Cyprus

After the departure of British Forces from Egypt, Cyprus became the main British base in the Eastern Mediterranean and a Regiment Squadron setting a record for longest single deployment.

ENOSIS & EOKA

The majority of the population of ther island of Greek stock with a sizeable minority of Turkish extraction. The British Government of the day had offered complete union between Greece and Cyprus if the Greeks would join the Allied side in the Great War. The Greeks refused and so the island remained in British hands. In 1950, ENOSIS – union with Greece, was revived by the EOKA group who had the single idea of “throwing off the British Yoke and becoming an independent country”. The political wing of EOKA was led by a Greek Orthodox Priest, Makarios and its Military Wing by Colonel George Grivas. The campaign started in 1955 and continued through to 1960 when Cyprus was granted its independence with the British Holding on to 2 Sovereign Base Areas in Akrotiri and Dhekalia.

During the campaign, which was aimed primarily at British Military members and their families, the Corps carried out the usual range of Internal Security tasks, patrolling, escorts, searches and guarding of high value targets (2 Squadron were the High Commissioners personal protection unit). 5 Wing operated out of RAF Nicosia with 3 Wing at Akrotiri, which was being built, so the living conditions were extremely Spartan. Several casualties were taken during the campaign and awards won. SAC Charles Lemon won the BEM for bravery during a remote IED strike in Akrotiri Village when the convoy escort for OC 3 Wing swapped positions in the convoy. Lemon took the full force of the blast and the shrapnel but managed to get the vehicle out of the killing area and into safe ground before having his severe wounds looked at.

1964/65 Riots

On Christmas Eve 1964, Wing Commander Mark Hobden and his officers were serving the airman of 3 Wing their traditional Christmas dinner in the Mess at Akrotiri when the news of severe rioting and civil disturbances across the island between Greeks and Turks emerged. The foundling Cypriot Government called upon the guaranteeing power to assist and within 2 hours the first flight grouping, from 34 Squadron, flew to Nicosia. Within days they had been followed by 26, 27, 28 and 16 Field. Wing Commander Hobden set up his HQ in the Ledra Palace Hotel and marked out a demarcation line between the opposing factions. This he drew and briefed the Army Commander, who arrived to take command of the situation, with a green chinagraph pencil on a map of the city. This not only endured for the duration of the riots but, as of today, is the generally accepted term for a demarcation or buffer zone in conflict areas across the world. Hard patrolling followed before the Wing was withdrawn back to Akrotiri. On leaving the Hotel, Wing Commander Hobden was presented for a bill for the rooms of over £2000. His answer was pure Regiment when he observed that as the President of the Republic had requested his help, it was better if the manager sent the bill to the Presidential palace.

1974 Turkish Invasion

The rise in Greek Nationalism in the early 70’s and the rebirth of EOKA in a new guise – EOKA B – led by Grivas, felt that Makarios had cast aside any hope of union with Greece. Some encouragement by right wing factions in Athens saw the Greek Cypriot National Guard mount a coup in 1974 and depose Makarios who was replaced by Nickos Sampson. This action provoked serious retaliation from Turkey with a full-scale invasion from both sea and air. Regiment Squadrons were deployed from the UK to assist in the defence of the airhead at Akrotiri. The invasion resulted in the permanent partition of the island. Major rioting at the gates of Akrotiri saw both 34 and 27 Sqns in IS mode with Sgt Phil Marcer of 27 being decorated for bravery. The major upshot for the Corps was the withdrawal of 27 Sqn back to UK to re-role as a Rapier Squadron and 34 Sqn become Field and remain on the island.

1986 and 1987 Attacks

After the Libyan attacks by the USAF in 1986, the Libyan leader Gaddafi offered large amounts of funding to any group that would attack any US or British interests, in the region. As a consequence an unknown Palestinian group attacked RAF Akrotiri on Sunday 3rd August 1986 using 60mm Mortars, RPG 7 grenades and small arms. The main target, the Bulk Fuel Installation near Buttons Bay was to be ignited as a signal to the rest of the world of Gaddafi’s reach. Unfortunately due to the sharp eyes of a Regiment JNCO, Cpl Johnson, during his patrol duties on IRF, a new lock and chain had been fitted to the Arabs gate, the supposed entry point for the Palestinian strike team. They were unable to breach the gate and although they mortared the base from outside and fired a number of RPGs, only three people were slightly wounded. The attack saw the creation of an Observation line along the northern edge of the base, which endured for many years. The following year a fire bomb attack on the Sovereign Base Area records office in Phissori and the water feed station for the base was made, by a gangster element of the almost defunct EOKA B in retaliation for the refusal of building rights for another tavern in Akrotiri village. In 1996 34 Squadron was withdrawn to RAF Leeming and apart from a small training team, the Corps presence was terminated.

34 Squadron’s deployment to the island is the longest single deployment by a Regiment Squadron – 43 years.