Captain M Foster Officer Commanding Light Aid Detachment
Cyprus is an Island in the Mediterranean Sea that has been culturally divided for decades with Turkish Cypriots predominantly in the North and Greek Cypriots in the South. In the 1950s Cyprus was subject to a brutal insurgency whereby paramilitary Greek Cypriot forces attacked and terrorised British Citizens. The heart of the insurgency was in the capital, Nicosia, and was an overall attempt to undermine the British ruling government and gain unification with mainland Greece. The insurgency ended in the late 1950s resulting in a period of joint rule – Greek and Turkish Cypriots attempted to rule together. As time went on the tensioned between the two patriotic sides grew and in 1974 the Greek Cypriots attempted a military coup in order to gain control. Mainland Turkey instantly reacted and intervened with a full military invasion in the North of the island. Turkish Forces stormed southwards and eventually halted their advance on the ‘Atilla Line’ that is now referred to as the ‘Green Line’ or Buffer Zone.
In 1958 the Welsh Guards deployed a composite Rifle Coy to Cyprus in support of the 1st Battalion Irish Guards. The Coy was commanded by Major Peter Del Zulueta and gained vital experience in Counter-Insurgency techniques and conducted rigorous and productive training. In the1970s the Welsh Guards deployed twice more to the island in full Battalion strength. The first deployment saw the Bn based in the Sovereign Base Area Dhekelia where they took advantage of the surroundings and conducted lots of Adventurous Training, including Sky Diving. The second deployment in the 1970s was as part of the United Nations Peace Keeping Force in Cyprus which saw the Battalion deployed in the Buffer Zone patrolling and keeping the peace between the two rival sides.
Beavers Lodge, an abandoned school – Some of most fierce fighting took place in this location. Turkish Forces estimate that they lost 4000 soldiers in this area alone
During our visit to Cyprus the group were fortunate to be given a tour in the Green Line Buffer Zone. This United Nations controlled area separates the Turkish Forces in the North and the Greek Cypriot National Guard in the South. Through Cyprus’ modern History this area in the heart of Nicosia has been the location of the 1950 EOKA Insurgency and the prolonged battle between forces on either side of the Green Line.
The Support Company Cyprus Leg members flew out to Royal Air Force Akrotiri 4 October 15. The trip didn’t get on to a great start with one of the hired vehicles breaking down within half an hour of leaving camp, but eventually we all made it up to Troodos Camp and took over our accommodation. The next morning saw the group take over our equipment and brand new bikes and the training commenced. Novice members of the group went under the instruction of Serjeant Upston, 7th Battalion The Rifles, where they conducted basic bike handling skills and got used to the local area.
The second day saw all members of the group get out and explore the mountainous area around Troodos Camp. Some excellent downhill routes were found and Gdsm Kennedy soon racked the first and only flat tyre of the trip. Lance Corporal Hughes by this point had already amassed a hefty lead in the group ‘bail-for-beers contest’ with an impressive fall over his handle bars and almost off the side of the track – “I was so scared that i started clawing at pine cones on the floor as i slid”….
Day three was a mixture of trail riding and technical steep sections. All members of the group managed to ride down a very tricky section with only Sergeant Simons coming off and gathering some rather large grazes on his elbows and legs. Several members of the group enjoyed the final downhill section so much that they jumped on the uplift wagons and rode the last 7km again, some evening donning their full face helmets for a bit of speed courage.
Day 4 on the bikes was the big one, the 58.5km Mountain to Sea route. The group started off at 0900 at the top of the mountain and meandered it’s way down hill for the first 12km.
The group maintained a steady pace throughout the day and took advantage of our dedicated support Driver Lance Sergeant Powell. As we dropped altitude the temperature rose and more and more sun cream was applied. Thanks to Guardsman Matthews’ eagerness the group missed one of the turnings taking us the wrong side out of a valley. After completing a lung bursting climb for a solid 15 minutes, he stopped and said “I think I may have missed the turning……..”
The end of the marathon was nearing and the final few kilometres were all down hill and the group welcomed the opportunity to open up the speed and floor it across the undulating fire roads above Episkopi Station. The beach was now in sight and the sea breeze was whirling around our quite badly sweat soaked clothing.
The start of the Mountain to Sea Marathon. Guardsman Woodman, Kennedy, Lance Corporal Hughes 13, Sergeant Simons, Lance Sergeant John, Guardsman Jobarteh, Lance Corporal Bond, Guardsman Mathews, Company Sergeant Major in Musketry Geen and Captain Foster.
Once the group finally made it to the beach, we rushed through our bike admin and had a well deserved ice cream, beer and a quick dip in the sea. With 1300 metres of steep climbing completed during the leg the leg turned out to be a bit more tasty than everyone first anticipated. That night we made our way back up to the mountain and were joined by Lieutenant Colonel Cooling and his wife Bev for a lovely meal in the Troodos Hotel. After many a beer he regaled the group with his stories of old and reminisced about times in the Battalion – a thoroughly great way to end an excellent leg of WG100.