The Green Line in Cyprus

The Events of 1974

At the end of August 1971, General Grivas secretly returned to Cyprus in a final attempt to win 'enosis'.....union with Greece.

He formed a terror organisation named EOKA-B and called for Makarios to resign as President. When this demand was ignored, Grivas and EOKA-B resorted to violence.

Attacks were carried out against police stations, pro-government newspapers and individuals/businesses that were known Makarios supporters.

In the first half of 1973 over 100 incidents involving explosives were recorded including attacks on 59 police stations.

On the 28th July 1973 a bomb damaged the Police HQ in Limassol injuring sixteen

Although this violence was not intercommunal, it created great uncertainty and anxiety in the Turkish Cypriot community.

On the 28th January 1974 General George Grivas died and was buried in front of a large crowd in Limassol which included Nikos Sampson.
He promised to keep alive the dream of 'enosis' and cried, "We will avenge you, Dighenis."

Large crowds gather at the funeral and Nikos Sampson addresses the crowd

Unfortunately, in this period, the number of more serious intercommunal disputes began to increase. A typical example of such incidents involved the mixed village Agia Eirini (Ayia Irini) north of Morphou (Pop. 1973....556 Turkish & 126 Greek Cypriots). Young Greek Cypriots from outside the area began to drive through the village shouting insults at the Turkish Cypriot residents. Matters came to a head when a column of 150 Greek National Guard soldiers, marching to a nearby camp, halted in the Turkish Cypriot part of the village. Further provocations, each side blaming the other, were defused by Finnish UN troops who then maintained a standing patrol in the village.

The location of the National Guard camp on the coast and the mixed village of Agia Eirini

Back in the capital Nicosia, President Makarios was becoming more and more incensed by the behaviour of the mainland Greek officers within the Cyprus National Guard. These officers were members of ELDYK (Ελληνική Δύναμη Κύπρου....Hellenic Forces in Cyprus) who were on the island as part of the Cyprus independence agreements.
President Makarios complained to Athens about, "the subversive intrigues of the Greek officers" and went on to accuse these same officers of "active support for EOKA-B with the backing of Athens."

Mainland ELDYK Officers taking the salute at a military parade in Cyprus

On the morning of the 15th July 1974 there was a coup against President Makarios perpetrated by the Greek Junta in Athens involving ELDYK forces, elements of the National Guard and EOKA-B members/sympathisers.
In addition to overthrowing the President, the coup followed the traditional path of taking over the state broadcasting studios (CyBC), telecommunications (CYTA), major police stations, important road intersections and the international airport.

Nicos Sampson (in the checked shirt) and the staff of his newspaper greet the tanks as they head for the Presidential Palace and a coupist tank outside the Lycavitos police station

Smoke pouring from the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation (PIK) and tanks outside the Nicosia Technical School

Makarios escaped from the badly damaged Presidential Palace along the dry bed of the Pediaios River which ran close by

The Archbishop's Palace (where Makarios had his private rooms) in central Nicosia was also attacked and badly damaged
This building was fiercely defended by his personal guard

Initial reports that Makarios was dead were untrue; a section of coupist tanks was delayed and the President escaped through a gap in the planned encirclement. He made his way to Kykkos Monastery in the Troodos mountains and, after hearing that Paphos was controlled by his supporters, made his way there. After being greeted by a crowd of several thousand outside the Bishopric he made a radio broadcast from Paphos telling his supporters island wide that, "It is I, Makarios, I am not dead."

The handwritten script that Makarios delivered from the 'Free Radio' station in Paphos

Learning that coupist forces were heading for Paphos, Makarios went to a local UN base and was then flown out to RAF Akrotiri in a British helicopter.
From there he went, via Malta, to London.

In the Paphos UN camp with a bodyguard and member of staff (Makarios's cloak can be seen at the right hand edge of the first image)

Back in Nicosia, the coup plotters had to settle for their fourth choice of new President (the others had refused the position or were absent from home). The man who finally accepted was Nikos Sampson whose background was well known, especially by the Turkish Cypriots.
During an interview with Nikos Sampson by the Sunday Times in July 1974 he reported that he was given a list of four names and when none of these were available he was asked to become President.

EOKA gunman Nikos Sampson arrested in 1957, in Omorfita 1963/64 and President Sampson in 1974

On the 20th July 1974, following days of intense diplomatic activity,  a Turkish invasion fleet was reported approaching the north coast of Cyprus. It then halted at 04:30hrs ten miles north of Kyrenia. Even at this stage the Cypriot National Guard controlled by the coupists was ordered not to implement their invasion action plan.
Note: For the purposes of description, I have used the term "invasion" which is also the choice of the Greek Cypriots. However, in UN documents it is referred to as the "intervention" and is known to the Turkish Cypriots as the "Peace Operation".

The Turkish codename for the invasion was "Operation Attila" with the map showing the main events including the unexpected change of direction of the invasion fleet (due to the poor initial choice of landing areas)

Opposing the invasion was a weakened National Guard. ​From the 18th July, approval for full mobilisation had been sought from Athens.
The response was...
"Do not proceed to mobilise, make no moves that could provide a pretext for Turkey to invade. Self-restraint".
Many units capable of opposing a Turkish landing were still in Nicosia or Paphos or had returned to base exhausted following their involvement in the coup. Their old British trucks and ageing Russian armoured vehicles were worn out and stocks of ammunition were greatly depleted. Almost without exception, the beginning of the invasion found National Guard units asleep in their camps.

The seaborne invasion began at 04:45hrs with a bombardment of coastal positions.

The Turkish invasion fleet leaving Mersin and heading for Cyprus

Just before 0600hrs, 27 transport planes dropped around 1000 paratroopers north of Nicosia with a further 7 dropping supplies and ammunition.
The British Defence Advisor's diary records one fleet of aircraft flying east to west and then, a few minutes later, a second fleet flying the same path but in the opposite direction. What he didn't know was that this second fleet were elements of the first that had overshot and turned 180º to return to the dropping zone.
The consternation this caused led to a widely spread drop of paratroops that was only later remedied by local Turkish Cypriots giving them guidance and support.
An hour later, further troops were brought in by helicopter until the enclave north of Nicosia held over 5000 Turkish troops.
The northern Greek Cypriot suburbs of Neapolis and Trakhones (south of the 1964 Green Line) were occupied by Turkish/Turkish Cypriot forces.

Turkish troops are dropped by parachute into the enclave north of Nicosia and are reinforced by helicopter sorties

The seaborne invasion also experienced some navigational difficulties and the first wave of assault troops numbering 1500 men with 15 tanks and 15 troop carriers did not begin to land until 0715hrs.
Two hours after the initial Turkish bombardment, orders were finally issued by National Guard HQ to repel the invasion. It was not until 0815hrs that these orders were confirmed by Athens.

Pentemili (Five Mile) Beach known as Yavuz Beach by the Turkish open view and an image of supplies coming ashore

A rare image of a Turkish soldier from the first wave at Five Mile Beach..........image courtesy of Penny Douglas (whose reporter friend took the photograph)
Click this link for a larger version

The first movements of National Guard forces to the invasion area met with disaster, they were spotted and attacked by Turkish fighterbombers and suffered high casualties. Later units were ambushed by Turkish paratroopers and destroyed.

A convoy of National Guard vehicles (WW2 vintage Bedford QL trucks) was attacked by Turkish jets

Another National Guard convoy ambushed by Turkish paratroops
The trucks appear to be Bedford RLs as used by the British Army in the 1950s

A mobilisation call for Cypriot Reservists and those able to bear arms was broadcast, but came too late and the volunteers were faced with confusion and a lack of resources. One Reservist Lieutenant (in discussion with the author) eventually managed to find a Martini rifle (Lee Enfield's which were leftovers from WW2) and twenty rounds of ammunition. Luckily he wasn't called upon to use the rifle as it didn’t work. In a final desperate measure to bolster the defences, thousands of Makarios loyalists were released from detention but this action had little effect.

An attack on the bridghead was made at 10am by National Guard infantry and the remnants of an artillery unit. The Turkish troops had been unopposed since landing and were grouped together without any cover. They were caught by surprise and suffered heavy losses.

Turkish F100s return from Cyprus, National Guard T-34s destroyed from the air and a F-104 in the skies above Nicosia

Unease grew in Ankara as reports reached them of further effective attacks by the National Guard upon their vulnerable first wave.
The Turkish commanders prayed for daylight and their air power to save them and, as one Greek officer remarked, "the day is theirs, but the night is ours."

Turkish pilots are driven to their aircraft which are being made ready for fresh missions over Cyprus

Despite fierce and determined resistance by the National Guard, Turkish forces expanded their bridgehead and, by the time of the ceasefire (22nd July), had crossed the mountains and linked up with the Turkish Cypriot enclave north of Nicosia.
However, they failed in their objective to take control of the international airport.
For further information, see.........The History of Nicosia Airport.

Turkish forces cross the mountains and race towards the northern suburbs of Nicosia

After intense fighting by the invasion forces and equally stubborn resistance, the United Nations finally managed to negotiate a ceasefire on the 22nd July 1974.
This was to be followed by peace talks at an agreed venue.

The first round of peace talks took place in Geneva between the 25th and 30th of July 1974 where, according to the BBC News, the participants, "signed a peace agreement to settle the Cyprus crisis."

The first edition of the Cyprus Mail since the coup.....dated 1st August 1974

Significantly, the agreement prevented Turkish troops from making further advances and a UN-patrolled buffer zone (author....not a line) was to be established to keep warring Greek and Turkish factions apart.
Representatives from Greece, Turkey, the UK and the UN would determine the precise location and size of the buffer zone according to the positions of the opposing forces at 2000hrs GMT on the 30th July 1974.

A second round of talks was agreed to begin on the 8th August 1974. There were immediate problems.........the Greek side would not negotiate unless Turkish forces ceased violating the ceasefire and Turkey would not negotiate unless Greece accepted the principle of an autonomous region for the Turkish Cypriots.

By early August the UN had only been party to the buffer zone discussions and the zone had yet to be established.

The talks officially broke down at 02:20hrs on the 14th August 1974 and, two hours later the Turkish forces broke out from their earlier positions and began the second phase of their invasion.
Turkish forces advanced to take control of Lefke in the west and reached the Turkish quarter of Famagusta in the east.

Joyful residents of Lefke welcome the Turkish tanks and Turkish troops reach the walled city of Famagusta (Mağusa)

The tourist section of Famagusta, Varosha, was attacked from the air and the residents abandoned the city to seek refuge in the British Sovereign Base areas.
Turkish troops joined forces with the Turkish Cypriot residents of the old city and the now abandoned Varosha was occupied with only military access allowed.

The population of the popular tourist resort find refuge in the British Bases

The large Turkish village of Louroujina was reached creating a narrow salient of controlled territory and Turkish forces pushed right up to the boundary of the Eastern Sovereign Base.
By the time of the 'final push', Turkey occupied 36.3% of the island.

This map shows the areas occupied at each stage during the invasion right up to the final push towards isolated villages after the final ceasefire

Click this link for a larger version (which opens in a new window)

Throughout the summer of 1974 the fighting along the Green Line through Nicosia was a barometer to the level of fighting elsewhere on the island.
From the earliest days of the invasion the UN had attempted to limit the fighting which immediately erupted all along the Green Line. As a result of their efforts there was no significant movement in the position of the line and no very heavy weapons were used. Without UN efforts there would have been Turkish air-strikes on this densely populated area, the results of which would have been devastating.

UNFICYP and Turkish forces in Ledra Street discussing Green Line issues
Interestingly, a shopkeeper had decided to make some capital out of his shop's position on the Green Line

The civilian population who either fled the fighting or, for their own safety, had left their villages began the process of settling in their respective areas.
Greek Cypriots from the north moved south and Turkish Cypriots from the south went north. Large refugee camps were either abandoned or developed into more permanent settlements.

The growing Turkish Cypriot refugee camp in Happy Valley within the Western Sovereign Base Area (WSBA)
Virtually all the refugees came from isolated Turkish Cypriot villages located near to the base

One of the many Greek Cypriot refugees camps established for those who fled to the south of the island (this image is at Kolossi)

Following Turkish advances beginning on the 14th August, a large number of Greek Cypriot refugees took shelter in Akhna Forest inside the ESBA
The animation shows images of this camp which, at its maximum size, sheltered over 6,000 refugees

The scale of the refugee issue detailed in a US House of Representatives special study report

"The events of 1974 gave the political division created by the 1963-64 crisis an unambiguous physical shape. Geographically and ethnically, Cyprus was split in two".
From....Alan James, Keeping the Peace in the Cyprus Crisis 1963-64