31 October 2002

Cyprus #1

OldEric says :-} When I was in the RAF, I was stationed in Cyprus in 1956 for part of my time. I was stationed near Famagusta which populated predominantly by people of Turkish extraction and Greeks were in the minority although the total population of Cyprus, Greeks were in the majority for the whole of the island. This was the time of active EOKA the Greek terrorist organization. EOKA were not too much of a problem in the Turkish majority areas so we were not restricted in our travels however we always traveled armed and the normal weapon carried was usually a .303 rifle. After a short while I realized the rifle was a clumsy weapon for the use it was needed for and I noticed the weapon of choice for the longer serving personnel was often a Sten Gun, a short ugly all metal submachine gun painted black which could fire single shot or automatic. A certificate of competence was required for this weapon it was dangerous in untrained hands, and it could only be used right handed and I was left handed.
I practiced on the firing range until I was competent and using the weapon right handed was second nature. With this weapon, going out to remote radio beacons and the like I felt a lot safer as some of them were in Greek areas with little or no population just the places for ambushes.
One incident made me smile, two of us and a driver were required to go up to Nicosia Airport to pick up two new incoming personnel for our section and as usual we were armed and carrying spare magazines. One of the two new comers had a look on his face somewhere between aghast and horror on his face when he saw us and eying the Sten gun. I knew what was going through his mind and I remember saying something like “don’t worry it isn’t as bad as it looks, its just in case”. Even now I don’t think he believed me, he never said a word all the way back to our unit at Ayios Nikolaos.
That was only one side of Cyprus, I liked Cyprus very much, that is the Cyprus of that era, I believe it is now thick with tourist hotels and hoards of people. The climate was very equitable, sunny most of the time with little humidity but it could get cold get in winter with dry NE winds from the snowy Steppes of Russia and the snows of central Turkey. The beaches of Cyprus were good and the beaches of Famagusta were excellent. Here I got a bad dose of sunburn on one of my shoulders just a narrow piece on the top of the shoulder from my neck to the outer part of the shoulder. I had a pink mark there for many years afterwards. The nicest beachside areas I enjoyed were the northern beaches, around the east of Kyrenia if you have a map. Here were sandy inlets and slab rock foreshores and very pretty. I spent a pleasant long weekend out here with the combined forces Ham club which were running 24 hours per day in a competition so we had plenty of beach time to look around.

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