to an indecisive standstill and the new leaders looking for a scapegoat they might just choose the UN for allegedly aiding "M". This could have repercussions for our troops in the street.
Meanwhile the Canadian Contingent and UNFICYP have been doing their jobs. So far, we have successfully prevented any outbreak of violence across the Green Line. This has been done by maintaining our presence despite certain dangers on the OPs, helping and reassuring the Turks at every level and warning the Greeks at every level of the consequences of provoking the Turks - even accidentally. There have been some rounds "stray" into the Turk Quarter and some Turk casualties and the Turks have mobilized and threatened retaliation. However, we have managed to keep the lid on.
During the height of the fighting on Monday we abandoned 2 OPs as being too dangerous but they were re-manned later. Within an hour we were back to the status quo and then proceeded to increase our presence. The troops have done superbly.
Our latest crisis has been that UNFICYP stands guard over a large quantity of weapons (enough for a brigade) illegally imported in 1972. The Gk Nat Gd want it. I hope there is not a fight. (Ref my regime).
That's it to date. There has been a lot of shooting and we have been extremely lucky not to have had any accidental casualties. We have had several buildings hit by bullets. We never lost our freedom of movement around the Green Line but were forcibly prevented from going where the authorities thought we, had no business. They were probably, right.
The coup came as a complete surprise to UNFICYP. True, there had been considerable political unrest throughout the summer - bombings in Famagusta, Tactical Reserve Unit roundups of EOKA B supporters, Government plans for reducing the time of service for National Guardsmen and the President's impending plans to purge the Guard of its Greek national officers - and further action, including a possible coup, was expected. However, just as is described in this letter, up until 0835 hrs, Monday 15 July, was the well known UNFICYP routine.
The reference to the "hodge-podge" at Log Coy should be explained. Under command of the Coy 2 IC Capt L. Bowen during the temporary absence of the OC Maj Harries, Log Coy prepared for the emergency. They set up a perimeter defence, manned check points, moved the ammunition into a more secure spot, and loaded the support weapons ammunition onto the appropriate vehicles ready for deployment.
The remarks about UNFICYP and the Canadian soldiers doing their job must be emphasized. As can be imagined the Turkish Cypriot community was very nervous about the coup. UNFICYP and HQ Nicosia District reassured the Vice President's Office that the coup, as far as could be determined, was an internal Greek Cypriot affair but it was the steadfastness of the Observation Company soldiers on the OPs and the active patrolling of the Green Line by the Recce Pl that leant credence to this reassurance. A couple of examples follow.
Only one OP was ever abandoned. That was OP Roccas Bastion which was receiving a lot of stray SA fire from the attack on Electra House. The OP was abandoned on order and was reoccupied one hour later. OP Paphos Gate was ordered to move 100 yards up Paphos Street as it was receiving considerable fire during the attack on the Police Station. The original position was later reoccupied.
Another instance of the UN's attempt to control the conflict came on the Tuesday night. The Turks complained that they were receiving tank fire from the Omorphita area. Major K.C. Eyre went up with his driver in the middle of the night to investigate. They found a lone T34 shelling an abandoned ice cream factory and when the tank missed the rounds were landing in the enclave. Major Eyre explained the problem and suggested that the tank move to the other side of the building. The tank commander was very cooperative. He promptly moved his tank to the new position and continued shelling the factory from the other side.
Further examples could be cited but the point is made. The contingent did everything it could to prevent the "intra-communal" coup d'état from developing into an "inter-communal" conflict. But for the intervention of the Turkish Army, five days later, it would have succeeded.
Aside from the two OPs mentioned and a few shots fired in the Recce Pl accommodation area, there was not too much danger on the Green Line itself. The danger lay in driving around in the Greek sector, including the usually routine trip from Wolseley Barracks to BBC. The Nat Gd erected check points everywhere and as the coup reached the indecisive stage the long-haired irregulars became more and more desperate and irrational. Everywhere EOKA B types were driving around in their cars with an AK47 sticking out each of the windows. The new regime had little respect for the UN and our soldiers continually had cocked weapons stuck in their faces at the various roadblocks.
The coup itself was classically staged and militarily, except for letting Makarios escape, was well conducted. As has been already mentioned, surprise was achieved and within 20 minutes of the first shot the tanks were downtown engaging the traditional targets for military takeovers. By noon Nicosia and the Cyprus Government were under complete control. A curfew and the use of roadblocks quickly brought the population under control, helped, no doubt by the indiscriminate firing of .50 cal machine guns. By the following day the Greek Cypriot Police were once more effective as witnessed by the population responding to the order to turn in all illegal firearms to the police stations.
The political aspects of the coup, although fascinating, are too complex to be analyzed in this report. In fact some might say that they are too complex to be analyzed anywhere.
THE TURKISH INTERVENTION IN CYPRUS
The Turkish Intervention Force at Mersin in Southern Turkey was placed on an alert footing on 17 July 1974. For Turkey, the implications of the coup d'état in Cyprus under the aegis of the government of Nicos Sampson were obvious; preparations for safeguarding the rights of the Turkish Cypriot minority were made. The imminence of an attack became evident from the preparations made by the intervention forces and the grouping of maritime transport in the Mersin sector.
On 20 July, at 0320 hrs, the COS at UNFICYP HQ, Brigadier F.R. Henn (British) called the Nicosia District HQ and asked to speak with the Commander. The news was surprising; the Brigadier had received the information that the "visitors" were coming from the North. The Contingent should be ready for any eventuality. At 0330 hrs the Commander issued directives to the observation company.
1. Ensure that all the observation posts are immediately doubled, even after dawn;
2. The Golf Course observation post will be permanently doubled;
3. The Pl Comd IC Mill will remain on the site in order to observe all activities coming from the North and in the sector of the National Contingent at Orta Keuy;
4. All the observation posts will be visited and the personnel will be informed of the importance of immediately reporting activities in their sector of responsibility;
5. The administrative vehicles will not move unless it is absolutely necessary for them to do so.
To maintain close liaison with the factions, liaison officers (LOs) were appointed in the HQ of the adjacent districts ie, HQ FINCON, 3 Higher Tactical Command (3 HTC) and the Turkish Cypriot Leadership. At 0606 hrs the LO at 3 HTC was dispatched to the Combined, Operations Centre.
The Turkish invasion began early on 20 July; a jet attacked two Greek Cypriot gunboats near Snake Island, located 3 Km West of Kyrenia. After a series of air strikes against military targets in Nicosia and Kyrenia, troops were para dropped on the plain near the North coast of Nicosia.
During the day troops were landed and para dropped in order to establish a corridor from the Nicosia-Kyrenia enclave to the sea. Fighting broke out all over the island and units of the National Guard circled the enclaves and the Turkish Cypriot centres.
The Turkish Cypriots, who were afraid that their sector of Nicosia would not be correctly identified by the pilots, attached red banners to their buildings and in front of their residences. No aerial fire was reported that could have hit these residences. At 0508 hrs, most the observation posts along the Green Line reported light fire and a build-up of troops and support arms. This light fire grew and a regular battle ensued. The observation posts, which were now located between two areas of heavy fire, became vulnerable since the sentry boxes offered no protection against small arms fire. At that time, the first observation post to be evacuated was the Golf Course post; as early as 0550 hrs the Turkish Cypriot combatants captured it but the personnel occupying it were able to evacuate it without incident. This was the first UN post to be repainted red.
The first men were para dropped at 0604 hrs in the plain just north of the camp occupied by the National Contingent. Some 1,000 persons were para dropped from C-130 Hercules, OC-3 and C-160 Transalls. The operation continued throughout the morning and as early as 1200 hrs seven waves of men were para dropped and three loads of men were landed by helicopter in order to finally place the airborne brigade on the plain at Nicosia. They did not appear to attack the Greek Cypriot forward positions; they joined with the Turkish Cypriot Troops.
Radio Bayrak, the voice of the Turkish Cypriot troops, announced that the deplaning was not to be considered a military intervention but rather a purely police action. The radio added that the Greek Cypriots should remain at home. Greek Cypriot radio's reaction was to announce the general mobilization and requisition of vehicles and to incite its community to fight without quarter because the Turkish landing as announced was only a bluff. The special message ended with the slogan, "Long Live Free Cyprus" and the airwaves were filled with military music of a rather boring and limited variety.
At 0652 hrs the Commander gave the order to the observation company to withdraw the personnel in the factions' arc of fire. The factions had apparently fired a few rounds at random towards the UN positions. The soldiers of the National Guard increased the risks by firing on everything over flying the sector - UN helicopters included. The Officer Commanding the Observation Company, Major K.C. Eyre, reported to the Commander the situation of various observation posts: Hermes II and Constantine, which were moved to Beaver Lodge (Pl HQ); Paphos Gate, moved to Roccas Bastion; Golf Course, evacuated; Paphos II, in position; Chimo, in position; Red Line III, in position; Flour Mill, in position.
During the first day, the observation posts had to be successively evacuated because of the cross-fire and direct fire. Some evacuations even involved withdrawal in front of the very Turkish residential sector. After 0740 hrs on 21 July, only the Flour Mill observation post was occupied; this was the only one, of them having an arc of vision that could respond to the needs at that time.
At Nicosia, the duty officer of the Nicosia district (Canadian contingent) filed reports on the activities of the Turks and the Greek Cypriots. The situation resembled nothing less than a war movie. However, everything seemed calm in the COC except for the feeling of "waiting for the other shoe to drop".
Besides ensuring the safety of its troops, the UN also had to try to negotiate a local cease fire; neither of the factions could decide to stop first. It was important for the LOs to relay and to quickly receive directives related to contacts. The commander located in the Turkish Cypriot Vice-President's office (VPO) relayed the following directives to the COC of the Nicosia district: the Turkish Cypriot troops have received the order not to fire in the Turkish Cypriot sector and the command wishes precise example of such fire; certify that we, (the Nicosia district), have LOs in Turkish Cypriot troop and 3 HTC companies in order to apply and control the cease fire policy; the Turkish national troops intend to remain in the enclave in order to protect Turkish Cypriots.
The efforts to deploy the LOs in the Turkish Cypriot troop companies were somewhat difficult, eg, in 2 Coy (along the Green line), the LO was disarmed and searched and then ordered to leave the sector. Further, HQ 3 HTC revealed to the UN LO that any cease fire must go through National Guard HQ; 3 HTC was also reluctant to evacuate its troops from Ledra, which, at that moment, held 380 persons, namely a group of the international press of more than 100 persons. The Palace was to witness major incidents during the combat. At 0855 hrs, the 2 IC, Maj G.C. Lewis, went to the Palace in order to inquire about the fire. He managed to convince the soldiers of the National Guard and asked the command to intervene with the Turkish Cypriot troops in the same way. After a short pause, the fire began again.
The LOs received the order to inform their units to apply at cease fire a 1000 hrs, this was impossible.
The National Guard fired mortars into, the Turkish enclave and some fire positions were near the UN sectors. As a result, any Turkish Cypriot Troop or Turkish Army counter-offensive could affect the UN personnel. At every, echelon, the Canadian soldiers tried to locate these positions and convince the National Guard to move. It was very, evident that the National Guard was using the UN personnel as a shield since both factions had a perfect knowledge of the sectors occupied by the UN personnel. The situation seemed to be repeated at the Nicosia international airport and the Blue Beret Camp (BBC); the artillery and anti-aircraft units of the National Guard deployed in a ravine located south of the BBC and Camp Kykko (HQ FINCON). Thus the CAN CON LO, which was located at Kykko, could see the position of the battery 100 mm from the National Guar in the South and the bursting of the shells in the Turkish enclave located 6,000 m further North at Guenyeli. The Turkish mortar bombs began to fall dangerously close to the BBC because of fire that was too long. They fell beyond the airport road. In addition, after dropping their bombs, rockets and napalm on the camp of the Greek National Contingent and the airport, F-100 combat aircraft began to locate the artillery batteries of the National Guard towards the end of the day. The local commander was asked to move his batteries but he failed to do so.
Meanwhile, at Louroujina, 14 miles South-east of Nicosia, the UN section wondered what was happening in the town; they also had their problems. The Turkish Cypriot Troops, which had complete control of the town, had taken down all the UN flags and occupied the observation posts. The section was not disturbed in any way. The commander decided to leave them there.
The Ledra Palace Hotel dominated the Green line and the Turkish residential quarter. Therefore, the Greek National Guard benefited from its fire positions. The Cypriot soldiers did everything in their power to neutralize the hotel, which projected over the Green line. It was constantly assaulted by small arms, 50 mm, mortar and anti-tank weapon fire. The fourth facade was swept by flanking fire. It was a miracle that no civilian was injured. We constantly reminded both sides that the hotel housed civilians, women and children. At 1202 hrs the commander gathered a small group of about 12 persons in order to check the situation in the Palace and, if necessary, to evacuate injured women and children. Just when they were getting ready to leave the COC, a new wave of small arms and mortar fire dispersed the group. After negotiations with the Command and National Guard HQ, a local cease fire was agreed to in order to permit evacuation of civilians. This task ended at 1435 hrs on the following day. The civilians remained there.
At 1224 hrs, three 60 mm mortar shells exploded in the camp called Wolseley Barracks; one in the signals store, one in the office of the HQ Coy and one in the vehicle park. The last shell caused the first five casualties in CANCON; the injuries were caused by shell bursts.
Meanwhile, electricity and water had been cut off in the sectors and the emergency generator was used to restore the facilities at the COC. However, there was not sufficient power to operate the air conditioner and we had to continue to operate at a temperature of more than 90 degrees F. It was a real sauna in the CANCON. The food began to spoil since the refrigeration system was no longer working.
The two factions again agreed to respect a cease fire beginning at 1400 hrs. With the exception of the suburbs of Neapolis and Trakhones, which had been taken by the Turks, there was very little, movement in the town itself. Mr. Hassan, the political LO at the VPO had not been informed of the cease fire. The cease fire was violated at 1410 hrs when Turkish jets returned to bomb pre-selected targets in the town.
The sixth casualty in CANCON occurred at 1507 hrs when Pte Levesque was hit at his post near the Officers' Mess at Wolseley Barracks. The casualty was evacuated to the BBC escorted by ferret patrol scout cars of the parachute squadron of the Royal Armoured Corps; at this point, this troop was under the command of the Nicosia district.
Several people at UNFICYP and in the National Guard believed at the outset that the Turkish forces (airborne and commando) were wearing the blue beret and flying the UN flag in order to sow confusion among the Greek Cypriots. Curiously enough, it is normal for these Turkish troops to wear blue berets. It is even more obvious that certain members of the National Guard were wearing UN berets. In addition, the Turkish Cypriot Troops then began to wear the Canadian UN combat uniform, including jungle boots, as the Turkish Cypriot sectors were pillaged. The laundry contracts were held in this sector. At 1559 hrs the Canadians incurred their seventh casualty in the person of Pte Gasse who was shot in the leg while he was driving his vehicle near the Green Line in the Maple Leaf Manor sector, the residence of the recce pl. He could not be evacuated until a local cease fire had been established; at 1630 hrs he was transported to the BBC. A few rounds were fired in the direction of the ambulance without, however, causing any damage. Another cease fire was organized locally for 1700 hrs, but the factions claimed that they were unable to stop firing without having received the order from their own HQ. To add to the confusion, 3 HTC alleged that the National Guard had firm instructions not to open fire or return fire.
The Commander and a group of ten men returned to the Ledra Palace Hotel at about 1630 hrs in order to better evaluate the situation and try to place the sector under UN jurisdiction. The National Guard refused to leave the site and the journalists who were still there continued to report on the situation: the hotel was cut ...
THE SECOND DAY
The situation in the town became more relaxed during the night of 20 to 21 July. Fire came from posts along the Green Line and the Ledra Palace Hotel. At 0320 hrs the Louroujina section reported that a UN flag had been returned and that they could move more freely in the town.
At 0417 hrs the eighth Contingent casualty in the person of Lt R. McGrath of the Observation Coy was reported. He was then UNO LO with 22 Coy, Turkish Cypriot Forces, when he was hit in the arm by a bullet during an observation session The Turkish hospital treated him and he was able to rejoin his unit.
The first mortar attack of the day in the Wolseley Barracks sector occurred at 0450 hrs with four bombs; two bombs hit Ledra Palace and two others hit the sport field. There were no casualties. However, an hour and a half later, the bombing and small arms fire began again in the Palace sector; the civilians began to panic and the Recce Pl Sgt in the hotel tried to calm them down and took them to the basement. He tried to stop the soldiers of the National Guard from firing; they were as nervous as the civilians.
Early in the morning, the observation company was busy evacuating civilians from certain areas of the town in the British High Commissionariat sector found in the diplomatic district. The evacuations were completed at 0805 hrs without incident and some 50 civilians could again thank the Canadians for having gotten them out of a difficult situation.
The number of casualties rose to nine when Pte Simard (451) was hit in the elbow while fighting a fire. The fire seemed to come from the Turkish sector.
In the middle of the morning, the situation became more tense at the Ledra Palace Hotel. The water and rations were rationed, the damages to the buildings were high and the civilians wished to leave the Hotel. A few journalists had already left the premises. The 40-member National Guard Platoon refused to leave the Hotel and the soldiers became increasingly threatening. Plans were implemented to evacuate the civilians from the Hilton. A serious obstacle was encountered when the soldiers in the Hotel locked the doors and refused to let the civilians leave. It was thought at the outset that this was an attempt to take hostages. Everything returned to normal when the leader of the Greek platoon, a very nervous little man equipped with an AK-47, received the order from 3 HTC to free the civilians. The British High Commission, in its official capacity, took part in the negotiations with the Cypriot Minister of the Interior. The embassies were given the task of ensuring the safety of their citizens. At 1435 hrs a convoy of 54 British trucks, a bus, two mini-buses and 10 civilian cars went to evacuate all the civilians from the Ledra Palace. The National Guard also had to be convinced to leave the Hotel so that it could be declared under UN supervision. The negotiations in 3 HTC were deadlocked until 1600 hrs; the LO, Capt I.A. Nicol, informed us that he had suddenly changed his mind but that the Hotel had to be occupied immediately by the UN. This latest decision came entirely by surprise, considering the fact that Sgt Dicaire and his group had been there for 18 hours. A local cease fire was called to enable the Cypriot soldiers to leave the premises. At 1645 hrs HQ UNFICYP was informed that the Ledra Palace Hotel was occupied by the UN. The commander of the Greek platoon insisted that his orders were to remain on the premises and that the Turkish Cypriot Troops were to stop fighting. The LO at 3 HTC and a Cypriot interpreter came to clarify the orders received by the captain. The captain rallied his 40-man platoon and insisted that he would not leave the site if the Turks began to fire. The Commander suggested that he go down on the road with him. As the Cypriots began to evacuate the Hotel, the VPO LO informed the COC of the imminence of a Turkish air attack on the Ledra Palace. At 1758 hrs everyone, except the recce section, which remained in the basement, had left the premises. The VPO declared that they could not stop the air attack since it was directed by Ankara. Mr. Hassan was also concerned about this state of affairs because the VPO was in the fire sector. Wolseley Barracks was also in this sector! When the Commander was getting ready to prepare plans to evacuate the section, Lt Leblanc who was on a Turkish bastion on the side across from the Hotel reported that the FAC was in his sector and that nothing could be done at this level to stop the attacks The recce section received the order to assemble at the South door of the Hotel; meanwhile, Capt Forand with two ferrets was dispatched to the parking lot in order to evacuate the section. The group promptly retreated to Wolseley Barracks and a few moments later two jets made a pass over the Ledra. One launched a burst of 20 mm fire that failed to hit its target. The Ledra Palace Hotel was reoccupied by the UN after the departure of the aircraft.
At about the same time, the VPO reported that the Turkish Air Force was getting ready to attack the Nicosia hospital since the anti-aircraft artillery of the National Guard was on the roof of the building. Indeed, there were two .50 weapons and the UN were able to convince the National Guard to remove them and, in this way, the attack was averted. At the same time, the log coy witnessed the only attack of the F104 Starfighters. It was noted that the FI04 pilots were more skillful than those of the F100. The excitement of the attack was caused by their low-altitude flights, which were made quickly and skillfully. Before the attack the pilots jettisoned their reserves and a few fell on the BBC.
The day continued without incident and the commander took advantage of this pause to give orders to evacuate BBC and Kronberg in case the danger was too great. The second day ended and the Turkish forces had not advanced, but the corridor leading to the sea had been established.
THE THIRD DAY - 22 JULY
The major event of the first hour of this day was an attempted airborne landing made by Greek Nord-Atlas transport aircraft. As early as 0130 hrs, the drone of these aircraft was heard and several persons believed that it was the Turkish Air Force returning for a night bombing mission. Incidentally, a Greek Cypriot crew at the airport opened fire on one of their aircraft causing it to crash. Another aircraft made a forced landing and managed to stop against the other two aircraft already parked on the ground. Later, it was estimated that about 200 Greek commandos had landed on the island.
Throughout the night, the two factions increased their strength in forward positions. At 0326 hrs, UN HQ suggested a cease fire in the town beginning at 0500 hrs. The VPO stated that such terms were the purview of Ankara. The decision could wait.
It was believed that everything had returned to normal when George, the waiter in the Officers' Mess, reported as usual. He was very disappointed to learn that the kitchen could not be opened for a few days.
At one point it was decided to withdraw the section at Louroujina for fear that the National Guard would attack the town. Two scout vehicles were sent in order to bring the section back to Nicosia. Meanwhile, the situation appeared relatively stable in order to make it possible to leave them on the site. This was transmitted to the Commander of the Force who added: "Keep up the good work; take possession of Ledra Palace and hoist the flag". The ferrets remained under command. In addition to providing escort services, they maintained the UN presence on the Green Line by patrols.
At 1140 hrs the HQ Coy who were entrenched at BBC and Kronberg received the order to return to Wolseley Barracks - the paper war was also going to continue!
The UN initiated a cease fire to take effect at 1600 hrs and the parties agreed after the usual delays. The ferrets patrolling the Green Line were held by the Turkish Cypriot Forces under the pretext that there was no longer any Green Line. An hour and fifteen minutes later the ferrets were able to leave. The mortar and small arms fire continued without interruption especially in the Kronberg camp sector (Observation Coy HQ). At 2006 hrs the Commander ordered the company to ensure that all the personnel were under cover, prepare the withdrawal by being sure to bring the military materiel required, prepare a detailed withdrawal plan and advise when the coy was at 60 minutes notice to leave the premises. At 2045 hrs the situation had considerably improved. The fighting stopped at nightfall. This pace of combat thus became familiar.
PERIOD FROM 23 JULY TO 12 AUGUST
The cease fire period was an occasion for the National Guard to group its elements while the Turks were acquiring more terrain; they expanded their enclave and/or their sectors.
At noon intense fighting broke out in the area of the Kronberg camp. This fighting caused movement of Turkish soldiers and Greek Cypriots; at one time, men from both groups requested refuge in the camp. This was what led CANCON's most serious casualty in the person of Capt Blaquière who was wounded when he tried to escort Turkish Cypriot Force soldiers to safety outside of Kronberg. The operation to rescue Capt Blaquière and Pte Plouffe (a bullet passed through his cheek and he spat it out in his hand) was led by Capt A. Forand, Commander of the Recce Pl who gave the order to a ferret and a .50 machine gun to open fire on a National Guard position that was firing on the Canadians. In all, 400 rounds of .50 caliber and 200 rounds of .30 calibers were used and two soldiers seemed to have been killed. The local commander of the National Guard had been given prior warning.
Another incident occurred but CANCON was not informed about it until the following day. Because of the tactical importance of the Nicosia airport and the fear that the Greeks were trying another airborne landing, the Turkish Army decided to seize the airport. UNFICYP decided that it was necessary to intervene at senior levels and negotiated in order to remove the airport from the National Guard. At this juncture, the special assistant at UNFICYP, Colonel C.E. Beattie, played an important role through his intervention with the two groups on the Morphou highway. The Nicosia district was tasked to take charge of the airport facilities and LCol Manuel deployed the second platoon of the observation coy and the logistics coy; the force was under the command of Maj D. Harries. A few hours later, fearing perhaps the imminence of an attack by the Turkish Army, UNFICYP ordered LCol Manuel to personally assume command of the airport defence force and the UNFICYP camp. His term lasted only one night; the responsibilities reverted to Maj Harries who was, in turn, relieved by the 16/5th Lanciers equipped with Saladin and Vigilant ferrets.
In addition to the infantry platoon attached to the observation company, the airport was watched by clerks, mechanics, drivers, and cooks belonging to logistics coy. They had managed to find men who could operate the sub-machine guns and 106 mm anti-tank guns. If the Turks had attacked, Maj Harries' group might not have had fire supremacy. However, it was obvious that the guys were ready to remain in position to fight to the end. They were ready to fight if the perimeter of the airport was violated by the Turks.
On the following day, ie, 24 July, the situation stabilized and Nicosia District HQ did what was necessary to learn the limits of the new Green Line. The observation company received the order to approach the centre of the old Southern city and deploy its platoons outside the wall. Maj Eyre commanded this operation. He had three platoons and the support of four ferrets. Obviously, it was quite an experience to walk between two factions who had fought for three days. Some difficulties were encountered from both factions and several bombs and explosives lay unexploded on the ground. At night fall the Green Line still belonged to us. On the following day the observations posts were re-established.
The other phase of the operation was commanded by Capt Forand, the Commander of Recce Pl and consisted in verifying, with the assistance of the patrols, the new line north of the town. These patrols were not conducted without incident, because the jeeps, which were still painted khaki, ventured into Greek and Turkish lines from time to time. The soldiers of the Turkish Army saw the UN soldiers for the first time; some of them were not aware of the UN presence in Cyprus. The operation continued without casualties and the Nicosia district was able to draw a new line.
The cease fire was officially ratified in Geneva and a committee was formed to determine the exact position of the groups on the terrain. This committee was composed of military advisors, including Col C.E. Beattie of UNFICYP, Col J. Hunter representing Great Britain, the British High Commissioner, Turkey, Col Chakar and Maj Tsolaskis of Greece. The committee sent its recommendations to Geneva for the peace conference that led to a Turkish ultimatum on 13 August (they claimed more ground). On the following day, ie, 14 August, the Turkish forces began the second phase of the combat in Cyprus.
THE REGIMENT IS REUNITED
With the deployment of the bulk of the Regiment to Cyprus in late July and early August 1974, the units that had been split in two were reunited and the Regiment was re-formed. The Regiment included: 1 AB Bty, 1 AB Fd Sqn, AB HQ and Sig Sqn, 1 Cdo, 2 Cdo, 1 AB SSU and a reconnaissance troop from the LdSH (RC). The Regiment deployed to Cyprus with all of its CFFET including first line holdings plus a seven-day stock of ammunition. Not to be forgotten are the M-113 APCs and Lynx reconnaissance vehicles that were shipped to Cyprus from Germany.
The Regiment was moving in with all the necessary "tools" to carry out its UN role and to ensure security of its own personnel including prevention of abuses against peacekeeping Canadian soldiers on the part of the belligerents. The Canadian Contingent was to have some "teeth". Three were to be no more cases of Canadian soldiers being disarmed or ignored. This point was made very clear when, on more than one occasion, road barricades put up by the Turkish Army, TCF and Greek National Guard units were forcibly removed by our soldiers. In very specific areas we insisted on our freedom of movement and both sides learned to respect us for this stand.
The Regimental Commander assumed command on 2 August and gradually deployed the Regiment based on the arrival of personnel, vehicles, and equipment and on the tasking from HQ UNFICYP. More OPs were established and the whole of no man's land was heavily patrolled. There was a great sense of pride among our Canadian soldiers; they felt more confident and were showing it. It was good to see the Regiment reunited.
THE SECOND TURKISH OFFENSIVE
As the Regiment was settling into its new environment and more supplies and equipment were being flown in, the Turkish Army was busy doing the same thing. More units, guns and tanks were being landed on the North coast near Kyrenia. These activities were to lead us into the second phase of the Turkish operation. From the small Turkish enclave which was considerably enlarged with the invasion of the island, the Turkish Army was to push East and West to capture over one-third of the island, including all of its major ports.
Preparations on the Canadian side were married by a very sad incident. On the night of 6 August, a Canadian patrol in a jeep approached a Turkish Cypriot road block. Shortly after the officer had stopped the jeep and had moved forward on foot to speak to the TCF sentry, shots were fired and the driver of the jeep, Para Perron, was hit. Two bullets had penetrated his back and he died during his evacuation by helicopter to the hospital.
As early as 0020 hrs on 13 August units had begun preparing for hostilities when HQ UNFICYP ordered ORANGE ALERT. The alert was issued when reports from the peace conference at Geneva continued to be pessimistic, and it was considered that a second phase of operations was likely on the part of the "Turkish Peace Forces". By then, our paratroopers had filled thousands of sandbags brought over from Canada for the construction of trenches and bunkers. Throughout the day of 13 August, Turkish vehicles were observed in the area immediately North of the city. Just prior to darkness at least 60 vehicles, 38 of them tanks, were reported in the town of Geunyeli. During the evening hours a continuous build-up was reported.
Some sporadic firing occurred during 13 August, but no serious or sustained firefights were reported. The National Guard, sensing something was about to happen, alerted their troops and some redeployment was noted.
At 1700 hrs, the Regimental Commander was called to a meeting at HQ UNFICYP where he was briefed on the situation. On his return he ordered all Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) and Lynx (tracked reconnaissance vehicles) in the workshop to be operationally ready for 0600 hrs the next day. He also ordered all tracked vehicles to be painted white to avoid confusion with Turkish vehicles.
At 2200 hrs, Col G.H.J. Lessard, the Regimental Commander, issued orders in view of the imminent resumption of hostilities. These orders included contingency plans for thinning out of non-essential personnel from the Wolseley Barracks/Ledra Place area if subsequent events should prove it necessary.
At 2257 hrs, all lights in the town of Guenyeli were switched off, no doubt to prevent observation and to indicate Greek Cypriot locations, which remained illuminated. At 2258 hrs an unidentified aircraft with running lights overflew the FDL's in the city at about 10,000 feet. This aircraft was probably conducting a recce mission of sorts, and it was interesting to note that it appeared immediately after the Guenyeli lights were extinguished.
CANCON waited for the Turkish attack which now appeared imminent; the atmosphere of anticipation was not unlike that which is experienced prior to a parachute descent.
Although activity on both sides continued throughout the hours of darkness, it was not until 0430 hrs, 14 August that the opposing sides began occupying their forward trenches. At 0455 hrs artillery fire was heard on the North side of the Kyrenia Mountains. This would later prove to be Turk shelling of the Karavas and Lapithos areas.
At about the same time as Sgt A.M. Gallant of 2 Cdo was briefing his shift NCO on the orders that had been issued earlier at Regimental Headquarters, the aircraft arrived and the anticipation was over.
At 0505 hrs on 14 August, 1974, those personnel of the Canadian Contingent on Cyprus who were not already up and going about their duties were awakened by the roar of high performance aircraft of the "Turkish Peace Forces". These aircraft, reported as Phantoms, began what would later be referred to as the "Second Turkish Offensive" on the embattled island of Cyprus. The aircraft, later identified as F-100 Super Sabres, were to spend most of the day bombing and strafing Greek National Guard positions around Nicosia. The aircraft were reported by OP CORNARO at the time stated as a formation of 10 aircraft. It was the largest sighting of Turkish aircraft made during the first attack of the second offensive.
It became apparent to UN soldier, manning OPs along the line of confrontation that both sides, in their haste to get at each other, were not overly concerned with the neutrality of the United Nations. Reports began to arrive at an alarming rate that both sides were firing at Ops. At 0515 hrs the UN OPs KLONDYKE, ROSSLYN AND CORNARO received aimed Turkish fire. This is was in spite of the fact that the Turkish LO had earlier been informed of the locations of all Canadian OPs The OPs remained in position until 0707 hrs when they were all withdrawn except for OP CORNARO which held out until 0812 hrs.
Thus began two of many events that would allow those involved to tell "real" war stories (whenever they are able to corner someone long enough for the telling).
The first such event began at OP PEGASUS to the Northeast of the city. This OP was situated at the extreme end of the 1 Cdo area of operations and because of the distance involved, an APC from 2 Cdo had been dispatched the night before to evacuate the personnel if required. When the fighting around the OP got too intense for comfort and as they came more and more under fire an order was issued to evacuate the OP. As the APC moved out it was hit by several rounds of small arms fire. The carrier proceeded south toward the built-up area until it was disabled by an explosion. At the time of the explosion the crew was traveling with all hatches secured and vision was limited to the periscope. The crew was understandably stunned by the explosion which they suspected was an anti-tank rocket. Since the APC was disabled and the crew commander expected a second shot to follow, he gave orders to abandon the vehicle. The crew dismounted - and ran across an open field. The anti-tank rocket later proved to be an anti-tank mine, and the open field proved to be an unmarked mixed minefield.
The second event took place at OP CORNARO, a tall hotel situated in the 2 Cdo area. This OP because of its commanding view was considered important enough to man as long as possible. Having received intense small arm and machine gun fire from both sides, members of the OP party spent much of their time under cover and ventured onto the roof only during a lull in the shooting. Later, the Turks traded small arms fire for mortar fire and this forced the OP party to the basement. When asked for a sitrep on the action in their area, a climb of six stories was required to get to a good vantage point. The elevator was still working but the Electrical Authority of Cyprus was not having one of its better days. At 0800 hours, 11 Turkish tanks had moved within 200 meters of the OP and it was ordered abandoned. However, due to the intensity of the fighting, travel by soft skinned vehicles was precluded. Orders were given to immobilize the 1/4 ton and 3/4 ton vehicles at the OP and for the personnel to proceed to an RV where an APC would collect them. When the fighting died down that same night, a special party in APCs went to recover the abandoned vehicles.
At about the same time, two APCs were dispatched to the Kennedy Hotel in the old city to evacuate UN civilians. As one pretty secretary was being carried into the carrier she was heard to say, "Thank goodness, the United States Army has arrived".
Meanwhile in the vicinity of the Airport and Blue Beret Camp, a battle was forming up that would take three days to reach a definite conclusion. This battle had started early in the morning, with air strikes on the Greek National Contingent Camp, another abandoned camp known as Camp 50, and the Grammar School.
At 0800 hours, about 220-300 meters in front of OP CHARLIE, a whistle blew and a company of Turkish infantry with six tanks in support moved forward in extended line. Their objective - Camp 50. Resistance appeared to be very little and the infantry moved slowly taking few casualties. After reaching their objective, the tanks remained while the infantry retired to their original positions. This was probably done to afford the infantry some protection while air strikes were made on their next objective. This pattern was to be repeated many times over the next few days.
The first Canadian casualty of the Second Offensive occurred at 0823 hours in the kitchen of the Ledra Palace Hotel. He was not seriously injured, but once again, Canadians appeared to be in a mortar impact area. Mortar rounds continued to fall in the general area of Wolseley Barracks, the Ledra Palace Hotel and Camp Kronberg for the rest of the day.
At 0900 hrs, a 20 vehicle convoy under command of Capt Wesko had been formed at Wolseley Barracks to evacuate non-essential personnel to Blue Beret Camp. This convoy was accompanied by the Deputy Commander who has been tasked by the Regimental Commander to take over responsibilities for CANCON Base at Blue Beret Camp and to coordinate the local defence of CANCON Base.
At 1005 hrs, a small panic broke out at HQ UNFICYP when it was reported that a Turkish tank flying a UN flag was sighted just down the road at RAF Nicosia Officers' Mess. The tank later withdrew, and it was discovered that the flag had actually been one flying on a pole in front of which the tank had parked.
At 1006 hrs, the Joint Operations Centre at CANCON attempted to arrange a local cease fire effective at 1100 hrs. The Turkish Cypriot Vice-President's office agreed immediately, but the Greek National Guard Headquarters would only agree if "the Turks agree and the UN guarantees that the Turks will not take advantage of the cease fire and advance their disposition of forces". Eventually a cease fire was arranged within the city, but based on an Eastern and Western point which bounded the area and which had been agreed to by both sides.
This cease fire lasted 24 minutes before being shattered by Turkish jets dropping napalm on Greek positions at the Grammar School and the Greek National Contingent Camp. At 1250 hrs the Turkish forces again attempted to secure the area of the Grammar School.
Again a local cease fire was arranged, this one for 1300 hrs, but because of slow communications it did not become effective until 1330 hours.
Throughout the afternoon the cease fire was broken by sporadic firing within the city. However, in the area of the Grammar School both sides were involved in a full-fledged battle. This school dominates the ground to the South of the old Greek National Contingent Camp and was the first objective of the Turkish attempt to isolate the airport. The attacks on 14 August failed due to poor artillery/armoured/infantry cooperation, and the stiff resistance put up by the Greek National Guard soldiers in the school. At 1655 hrs, Turkish air strikes dropped napalm and a 500 lb bomb on the area. After a long, hard afternoon the Turks once again withdrew to the positions they had occupied prior to the operation. The Grammar School had not been taken.
Other parts of the island were generally quiet except for the area north of the new Famagusta Road, where at least three columns of infantry, preceded by tanks were pushing eastward towards Famagusta. The tasks of these columns soon became apparent, as the centre group secured Famagusta, the left group took Bogaz and the Panhandle, and the right group a line generally following the old Famagusta Road.
At last light on the 14th approached (1830 hours) a relative calm descended over Nicosia with only sporadic firing reported. The remainder of the island not covered by the cease fire saw continued fighting throughout the night. Much southerly traffic on the Kyrenia Road and eastward was reported. Strangely enough, little westerly movement was seen as it was expected that the Turks would also move on Morphou. The JOC operations log for that day was over 30 typed pages long.
At 0508 hrs, 15 August, the first artillery barrage began in an area northwest of the Nicosia Race Course. By this time, the entire length of the FDLs within the city had erupted into local firefights, and mortar bombardment posed an additional hazard to UN troops. Later in the morning, the National Guard started to fire again at UN vehicles in the city.
By 0700 hrs the F-100s had arrived back over the island. At long intervals throughout the day they attacked the Greek National Contingent Camp, the Grammar School and other targets around the city.
During the day, heavy refugee traffic was observed moving south out of the city. These refugees were to become one of the major problems confronting CANCON and UNFICYP, as thousands of displaced persons camped out under the trees of the Troodos Mountains and in the numerous villages to the South.
The Finnish Camp at Kykko (near BBC) had been subjected to heavy mortar and artillery fire as a result of the fighting going on around the Grammar School and the airport round-about. After sustaining some 10 casualties, HQ UNFICYP decided to evacuate the Camp, and the Canadians were tasked for the operation. Capt Bragdon's company of 2 Cdo, which had the APCs, carried out the evacuation under the "auspices" of Turkish aircraft which served them napalm. Capt Bragdon's men said that the Finns appeared reluctant to leave their trenches and enter the APCs. Their reluctance was understandable but so was Capt Bragdon's temper - he did not wish to stay one minute longer than necessary and wanted to get his APC column out of the area.
With the hope of recovering the APC that had suffered a broken track from the "Turk anti-tank gun", the Regimental Commander had given orders for the recovery on the night of the 14th 01 August. The LdSH(RC) Armoured Recce Troop received a warning order that same night and made the necessary arrangements to effect recovery.
The task was confirmed on the morning of the 15th and a mechanized group consisting of two Lynx, a fitter's APC and an APC with infantry support was dispatched to the scene. As the lead Lynx approached the disabled APC a loud explosion occurred on the right front of the vehicle causing it to rise off the ground, swerve to the right and come to a halt. There was a considerable amount of black smoke and dust which obscured vision. The crew was thrown about inside the vehicle without sustaining major injuries.
The crew commander, Lt Ross, traversed the cupola; however, no target presented itself. When no further hostile action occurred in the ensuing moments, an external visual inspection of the vehicle revealed that the right track had been extensively damaged. A larger crater nearby brought the realization that the vehicle was in an unmarked minefield. Now two vehicles were in need of recovery.
As Turkish intentions, with regard to the area, were not known at the time, a four phase plan was initiated. A path to the original disabled APC was prodded by MWO Witt in order to investigate the damage to the vehicle. Concurrent to this, the Lynx crew dislodged the track and prepared it for towing. Meanwhile the fitter's APC and the second Lynx moved around the supposed edge of the minefield and attempted to find a safer route to the disabled carrier. The APC was finally pulled from the minefield with no further incident.
Two attempts were made at recovering the Lynx. On the first attempt, the Lynx swerved setting off two more mines. These mines broke the left track and tiller bar and caused further damage to the right front side. On the second attempt the recovery was successful and both vehicles were recovered to Blue Beret Camp. Lt Ross, MWO Witt and WO McCarney had gone through a very dangerous period and showed much savoir faire! The Sappers' anticipation became obvious. This incident guaranteed that the equipment brought from Canada would be used.
At 1300 hrs it became apparent that Camp Kronberg was a target area and 2 Cdo's APCs were ordered to stand-by to evacuate the members of 1 Cdo who were occupying the area. Within three minutes, four casualties were sustained due to heavy mortar fire. One of the more seriously injured was MWO D. Segin who was hit by a large chunk of shrapnel tearing across his temple. By 1308 hrs, except for one section all personnel from Camp Kronberg had been evacuated.
As part of the regimental deployment in early August, CANCON took over responsibility for the Nicosia International Airport, and an Airport Task Force was formed based on 1 AB Bty and 1 AB Fd Sqn supported by 106 mm Recoilless Rifle detachments from 1 Cdo and 2 Cdo. It also had a British Swing Fire Troop under command and a Forward Air Control Party which could call on 12 Phantom aircraft for support. On the 15th of August, Maj Harries who was commanding the Task Force reported that artillery rounds were falling uncomfortably close to the Airport. It turned out that a National Guard battery to the South was firing over the Airport, at the Turks, and some rounds were falling short, probably due to old ammunition.
There were several attempts by the Turk Army to infringe upon the Airport perimeter - a 500 meters radius around the Airport as determined by HQ UNFICYP, however, the Turks were kept at bay. On many occasions the Airport Task Force readied itself to practice what it preached. Fortunately, the Turk Commander was cooperative on every occasion.
The next cease fire arranged for 1400 hrs lasted for all of three minutes. Although this second day of the offence was busy, it was relatively quiet compared to the first day. Troops in the Ledra Palace area spent most of the day improving defensive positions. In the early morning, the Regimental Commander ordered that OP CORNARO be manned as observation over the battlefield to the Northwest of the city was badly needed.
The Turkish forces in the area of the Airport carried out routine feeding and replenishment and did not make any serious attempt to take the Greek National Contingent Camp or the Grammar School. In retrospect, the second day was a day of holding existing positions while the artillery and mortars on both sides fired with increasing accuracy. Most gains were made by the "Turkish Peace Forces" on other parts of the island. Once again, as during previous nights, sporadic firing was continued by both sides.
At 0600 hrs, 16 August, the F-100s arrived for their regular morning run on the Grammar School area. This time, two direct hits caused severe damage to the structure. This was followed up some three hours later with the familiar whistle blast as the Turkish infantry, near battalion strength with six M-48 tanks in support, began their attack on the Greek National Contingent Camp and the Grammar School. Although the infantry began their attack in good order, the extended line soon began to stagger and became gapped as several casualties fell from small arms and extremely accurate artillery fire. The battle continued throughout the day with the Greeks giving up ground only after severe pressure.
As this battle raged on, the calm in the area of Cornaro Hotel OP, which was reoccupied the day before, was shattered by a violent outbreak of fighting as the Turks began an attempt to take the Central Prison. Loss of the Central Prison area, which was fortified and defended by a company supported by mortars, would have forced the National Guard to abandon its positions on the West bank of the Pedios River. This would have isolated the other positions on the East side near Wolseley Barracks and the Ledra Palace. This Greek National Guard salient was also a CANCON salient as we occupied the Kronberg Camp near the Central Prison, Wolseley Barracks and Ledra Palace area.
Let us now return to Sgt Gallant S.M. and his men at Cornaro Hotel OP. At 0926 hrs, shortly after the fighting had started, Cpl Lotoski and Tpr Alderson were pinned down on the roof of the hotel in a prone position for five minutes. The unwelcome observers finally extracted themselves to seek shelter in the basement. Twenty minutes later they were able to gain the roof top once more, but immediately drew fire from both sides. The CO of 2 Cdo requested permission from the Regimental Commander to withdraw this section from the hotel. The evacuation involved two APCs covered by two Lynx under command of Lt Ross (LdSH(RC)) and was accomplished under fire, including a near miss by two 500 lb bombs directed at the Central Prison.
Meanwhile, anticipating a Greek National Guard withdrawal from the salient described above (Camp Kronberg/Wolseley Barracks/Ledra Palace area), the Regimental Commander ordered AB HQ and Sig Sqn, 1 Cdo and the engineer section attacked to RHQ to prepare to defend the area and not to accept any "trespassing" on UN-controlled areas. The units were ready to execute the orders; support weapons were in position and barbed wire obstacles erected. Last minute instructions were issued to all personnel. Then, both the local Greek and Turk commanders were informed that no armed soldiers would be allowed in the UN-controlled areas, though surrender would be accepted after soldiers had given up their arms to the UN ... another way to add to the Regimental Museum weapons collection. Had the Turks been able to break through and capture and 1 Cdo would have been caught in a "sandwich".
At 1505 hrs, it was learned that the Turks would implement a full cease fire on the island at 1800 hrs. By the time much of the island from Morphou to Famagusta would be under their control.
At exactly 1800 hrs the cease fire came into effect and at the same time the national flag of Turkey appeared on the roof of the Grammar School.
Although this appeared to be the long awaited for cease fire, the one that would hold, sporadic fire was still going on when at 1935 hrs Col Beattie called CANCON JOC to ask if his and the Force Commanders' houses were still intact. He was advised that they were.
Priority tasks for the next day were to be the establishment of a UN presence between the two sides and the determination of a new demarcation line. The Regimental Commander briefed Maj Zuliani, the Regiment Major (RM), accordingly. At 2021 hrs, the RM issued patrol orders with the general task of confirming the Southern line of the Turkish forces. This task was to intensify over subsequent days.
The night was again punctuated by exchanges of small arms fire but no large troop deployments were observed. At 0054 hours on the 17th, HQ UNFICYP warned all contingents to be careful of mines on roads where the National Guard had withdrawn. This warning was prompted by the tragic death of two Danish soldiers whose vehicle had hit a mine near Ambelikou. The warning was accompanied by a further warning that these minefields were indicated by two rocks being placed on either side of a road or track.
This fact was almost useless as the entire island is littered with small piles of rocks. Nevertheless, a great many Canadian soldiers out on patrol suddenly became "rock watchers".
Early in the morning of the 17th patrols from F Coy, 2 Cdo were operating in the Kronberg area. In essences, except for the TCF occupation of the Cornaro Hotel, there was no significant advance by either side. Based on the damage and the abandoned weapons the fighting was very close and extremely violent. A big surprise was the discovery that the National Guard had withdrawn from positions previously manned along the Pedios River. They had moved back to an apartment block 200 m to the rear. The timing of the withdrawal is not known but the TCF failed to capitalize on it.
At approximately 0900 hrs the Regimental Commander, accompanied by the RSM, was visiting this same area when he noticed that the British High Commission had been occupied by the National Guard. Carrying on driving down Ayios Diomidi Street, a dead-end street on the West bank of the Pedios River, a TCF soldier came out from behind a house and pointed his rifle at the group. TCF soldiers, apparently having discovered the withdrawal of the National Guard, had crossed the river (for the first time in 10 years) and were looting the residences of rich Cypriots.
The Regimental Commander reported the situation to RHQ and gave orders to 2 Cdo to push the TCF back across the river. Then followed a series of tense incidents connected with this first TCF cease fire violation in that area, and involving the Regimental Commanders party, Capt Peterson's company and the CO of 2 Cdo. The hate that the factions had for each other and the minimal importance they attach to human life was evident in these incidents. At one stage the TCF leaders friend got himself caught at the Greek end of the street and was about to be shot in cold blood. Fortunately, the Regimental Commander's party was in the location and immediately took possession of the individual, ordering up an APC to extract them. The TCF leader, seeing the threats now being offered to both his friend and the Canadians attempting to save him, placed his loaded Thompson to Cpl Hartnett's head and said, "I am sorry, but if they kill my friend, I must kill you." Capt Peterson and his driver had found themselves isolated and surrounded by the TCF at their end of the street. About this time, E Coy arrived supported by APCs and Lynx. It was great to see the men deploy wearing steel helmets and flak jackets and with weapons at the ready. Everyone knows how stubborn the TCF are, but there is one "language" that they understand and that morning they did. They agreed to pull back and after they did, Major Corbould escorted the TCF that we were holding "hostage" back across the river.
Within the next three weeks Major Corbould and his men were to be involved in two more serious incidents in that same area. During one of them he got the famous ultimatum from the TCF -- "You have five minutes to leave or ..." Major Corbould's reply -- "Or what?" The Regimental Commander's decision -- "Stay put". By that time the battery had deployed in support of 2 Cdo. These five minutes were very long ones and the air was electrifying. Once again, the UN won the day, but firmness was a must.
In this area, now held by the UN, the British High Commission grounds was a stately Bentley (the British High Commissioner's limousine) which was in obvious danger of becoming either a war souvenir, or in the worst case, a casualty. Not wanting this to happen, the Regimental Commander ordered that it be removed for safe keeping to 2 Cdo’s area where it became the personal staff car of one MCpl "Boots" McDonald. Having risen quickly from the ranks of a Mercedes Benz owner to the dizzying heights of a Bentley man, MCpl McDonald made immediate use of the car to tour such far away places as Blue Beret Camp. He was required however to give up the car when a LCol Morris (CO 16/5th Lancers) needed the car to impress some Turkish soldiers who had crossed the Morphou Road, and as a result had gotten a little too close to RAF Nicosia PMQ area.
By this time the UN was also in the business of the task. By 1445 hrs the bodies were being evacuated and the task would take about two days to complete. The incident illustrated however the length of time it took both Greek and Turkish forces to pass down orders to their local commanders.
A macabre side to the body detail occurred as one National Guard soldier was digging up a body, and found it to be that of his brother.
Throughout the day artillery and small arms fire continued to break the cease fire. In the Greek village of Pyroi, Southeast of Nicosia, National Guard positions were being shelled by Turks. The situation worsened and by 1730 hrs the Turks had secured the town. The National Guard had lost only a few soldiers in this battle but lost two of their tanks. One of these tanks was to turn up later in the town of Louroujina with a red star and crescent painted on the turret.
The day's last incident was logged at 2345 hrs when the Vice-President's office complained that a UN OP near Cornaro Hotel was shining search lights towards the Turkish side. In fact, the "searchlights" were Coleman lanterns illuminating the OP -- things were more or less back to normal.
Phase Two of the Turkish Offensive had come to an end.
For the next few weeks the Regiment worked hard to firmly establish a demarcation line between the belligerents. This became a very dangerous risk due to the many unmarked minefields, the aggressiveness of the Turkish Army, and their continuous attempts to creep forward. Our sappers and the reconnaissance troop from the LdSH(RC) became deeply involved in this operation. The recce troop performed in an outstanding fashion and it is much admired by the Regiment. The whole operation was successful and the new Nicosia Zone (East) was first by far to compile a detailed trace of the many minefields and of the defensive lines for both sides.
Our troops were to come under fire on a few more occasions. One of them saw the RM, CO 1 Cdo, and the Turkish Liaison Officer (LO) pinned down in a ditch for a good 10 minutes. Lesson: Never approach the Turkish FDLs at night from the Greek side even if accompanied by a Turkish LO. This was the night Para Berger was killed and the incident was then being investigated.
The months of October and November saw 1 Cdo involved in the Eastern sector and in the Louroujina area. Over and above the problem of putting a stop to the firefights that erupted at night in the old walled city, they had to provide the organization and the security force for the many exchanges of prisoners of war and refugees that took place in the Ledra Place area.
With the departure of Canada of our first advance party everyone became very anxious to return home. We had come here to do a job, we did it ... it was time to leave.
The following is an account which, by its free style, may indicate the extremely interesting and challenging job done by this cell of Nicosia Zone (East). Their task, despite the casual dialogue, was not at all casual. It was at times dangerous and always marked by frustration as the team continually was confronted by belligerence in attempting to obtain the cooperation of one side with the other.
"According to official sources, the Turks captured 48,000 pigs (also 280,000 sheep and goats, 1,400,0000 chickens and 12,000 cows) when they occupied 40% 0f Cyprus. Unfortunately, Turks don't like pigs - to eat, anyway. So, I am escorting a Greek Cypriot farmer and his wife to their pig farm which is very close to the new Turkish lines and far away from the nearest Greek position. There is an air about the scene, as over 600 pigs are now dead in their pens and the only life is us, a trillion flies and 12 live pigs, very thin. We have wrestled one pig into the Greek's truck (WO Smith is nursing a sore knee from the pig's hoof) and, while the two British Para Squadron crews stand guard in their ferrets, my driver and I try roping another arrival. As I round the corner of a building, rope in hand, I find myself facing six Turks, weapons at the ready. I try talking to these chaps but no language seems compatible and my Turkish phrase book does not have the word "pig" in it. I should have gone to a chicken farm, maybe?
A quiet word to Laviolette (my driver) and he sends the Greeks away in a cloud of dust. We smile as the interpreter, who soon arrives, explains that the farm is under Turkish "control" and we are not to come again. I point out the health hazard to him and, later, to his administration, and when I return alone two days later, the dead pigs are buried in lime and the live ones are gone.
This is typical of the day to day affairs of Ops E, the Canadian Contingent's Economics/Humanitarian Office, a staff of one officer, one warrant officer, one driver, two ferrets (plus crews) and anyone else we can con into working. A lot volunteer.
Only two days before, we had been "assisting" five Greek families to retrieve their furniture from their houses, also very near the Turkish lines. This time we were surrounded by a whole Turk platoon and it took us 15 minutes just to calm down an old Greek lady long enough to get her moving back to Nicosia... with her belongings, fortunately. Later, she offered us a bottle of wine, either in thanks or because she felt we needed it. She was a fortunate lady... some 200,000 other Cypriots were refugees, living in tents with only the clothes on their backs.
The Canadians were fortunate too, having to deal with only 20,000 refugees in their district. Canadian patrols delivered tons of food and supplies, tents, blankets, and cots before the Red Cross and Welfare agencies got organized. And later on, they helped distribute Red Cross family messages to and from Turkish villages. White Canadian jeeps became the only means of outside communications. Our doctors attended so many villagers in Kochati that they were considering moving the MIR there. How 400 people can be so sick so often still remains a medical mystery.
WO Smith was overseeing an electrical repair job on the Green Line while the Para Squadron stood watch. By now our trust was established and we had both Turk and Greek electricians working side by side. After all, we had provided escorts, for electricians, every day for almost two months while they repaired thousands of breaks in high tension lines and village feeder lines along the entire line of confrontation. A twitchy National Guard soldier let a shot fly from his machine gun, right beside my warrant. Within two seconds, Smitty was carrying the soldier by the scruff of the neck to his local commander who had agreed to allow the work to proceed. Our trust was intact.
We also provided escorts for water repairs immediately after the cease fire. It took five days to restore water to Nicosia. But in the countryside, orchards went for weeks and even months without water - and they died. In fact 80% of the citrus groves are in the "North" now, and many will require up to 10 years to return to full capacity. Citrus fruits are Cyprus' main export item.
The Turks now control an area which is responsible for 70% of Cyprus' economic output, in the form of agriculture, farming, mining, mineral resources, and industry. Also, the majority of the island's tourist trade revolved around Kyrenia and Famagusta. And Ops E has requests to retrieve goods, protect lands and property, return workers, or water animals and crops from almost every Greek Cypriot who used to live in the occupied territory. We can only say "the Turkish authorities do not permit us to go there".
And how many people do we see every day who want us to bring a relative to "freedom". We have been successful on occasion but usually when I say "We'll try" it is only to give a moment of optimism to the requester.
By and large we have a very high regard in the eyes of Cypriots. They come to the Canadians because they know the Airborne Regiment's "can do" attitude. And if we can, we do. I will always remember the sign outside one of the refugees' camps in our district. It had a hand drawn paratrooper under full canopy and underneath the words "All Canadians Welcome ... except those who don't drink tea". I suspect we all drink tea.