Excerpts taken from the 1965 Powder Horn annual regimental journal and transcribed by Sergeant Graham Humphrey, CD.
Time was pressing! The Cyprus-bound Advance Party of 99 all ranks had been placed on 48 hours notice to enplane. The main body of the Battalion were on 10 days warning from 20 March. On 23 March, shortly after the Hamilton Gault Trophy had been received, the advance party was airborne from Patricia Bay Airport where it had been seen off by Maj Gen Rockingham. Led by the Commanding Officer, the party consisted of 15 officers and 83 Warrant and Senior Non-Commissioned Officers and Rifleman plus a small party of the Reconnaissance Squadron of the Royal Canadian Dragoons for a total passenger list of 124. The party flew by RCAF “Yukon” and after two refuelling stops, something over 24 hours airborne and several time zones later, settled into UNFICYP.
Greeting the party as it deplaned was Lt Col W H Mulherin, GM, CD, Commanding Officer 1st Canadian Guards, whose unit the battalion was relieving. Colonel H Tellier, DSO, CD, Commander Canadian Contingent in Cyprus, and Mr Arthur Andrew, Canadian High Commissioner in Cyprus.
After a 10 day briefing and settling-in period, the Advance Party was ready to receive the main body which had flown via Trenton, Ontario and Marville, France arriving at daily intervals with C Company on 4 Apr, B Company on 5 Apr, Bn HQ on 6 Apr, D Company on 7 Apr, A Company on 8 Apr and, finally, the remnants of Support Company on 10 April.
1st Battalion Headquarters
On Blueberry Hill, there was no escape – a 500 foot cliff in front of them, Turkish Cypriots to the rear of them and Greek Cypriots all around them. From 6 Apr, when Lt Col Kirby accepted responsibility from 1st Battalion The Canadian Guards until 8 Oct when he handed over to 2nd Battalion, The Canadian Guards, it was a busy time. In an attempt to keep abreast of the many “happenings”, the Commanding Officer decided a weekly “session” of note comparisons was necessary. And to be sure he had plenty of “goings on” to choose from.
April will always be remembered as the “Month of the Temblos”, for on the 28th the happy refugees of the village of Temblos began to construct their “road” to St Hilarion Castle. The unit was ordered to negotiate and that it did. By the end of May, when the final solution was presented and accepted, the “road” was finished. In the succeeding months everyone was thoroughly convinced that the construction reports, which were dutifully passed on, added immensely to the peace that existed there. Another interesting incident during April occurred at the Kyrenia Pass proper when the Turkish Cypriots drove a bulldozer up to the summit and appeared to be blocking the pass; actually they were merely needed more parking spaces on the side of the mountain.
May brought the warmth of spring, the “lemon dispute”, the NICOSIA-KYRENIA convoy escorted by 30 scout cars, the “well” problems in Temblos and the fight of a suspected measles epidemic in the same happy community, and the visit of the Canadian Minister for External Affairs, The Rt Hon Paul Martin.
The first fortnight of June was relatively calm. The force commander, General KS Thimayya, DSO, toured the entire Battalion area on the 15th, the Turkish Cypriots put road blocks on the Nicosia-Kyrenia road, The UNFICYP mandate was extended for six months and the motor torpedo boats moored themselves in Kyrenia Harbour. Trouble occurred on 16 June when the Turkish Cypriots on the “Whiskey Feature” opened fire with rifles and machine guns on a patrol from B Company; the incident taking place almost in full view of Battalion Headquarters. Had it not been for sharp and calm orders by the patrol commander, Major Bill Crew, not to return the fire the situation could easily have deteriorated. The stone wall that was being investigated as a suspected fortification in advance of the defensive line was the subject of negotiation, but whether it was ever completely dismantled is anybody’s guess. It was also reported that the OC C Coy, Maj Len Cross, had had a sharp encounter with a Turkish Cypriot pistol the same day; although no one ever confirmed this fact.
With such exploits in June, July must be described as a independent judgment and to act with assurance that his actions were significant and would be backed up all along the line. We take great pride in the way our corporals have carried out their duties”. “A major change in attitude”, he continued, “was our approach towards the use of force. If UN troops have to use force their mission is unsuccessful, and the QOR never had to fire a shot, even when fired upon a few times. We therefore avoided aggravating a minor incident and the wisdom of this course has been made apparent, as no one, on either side, has been wounded, and virtually every point of contention has been negotiated to a solution. Naturally we would have defended ourselves but there was never any need to impose our will by force of arms. Both Turkish and Greek Cypriots have often complimented the Canadian Contingent on their behaviour and discipline. Only during the last month, President Makarios has issued statements praising the discipline and good conduct of our force. The Turkish Vice President, Dr Kutchuk, has done the same thing on several separate occasions. In mentioning other features, the Commanding Officer noted the excellent health record of the unit, a direct result of strict attention to hygiene, “Even on remote outposts, morale had been high, partly because of our strict discipline, careful attention to dress and a rest routine with regular relief and leaves.
Although there were no rules against fraternizing with the opposing forces it was not encouraged because of the possible accusation of favoritism. I feel that our policy of being fair, firm and friendly, deferentially paid off”.
A Company’s first impression of Cyprus was perhaps quite unfair to the little island, our first three weeks were spent in Troodos Road Camp, the home of the Administrative Support Group for the United Nations Canadian Contingent, which is located just outside of Nicosia. Commonly called “Lizard Flats” it is famous for its heat and constant gale force wind.
By the end of April the Company was for the “sharp end” and on the 24th packed up and departed for the extreme North West of the island into the village of Myrtou. The company’s area was almost entirely populated by Greek Cypriots except for the two small isolated villages of Ayra Irini and Kambyli. Following the occupation of 6 outposts, everyone was kept fully occupied attempting to convert their mud houses into palaces; equipment of every possible kind being procured by borrowing or begging. The competition for improvements was prevalent in the company during its entire tour and paid great dividends for everyone.
The most comfortable outpost in the Myrtou complex was position named “Marine View”. Located within 30 seconds of the Mediterranean, it was here that the Command Post was located; primarily, so it was rumoured, because the Company Commander spent his daylight hours there! The only soldier who probably didn’t care too much for Myrtou was the company clerk, who could be heard clacking away on his typewriter to the small hours every night, preparing the daily vehicle flow sheets!
Kambyli is located on a high dusty hill about 30 miles from Nicosia. It was occupied by an estimated 500 Turkish Cypriot refugees whose relatively small numbers belie the amount of energy and time that was expended by the company in maintaining the situation’s status quo. How many times the company’s medical jeep made a mad headlong dash from Kambyli to the Turkish Hospital in Nicosia will never be known, suffice it to say that Cpl “Hud” White never had to deliver a baby by the headlights of his jeep somewhere in the lonely Greek Cypriot countryside.
The infamous “Case of the Missing Muktar” also presented a problem for the company. Doubtless there never has been or ever will be as much excitement in Kambyli as the night the mayor disappeared. Following a near riot and a complete investigation by investigators too numerous to mention, the riddle was finally solved – he had gone for a drive in his bus!
Following another two week bout in Lizard Flats and sight seeing tours on the island, in Beirut and the Holy Land, the company was again ready for the “front line” and on the 19th of June it was off to “Oneisha Farm.
During our sojourn in the “Dustbowl” the weather was sweltering to say the least, with the thermometer at times surpassing the 125 mark. Cool days were 100 F and the grasshoppers were described perfectly by S Sgt Louis Riel in a letter to his wife when he said “most of the grasshoppers here are as big as horses but some are really big”!
Oneisha was almost as quiet as Myrtou. The rumour throughout the battalion was that wherever the company moved the occurrence of incidents rapidly subsided. We, quite naturally strongly endorsed the rumour even if only because we believed it to be true.
One of the many ingenious ideas the Company gave birth to in Cyprus was that of painting Canadian Flags on oil cloth and the credit for this very worthwhile idea must go to Cpl Sal Morin who initiated the project. By the time the Company had been in Oneisha a fortnight, each of the dozen outposts sported a new Canadian Flag; and for those who felt that “Oneisha” and “Pig Farm” was a distasteful name for company headquarters they were soon gratified to see Rfn Bill Mannix painting a new sign labelling the area as “Razor Back Ranch.”
The Nicosia-Kyrenia convoy did, at times, provide a considerable amount of excitement – especially when English speaking girls happened to have joined it “for the rife.” Boredom was a constant threat but with the many improvements, the convoy and above all the evening movie, time passed pleasantly. A highland of the Company’s stay was the inspection on 27 July by Brig BF Macdonald, DSO, CD, the Zone Commander, who remained for a company barbecue. Due to the superb work of the “Sanbagoneese”, an entertainment group of 2 platoon (alias Battalion Bugles), the affair was a tremendous success.
As the time approached to rotate with D Company to Troodos Road, the company was able to look back on “Razor Back Ranch” with pride. The Command Post and outposts had been immeasurably improved, the revised convoy escort system was working flawlessly and the relations with both Turkish and Greek Cypriots had improved to the point of cordiality. It was with a certain amount of regret that the company pennant was lowered on 30 July and raised a new in “Lizard Flat” the same night.
Following another two weeks of survival at Troodos Road the Company was exceedingly pleased to depart for Kyrenia and the sea on 14 August. Here it was to stay for a glorious seven week tour. The Kyrenia area stretched 15 miles along the Northern coast and was one of the most beautiful parts of the island. In addition to the beaches, it offered the town of Kyrenia, second only to Nicosia, for entertainment and diversification.
Turkish-Greek relations in the area took on a more settled attitude in the vice-like grip of the big “A” and to everyone’s surprise, including our own, even the villages of Temblos paid heed to our mediation efforts. It was truly peaceful and everyone passed their off duty hours purchasing souvenirs, swimming or simply relaxing. Naturally, improvements ot outposts occupied the majority of the working hours and who will forget 2Lt Ken Radley’s merry men on the “Saddle” who built themselves a quaint little patio at the edge of the 400 foot cliff so that they might sip their been in the twilight, gaze at the bright lights of Nicosia and dream of better things to come. Those smiles could be described as grins stretching from ear to ear.
B Company officially commenced its tour in Cyprus at the small village of Myrtou when Major Bill Crew accepted the “Chain” of office from 3 Company of 1st Battalion the Canadian Guards. Myrtou was quiet and the only noteworthy event that occurred there during the company’s stay was the “Easter Sunday Operation”. Conducted by 2Lt Jim O’Brien it involved the removal of a deceased Turkish women from the predominantly Greek village of Ayios Ermoloas to the Turkish Village of Phottas.
On 24 April, B Company rotated with A company; going to Troodos Road Camp for a fortnight of rest in reserve,. Tours of Nicosia, with all its delights, became first priority for no one had really seen the island’s capital since arriving due to the quick move from the airport directly into the field. No sooner had everyone unpacked, however, than the company was placed on stand-by. Due to an unexpected turn of events, the Zone commander had decided that the Zone Reserve, “Saber Force” might be required. Following a nine-hour wait the force was finally stood down.
The remaining days spent at Troodos Road were uneventful except for the provision of a 50 man Guard of Honour on 5 May for the Hon Paul Martin, Canadian Minister for External Affairs. The Guard paraded under Capt Dick Cowling, high on the Tjiklos Plateau, where Mr. Martin inspected and commanded them on their fine turnout and excellent bearing.
The move of the Company to Oneisha Farm a few days later was deft indeed, on the first night in Position the “Honey Wagon” broke through a sewer cover at Company Headquarters. Unable to get close enough to bodily push it clear a recovery vehicle finally had to be called to right the damage.
The primary task in the Oneisha area was the operation of the twice-daily convoys between Nicosia and Kyrenia. Aided by a mixed Danish-Canadian group of Scout cars the movement of the Greek Cypriots through the Turkish Cypriot area was always one of constant anticipation. Literally anything could happen – from unexpected road blocks to a blanket of tacks and nails covering the road. The second task was the separation of the two forward defended lines; always a tedious and difficult business. 14 May saw a great deal of excitement in this respect when Lt Ray Bunner had a face to face encounter with 2Lt Izzet, a Turkish Cypriot who founded a forward position known as the “Izzet Position”, later changed to the “Martens Mount Position” in deference to a QOR Corporal. As the Battalion story-teller relate the incident it would appear that a number of weapons were cocked, however, let it be stated here that all the shooting was verbal.
In mid-June, whilst 2Lt Jim O’Brien was recovering from a bad “sunburn” received at Famagusta, and 2Lt Dave “Splat” Stevenson was investigating the opportunities of establishing his private harem in Beirut, Lt Ray Bunner again found himself, along with his company commander and twenty other riflemen, under fire from all too authentic rifles and machine guns.
Earlier that day, Maj Bill Crew had taken a patrol along the top of the Kyrenia Mountains between the “Gun” and “Whiskey” features to examine reports of a stone wall being built ahead of the agreed lines. No sooner had it been located than the Turkish Cypriots opened fire for a total of 33 rounds. The patrol took cover, no return fire was offered and eventually it withdrew. The wall, which later became a subject of high level negotiation, was eventually removed.
On 19 June the Company once again returned to the “comforts” of Troodos Road and was again given the task of providing a Guard of Honour. “Canada Day” was celebrated by B Company with two parades in Nicosia; the first in the Turkish Sector and the second in the Greek.
The Company packed up on 3 Jul for the move to Kyrenia to once again relieve C Company. Lt Ray Bunner and 2Lt Dave Stevenson drew the patrolling jobs and 2Lt Jim Obrien was forever banished to the “Saddle” position, a remote and desolate outpost located beside a 600 foot cliff between the entrenched Greek and Turkish Cypriots. No sooner had tasks been allotted than the company officers began to change: Capt Dick Cowling moved up the hill to Battalion HQ to be replaced by Lt Ron Coates; the OC, Maj Bill Crew, was dispatched to command Troodos Road Camp and was replaced by Capt Bill Mountain; S Sgt John Cresswell moved up the hill to the Reconnaissance Platoon and was replaced by Sgt Ken Snowdon. The remainder of the Company’s stay, save for the annoying and continuous shooting from around the St Hilarion Castle area, was uneventful and 14 August saw everyone back in “Lizard Flats” for the last fortnight “stint”.
With no parades to prepare for, and no foreseeable standby to enjoy, the company occupied itself with training and a series of sightseeing tours to various points of interest on the island. By 28 August the company was on the road back to Myrtou again; this time, however, to an enlarged area of responsibility including Morphou and other large towns in the South.
Myrtou was quiet, as expected, and so during September, the company concentrated on winterization (rainproofing) of outposts in preparation for the handover to 2nd Battalion The Canadian Guards. Also during September, the “Plumer”, Sgt Len Quinlan, rejoined the Company to help Sgt Ron Kirby as Patrol Sergeant and they were often seen patrolling between their quarters and the kitchen.
A hilarious mess dinner for all officers and senior NCO’s of the Company was held on 18 September. Cpl Terry Burn, RCASC, acted as chef and the food was superb.
The “Big Day” arrived for B Company on 5 Oct when we boarded the “Yukon” for “home”.
On 4 Apr, C Company became the first to arrive full strength on Cyprus. Following issue of additional equipment and a documentation check it was off to our new home, “Oneisha Pond.” Within minutes of our arrival we had taken over from 2 companies of 1st Battalion The Canadian Guards. The process of setting into a new country and job had begun.
During the Cyprus tour the company served a six day period in each of the Battalion’s areas: Oneisha Farm from Apr to 10 May, Kyrenia from 25 May to 3 July and Myrtou from 17 July to 11 Sept. Each two week break saw the company Troodos Road Camp and the final stage of the tour saw at Oneisha Farm for a final three weeks.
The operations of the company were widespread and extremely diversified. Company drivers each drove over 30 miles, often under hazardous conditions, with relatively little mishaps. The work of the Junior NCOs in negotiating into disputes was most noteworthy.
The weeks spent in Troodos Road Camp and the Reserve Company offered a welcome change of pace as well as opportunities to carry out APC and helicopter familiarization training Group 1 courses were also conducted to qualify as many of the soldiers as possible for higher pay. In all, 25 qualified as Mortar men and 14 as Machine Gunners.
Range work also provided a change from the ever present threat of boredom and the company spent many days at such beautiful named ranges as Lefkoniko, Pyla and Dhekilia.
Socially, the company had a happy time. In addition to platoon parties held during Troodos Road Camp periods, the company staged a steak Bar-B-Que in the grand style of 6 September at the Nicosia Zone swimming pool; it was a tremendous success – all enjoyed it, even those who did not initially volunteered from the “dunking”. The presentation of small mementos to Sp Jim Grey, the company chef, Cpl Cam McKay, the company “doctor”, and Pte Ernie Doucette, our able cook, concluded the gala affair.
Tours to almost all of the island’s points of interest were conducted between training or operational periods and must took advantage of the Famagusta, Beirut or Holy Land tours.
Shortly before noon on 7 April, the main body of D Company found itself amidst the Turkish Cypriot villages on the road to Kyrenia.
Just south of the town of Kyrenia, the convoy pulled off the highway and onto a dirt roadway leading to two abandonment but otherwise beautiful houses surrounded by a collection of tents; the Company’s home for the next six weeks.
Warned by the departing Guardsmen that one side or the other would soon test the newcomers, D Company steeled itself for the challenge. The challenge proved not long in coming, for the next morning Corporal “Garth” Pinkerton, at “Mountain Side” outpost, discovered that the Turks had moved their positions forward during the night. With considerable skill, Corporal Pinkerton succeeded in moving them back up the hill.
The village of Temblos, located some few miles to the west of Kyrenia, was linked to the Turk mountain stronghold of St Hilarion by a narrow corridor containing a donkey track. On all sides of Temblos, excepting this corridor, were the besieging entrenchments of the Greek Cypriot Nation Guard.
The first incident occurred when the Greek police seized a large quantity of brandy en route to Temblos destined for the wedding the Muktar’s daughter. The village took the position that as citizens of a separate Turkish state they were above purchasing a vendor’s license. Offers of negotiation by D Company went unheeded and at last report the problem remained unsolved and the Muktar’s daughter unmarried.
Late in April the freedom of movement hitherto enjoyed by the Turkish Cypriot was restricted. This brought about the problem of evacuation of sick and injured from Temblos. Despite the existence of UN medical facilities and the assurance of medical evacuation under UN protection, the villagers took the attitude that without freedom of movement their many medical evacuees would be forced to walk to St Hilarion before they could be transported to a Turkish hospital. Soon it was noticed that the former donkey track from Temblos to St Hilarion was fast becoming a road. In the course of events the Greeks too noticed this road construction. The National Guard protested, announcing that if the UN would not stop the work then they would. The Turks, in reply, stated the UN attempts to halt work on this lifeline to Temblos would be resisted with force.
The solution to this dilemma was handed down with ease by Zone Headquarters in “Operation Timberwolf!”
“Operation Timberwolf” encompassed a plan to add four men to Trail’s End outpost located on the ever-widening track, and the construction of a new post west of Temblos, “Snow White”, so nick-named for Cpl Wally Snow and his “seven dwarfs”.
This increase of force it was hoped would cool the warlike ardor of both sides. However, some few days later, a platoon of Turkish fighters, complete with two medium machine guns, established themselves near Trail’s End to let the UN occupants know that the work would continue.
Discretion and negotiation being the better part of valour, for Staff College. The company farewell party, during which Rfn Poitras was promoted “Major”, court-martialled, and reduced to the rank of Rifleman all in the space of ten minutes, was conveniently held at Myrtou.
Once again the company moved to Troodos Road Camp and once again went through the throes of reorganization. At this point Captain Bamford assumed command with Lt Bill McKay abandoning the Assault Pioneers to become 2IC, CSM Mitchell at this time received notice that he would become DSM on the departure from the unit of soon to be WO1 Fred Thomas, S Sgt John Cresswell, in turn, was slated to become CSM some two weeks later.
The stay at “Oneisha Farm” proved to be as amusing as, but far more exciting than, the previous eight weeks. Not so funny was Sergeant John McDonnell’s experience with rolling rocks on one of his rare descents from Hilltop outpost, the shots fired at 2Lt Busby as he marched a Turkish trespasser out of D Company’s “Garden of Eden”, the threats to the outpost made by “Hassan”, “Oneisha Farms” next-door-neighbour.
Quite riotous was “The Wild Cat Hunt”, in which, after 3,139 misfires Sergeant Harry Groom, aided by 2Lt Busby, narrowly missed the fire piquet and killed one of the wild cats raiding the kitchen.
“The Great Ice Robbery” perpetrated on the company’s measly stock of ice was a bitter problem, solved only when the head of the crime syndicate was taken to task at a CO’s conference.
Time in the “Oneisha Farm” area, when not involved with sentry duty, escorts, or convoys was spent mainly in improvement of outposts and the base camp. Construction and painting was carried on in accordance with Battalion plans for internalization of the area. These internalization plans were well toward completion when the company departed the area in the middle of September.
On 16 September the company relieved the 14th/20th Kings Own Hussars and C Company, 1st Grenadier Guards. Two platoons and Company Headquarters were located in the Limmitis area, while 11 Platoon under 2Lt Wally Rats established itself about Lefka and Ambelikon. At Limmitis, the somewhat spartan camp quickly became a comfortable and efficient place of work. Using ingenuity and a generous amount of cement, nails, lumber, and paint the appearance of Base Camp improved.
Actually the ingenuity and drive displayed by all ranks in improvement of their locations left both sides gasping. At Check Point 5 the Turks came to their senses only in the nick of time to prevent LCpl Robins from walking away with their flap pole!
The children from Limmitis were invited to see Walt Disney’s “The Incredible Journey”. Expecting no more than 50, the base camp was horrified to find a horde of three times that number pouring through the camp gate. The movie proved to be a huge success; there being little dialogue, changing of reels allowed time for translation. The children, as one might expect, returned home happy and stuffed with popcorn and soda pop.
No one, not a single soul, escaped the clutches of the Administrative Support Group at Troodos Road Camp under the command of Major Frank Moad.
A description of the function of Troodos Road would be a lengthy one, suffice to say that those who worked there provided the entire administrative support for all Canadians in Cyprus. They arranged for the vehicles, clothing, gasoline, leave passes, food, cigarettes, souvenirs, money and other items too numerous to describe.
Changes of personnel occurred every two weeks when the reserve company of the battalion would return to Troodos Road Camp for a fortnights rest and training before moving on to another operational area.
A fire in the tent lines during April saw to marquees lost but fortunately no loss of life. This, combined with a fire involving a caterpillar tractor, resulted in the company earning the title of “Blazing Bravo.”
During May the hot weather arrived and for those in Troodos Road Camp the heat soon became unbearable. In an effort to “beat the heat”, working hours were from 6 am to 1 pm with the remainder of the day free. For those who were able to steel a jeep or beg a ride, the afternoons were passed at either the Ledra Palace Hotel pool or the beach on the North Coast. Also, during May, the Sgt’s Mess staged a barbecue at Marine View which, according to some of those who attended, was a great success.
June saw Capt Alf Cook move up the mountain to Battalion Headquarters. Replacing him came Lt Bob Newman who was to reign over the truck and trailer department until rotation time.
During the Battalion’s period in Cyprus it was able to establish an enviable record of safe driving. In more than one million miles driven, only 4 serious accidents were recorded; on the happier side, 227 safe driving awards were earned. Maintenance of unit transport was a major concern of everyone, primarily due to rugged road conditions. At one point, the company had the experience of being moved by Canadian, British, Danish and Finish vehicles, no doubt some sort of record for international cooperation.
The mid-summer rush for shade saw the QM, Lt Art Vanderford, working harder than usual to procure extra fans, awnings and blocks of ice.
In late July, Maj Moad bade farewell to Troodos Road on returning to Canada and Maj Bill Crew, from B Company, replaced him.
When Nicosia Zone slipped out of existence in late September the administrative burden previously carried by it fell onto the shoulders of A Echelon, and as if that were not enough, the reserve company was deployed to Lefka. However, by establishing certain economy measures the Group was able to carry on.
As plans for rotation to Canada were completed, those in Troodos decided it was time to celebrate. During September the men held a smoker, at which the Battalion Bugles staged their “Sanbagoneese” performance, the Officer’s Mess staged a barbecue for the Danish Contingent’s A Echelon Group, and the Sergeant’s Mess held a farewell party for themselves. 27 September was a big day – for on that date the Advance Party of the 2nd Battalion The Canadian Guards arrived. And to be sure they arrived just in time – for the winter monsoons. When the company boarded their homeward bound “Yukon” it was not the well known “Dustbowl” they looked back upon – it was the “Mud Bowl”; rain had been falling for over a week and there was little doubt that it would continue unabated for the next six months.
The Canada Day Production
Throughout the Canadian Contingent in Cyprus, Canada Day, 1 July, was celebrated in many ways. However the official celebrations were embodied in two separate but similar ceremonies and receptions staged in Nicosia.
“Ceremony” meant a guard of honour, complete with Battalion Bugles, accompanied by a display of drill. The reserve company, at that time B Company, was accorded the honour. “Reception” involved a contingent-wide mustering of cooks, stewards, liquid refreshments, hors d/oeuvres, decorations, etc. After a good deal of planning, purchasing and practice for both functions, 1 July arrived.
On that day, just after noon, four scout cars, shining with new coats of paint, the 50 man guard and Bugles, resplendent in new kit, marked through the Kyrenia gate and into the heart of Turkish Nicosia to Ataturk Square.
Capt Dick Cowling, the guard commander, halted the guard to face the saluting base in front of the Saray Hotel. At this point the scout cars turned inwards to face the hotel and halted so that they were on the right flank of the Guard. The Bugles had meantime taken position on the left.
The stage being set, the Zone Commander, Brigadier E F Macdonald, DSO, CD arrived in his staff car. The car halted before the saluting base, attended by Sergeants “Buck” Patholruk and Jim Waldron, and the Brigadier alighted.
On mounting the saluting base, The Brigadier took the general salute and Sergeant Gerry Venn broke out the Canadian Flag.
On completion of the Zone Commander’s inspection the “Battalion Bugles” presented an excellent display of free style marching and playing: the Turkish Cypriot audience expressing keen appreciation through the performance.
The Brigadier completed the ceremony by taking the salute as the troops marched from Ataturk Square whence they had come, the spectators applauding the performance loudly.
Following the parade, the acting Canadian High Commissioner to Cyprus, Mr John Schioler, was host at the reception held in the Saray Hotel. Here a sampling of officers and Senior NCO’s of the Battalion plus their counterparts in Headquarters CCUNCYP and the Reconnaissance Squadron had the opportunity of meeting the leading figures of the Turkish Cypriot faction.
That evening the performance was repeated; this time in the tennis court of the Ledra Palace Hotel. The audience being mainly Greek Cypriot. The reception was held in the Ledra Palace Hotel; the guards being from the Greek Cypriot community. Once again a representative group of Officers and Senior NCOs were present to meet the guests.
The most serious incident of the Cyprus tour occurred on 16 June when a patrol from B Company came under fire from the Turkish Cypriots in the Kyrenia Mountain Range. Major Bill Crew, Lt Ray Bunner and a patrol of twenty rifleman had climbed the “Whiskey feature to examine a Turkish Cypriot fortification that was considered to be forward of their defensive line and therefore “provocative”. Upon the patrol reaching the base of the fortification, a long stone wall, the Turkish Cypriots manned their trenches and opened fire at a about 75 yards range.
When the firing ceased the patrol had counted 23 rounds, all going overhead or to their flanks. The most dangerous bullet striking about 10 feet from the nearest rifleman.
Major Crew quickly gave the order that return was not to be offered and promptly radioed Battalion HQ. Within minutes the Commanding Officer moved off to the Turkish Cypriots HQ, discussed the situation with their Commanding Officer and arranged a ceasefire. The wall was later dismantled and an apology received from the Local Turkish Cypriot leader.
On 12 July, far out on a deserted track near the island’s North Western tip, a routine jeep-mounted reconnaissance patrol under the command of Lt Lou MacKenzie was halted by a Greek Cypriot National Guardsman at a distance of three hundred yards and told not to come any further. Having dismounted and called for an officer to no avail, the patrol returned to its vehicles to move off. As the jeep started to move, three shots passed over it and the patrol moved quickly to cover. Investigation fixed blame upon the Green National Guard and disciplinary measure were instituted.
No doubt one of the most curious of incidents tool place in May when D Company occupied the Kyrenia area. Although it could not definitely be determined if a Queen’s Own Rifleman was shot at, the official correspondence received by this company read as follows:
“It has been noticed that D Company recently destroyed three dogs, on two separate occasions, with a total expenditure of 5 rounds of 9 mm ball ammunition. Recent Staff Studies have shown that only one round or less 9 mm ball is required to destroy one dog. An entitlement of one round per dog has been authorized (CAO 007-74). You will note that you have exceeded your entitlement by two rounds. A signed statement explaining the loss of these rounds must be forwarded to this Headquarters not later than 9 May 65, and the person on whose charge the rounds were held will be automatically assessed by CDV for 12 cents per cartridge. The Weapons used for the destruction of the three dogs must be turned into the unit armourer for inspection to ensure that firing has not damaged the weapon”.
The reply read as follows:
“This sub unit is in receipt of a Memo dated 08 May 65 and received directly from the COO. The matter has been summarily investigated and the results are:
We verify para 1 as correct, but as to para 2, we are a little perturbed at the phrase “one round or less”, however, this company feels it is not within our prerogative to discuss or argue with the contents of CAOs and we bow our heads in shame for having been ignorant of the regulations. As far as para 3 goes, we agree with what is said. No one here has sufficient knowledge of higher mathematics to query this. The additional two bullets were in fact never fired at the dogs. Let us repeat the situation. The first dog involved was disposed of by 2Lt Pete Busby. The first round was fired at the dog and grazed its skull. The animal became enraged, charged out gallant young officer and grabbed his pistol in its jaws. The sudden jerking motion of the pistol caused the pistol to be fired. The bullet went straight through the top of its skull and the recoil pushed this weapon deep into the dogs throat. Convulsions associated with dying caused the dog to swallow the pistol whole.
Shortly thereafter, 2Lt W Ratz was detailed by OC D Company to destroy yet another two dogs. He was also ordered to load his pistol with three rounds, two for the task at had and one as a spare. The marksmanship displayed during the first episode of wild dog hunting had made this precaution necessary and when the first dog was found by 2Lt Ratz, it was “put away” much to everyone’s amazement, by a beautifully administered and well aimed single shot. Unfortunately, the second dog appeared on the scene at this time and seeing what had happened looked Mr Ratz directly in the eye with the most baleful look eh could muster. This rather disturbed 2Lt Ratz who became nervous, fired at the dog and missed him completely. The dog’s reaction then followed the same pattern as the one which met Mr. Busby, however no shot or explosion was heard from the pistol after it had entered the dog’s throat.
This canine fiend was later found near the village of Temblos, quite, to Mr. Rat’s surprise, stone dead. Investigation later disclosed that the magazine had become loose, the last cartridge had fallen out, and had somehow been eaten by the dog. Naturally enough the stuff had poisoned him. The pistol as in the first case, was unfortunately never recovered.
We feel the loss of the two additional cartridges, due to the circumstances outlined above, do not constitute negligence on the officers’ part, but rather the two wild dogs should be held entirely responsible. In that light, we therefore consider that the CDV, which in itself is excessive, is not warranted. It should also be noted that the two pistols were lost whilst in the performance of legal and humanitarian duties. It is not known whether the gastric juices of the dogs destroyed the pistol either, for when an autopsy was attempted the natives, who claimed it was against their religion or some other custom, became very hostile towards us and we eventually forced to run for it.
In view of the circumstances presented in this extremely detailed and accurate report we respectfully request, with all humility, that the two pistols and two cartridges be written off at public expense.”
Drill and Duties
Few people would have believed that duty in Cyprus would permit qualification courses of any kind; the battalion felt that it could. During out tour we were able to conduct three Drill and Duties courses as well as several support weapons qualification tests.
The main reason for the “D” and “D” courses was to maintain a reserve of qualified riflemen for appointment to LCpl, and this the courses certainly did. Beginning the series of courses on 21 May with 14 candidates commencing training on 7 June, and 17 on 5 July. Each course lasted three weeks with a further 3 weeks to be conducted in Canada. The necessity for the half courses was due to the operational situation of the Battalion at a result of which tactical training could not be carried out.
No doubt the biggest single obstacle facing the courses in Cyprus was the heat. In an attempt to “beat it”, training commenced at 0700 hours and concluded at 1230 hours. After lunch the candidates boarded a UN Bedford truck armed with rakes, picks, paint and shovels for an afternoon’s work at the Kyrenia Red Cross Hospital for Sick Childred. This large structure was quite unique, in that it was the only hospital on the Island that cared for crippled children p to 12 years of age irrespective of racial origin. The effort put forward by the D and D Courses to restore the hospital to a clean and healthy convalescent centre was amply rewarded; the hospital looking like new by the time the unit returned to Canada.
Following a three week “finishing up” phase of training after returning to Esquimalt, 14 of the 31 successful candidates were promoted and received their chevrons from Lt Col Kirby at a parade held in Work Point Barracks on 17 Dec. The others who qualified will be promoted when vacancies occur.
While in Cyprus, members of the Battalion had a choice of spending their leave, with almost all expenses paid in Beirut, Lebanon, or in Famagusta on the south coast of the island.
Famagusta, reputed to have one of the largest and most beautiful beaches in the Middle East, no doubt was the most used, if not eh most popular, leave centre.
Each Monday and Wednesday morning a hired bus appeared outside the welfare office at camp Troodos to take personnel to restful and exotic Famagusta.
The leave centre, as such, was located in the Florida Hotel on the beach. Stationed at the Florida was the leave centre staff who arranged tours, enforced regulations and, on occasion, solved problems. At the Florida Hotel the Warrant Officers, NCOs, and men were allotted two, three, or four to a relatively spacious room. Here the vacationers rediscovered such things as modern plumbing, showered, baths and soft beds with clean sheets; a far cry from the flies and ever present dust of outpost or camp. Added bonuses were the lounge, real mixed drinks and room service.
For the athletic, much enjoyment could be had in water skiing, boating, or simply skin diving. For those who tired of sun, sand, athletics and girl watching, tours were available, organized by the leave centre, to ruins of Engomi and the classical city of Salamis.
For those interested in night life, at least until midnight, the “Twist Bar”, the “Flamingo” and the “Spitfire” were always available. Here one could make acquaintance with Cypriots who, although deficient in knowledge of English, were more than friendly.
For the five hundred Canadian soldiers from UNFICYP who made the 90 minute flight from Nicosia to Beirut aboard a UNEF “Cariboo”, it was paradise indeed, with civilian clothes, hotel prepared meals with excellent service and an entertainment list of over 600 night clubs, bars and restaurants to choose from.
Operated on a once-weekly basis of “over” on Saturday and “back” the following Saturday the shuttle service was extremely popular. During several months the demand was so great that a “Yukon” once flew the run as well as two “Carboos” on single days. And little wonder it was so popular, for Beirut is surely unique in its ability to please any tourist, no matter what his wishes or desires.
Located on a small coastal plain the abruptly rises into the Mountains of Lebanon, the city has some of the most beautiful beaches to be found anywhere in the world, a maze of streets and shops so tangled that guides were almost always required for shopping trips, and more bargains than any budget-minded housewife could find in a lifetime. Shopping in the Middle East is truly “shopping” and anyone who paid the merchant his first price was considered a bit dull. Haggling, and a little fist waving, were only two of the recommended methods of arriving at a fair price and after the first experience at such measures, everyone agreed that shopping in Canada was a colourless affair!
The night-life in this French-Arabic-English, speaking city is phenomenal. No matter what your particular taste, be it belly dancing, opera, magic, aerobatics, movies, live theatre, bowling or a violin recital, it was all there.
Few will forget their seven glorious days of leisure in Beirut.
On 12 August a Finish airways Douglas DC 6 rolled down Runway 2 of Nicosia’s International airport – destination “Dark Continent of Africa”. Aboard were 88 soldiers of UNFICYP, including three Canadians, who would all, during the next nine days, visit such exotic countries as Egypt, Kenya and Ethiopia.
The first stop-over was Cairo. The commercial centre of Egypt and the largest city on the African Continent. Unfortunately it was only an eighteen hour visit and naturally the impressions were vague and fleeting. The best recalled, of course, was the camel ride which took us around and between the Pyramids. To be sure, a ride on a camel, even a “Pyramid” camel, is an extraordinary experience. My steed crouched on the ground with legs folded; as I mounted, the Egyptian handler shouted instructions and the animal rose with a succession of lurches and grunts. While swaying back and forth and from side to side in a desperate attempt to maintain my balance, I learned first hand why camels are known as “Ships of the Desert”.
As we passed under the 450 foot peak of the Pyramid of Cheops our guide recommended that we stop to watch the professional climber scale the 4500 year old tower of granite. And to be sure, he did scale the pyramid – in 7 minutes! An average climb, we were told, requires some 60 to 90 minutes. After Egypt we were off to Nairobi, a capital of Kenya.
Our first venture outside the capital was a visit to Nairobi National Park, five miles form city centre. Traveling in a chauffeur-driven Mercedes through the 44 square miles of parkland was, to say the least, a pleasant change from the transportation provided for viewing the pyramids. The park itself is an escarpment which descends to a wide-spread grass-plain and in which there are numerous small water pans and a long stretch of the Athi River. On one occasion we stopped the car by the river to watch the hippopotami and crocodiles in the water pools; adding interest to the interlude was the baboon who tried to hitch a ride of the hood of the car as we moved off. There was a mad scramble for cameras, however, as we later learned, there was really no hurry; the animals had long ago ceased to fear humans. Next came an hours stroll along the bank of the river stopping periodically to photograph the antics of the monkeys to be found in every tree.
Once again back in the car, and rid of the baboon, we drove slowly along the road through herds of zebra, wildebeests, dick dick and impala. The impala surely must be one of the most graceful of animals;it was a joy to watch the many hundred of them jumping in all directions, 39 feet at a time and often as high as 10 feet. Eventually, giraffes were seen and also a lion. Much to our disappointment, the lion had just eaten and not even the honk of our car horns could disturb his slumber. Only once did he raise his monstrous head to look haughtily at our column.
At dawn the next morning we were well inside the Masai-Amboseli National Park; an area of 1259 square miles situated just north of Mount Kilimanjaro and approximately 150 miles from Nairobi. Hiring the services of an African guide, who proved to be the most skilled of the twenty available, we were fully repaid for our early rising. He not only led us directly to big game but, much to our delight, found more than double the variety of species that were seen by our fellow tourists.
The reserve is particularly famous for its Rhinoceros which, who we were told, would charge anything near them and, unbelievably, that is precisely what happened to our group, who, along with the drive, were completely taken by surprise. Luckily the “rhino” decided our car was too much competition and swung clear by a few yards – leaving us all too excited to take even one picture.
A memoral be experience in the reserve was a confrontation with two Masai warriors. Semi-nomadic pastoralists, and warlike, their tribe once succeeded in terrorizing the Kisuyn and other inhabitants of the East African plateau; driving them from their traditional farm lands. Only during the early part of this century were they capable of being pacified by the British. The two warriors were covered from head to toe with red ocule, well mixed with grease, and demonstrated for us their ability with their flat, razor sharp spears. It is with those spears that they protect their cattle from raiding lions, called “Zimba” in Swahili we left these two representatives of a proud race with no regret; once again it was time to move on, this time to Ethiopia.
Viewed from the air, Ethiopia is a land of beauty with deep gorges, volcanic mountain peaks and rugged plateau. Addis Ababa, the capital, was described in our handbooks as an “Island floating in a primitive sea”, for around the city is a dept of several miles grows a circle of bluish-green eucalyptus trees originally Australian, which were imported into Ethiopia at the end of the 19th century. “Addis Ababa” in Amharic means “New Flower”; at closer inspection I realized how appropriate the name is – for flowers grow everywhere in great profusion.
During out stop in the capital we became increasingly conscious that Addis Ababa was like much of Africa – the old contrasting with the new almost everywhere. It was on the second and last day of our stay that it was explained to us that Ethiopia one of the oldest independent nations of tropical Africa, and being surrounded by Islam, isolated herself from the rest of the world for nearly ten centuries. Only after Emperor Haille Selmaune was restored to his throne in 1941, after the Italian occupation was the country able to make any serious efforts to modernize. Unfortunately, the pace appears to be painfully slow.
Our first visit in the city was to the newly constructed Africa Hall, a modern all-African convention centre. It is an imposing $2,000,000 structure with stained glass windows showing Ethiopia’s struggle for independence. Passing through the lobby into the main convention hall, we learned that the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, a pan-African group, holds sessions here.
From Africa Hall we traveled by bus to the Imperial Palace which we were not permitted to enter but were allowed traverse the grounds.
The last stop of the tour was the market place, where everyone was besieged by traders of all ages. Good salesmen they all were and the bargains were irresistible, especially the animal skins, drums, knives, spears – available for a tenth the asking price.
In Addis Ababa as in Nairobi, the evenings were passed in visiting night clubs and enjoying the local foods.
On the ninth and last day we reluctantly packed out bags, bulging with souvenirs, and twelve hours later, following a short stop in Nijouti, French Somaliland, we landed in Nicosia.