The Green Line in Cyprus

A Green Line is Drawn

President Makarios, fearing a Turkish invasion and Vice President Küçük, keen for a respite from attacks against his community were anxious for a ceasefire. This would have to be monitored and by the end of Christmas Day it became clear that this role would fall to the British. The commander was to be Major General Peter Young and available units from the Sovereign Bases were placed on 24hr notice. The Sherwood Foresters were preparing to depart the UK together with the air-portable 'C' Squadron of the 14th/20th King's Hussars who just happened to be fairly close by in Benghazi. 



'C' Troop 14/20th King's Hussars photographed near Benghazi in 1963

At 06:35hrs on the 26th December the Cyprus Government formally accepted that, "Forces of the United Kingdom, Greek and Turkey, stationed in Cyprus, shall be placed under a British Commander" and at 07:00hrs Air Chief Marshall Barnett and Major General Young flew to Nicosia by helicopter.
Note: It was agreed that the Greek & Turkish National Contingents, despite the political undertakings, would not be used for peacekeeping duties and neither Contingent ever constituted a useable element of the Joint Force. 



A rather grainy image of the GOC's helicopter waiting at the Episkopi Airstrip.......a 21 (Para) AAC Flight Scout

A major challenge was to set up a Joint Force HQ at RAF Nicosia (next to the International Airport) and by 10:00hrs the nucleus of this was operational.
Major Michael Perrett-Young was ordered to join the staff as the G2 Intelligence Officer. Together with the General's ADC (Captain Christopher Meynell) they left Episkopi at 11:30hrs in the General's staff car.
Major Perrett-Young recalls, "I gathered maps, background files with all the Intelligence Office impedimenta I could lay my hands on, including, significantly as it turned out, a full range of chinagraph pencils".





The view en-route to Nicosia from inside the GOC's Staff Car.......approaching and passing a Ferret of 1 Gloster's
Note that the flag flying from the bonnet of the staff car was hastily (and unofficially) added using part of a Red Ensign
Both images courtesy of Christopher Meynell


Arriving at the High Commission at around 13:00hrs they learned that, since his arrival, the GOC had been involved in a series of high level meetings with political and military leaders pushing for a sustainable ceasefire. The only units currently available to help in Nicosia, 1 Glosters and the RAF Regiment were immediately deployed on patrol while the Green Jackets remained in Dhekelia for peacekeeping in Larnaca. These units were "sorely pressed" to respond to the number of incidents that were being reported and the island remained, "within a hair's breadth of a major conflict".
Implementation of the Truce Force's mandate (agreed at 06:35hrs that morning) was the only major factor in holding the belligerants in check.

Reinforcements in the form of the Sherwood Foresters and 14th/20th Hussars began to arrive at RAF Akrotiri at around 07:15hrs (Friday 27th December).
The advance parties of the Foresters were deployed to Larnaca and the 14th/20th Hussars commanded by Major W D Garbutt arrived in Nicosia at 11:50hrs. Both units were quickly on patrol.

On the 28th December a small Tactical HQ was set up in the empty passport office next to the British High Commission. The distance from the Joint Force HQ at the airport to the High Commission was making control and coordination difficult.



The Tactical HQ next to the High Commission building........click the image for a larger version
Image courtesy of Christopher Meynell


Due to the gravity of the situation the British Secretary for Commonwealth Relations, Duncan Sandys, flew to Cyprus on the 28th December arriving in Nicosia Airport at 05:50hrs.
After lengthy discussions with Major General Young and the local military & political leaders, Sandys set up a Political Liaison Committee (PLC) to arrange, amongst other things, the establishment of a ceasefire line between the two communities. The first meeting was held at the British High Commission on the morning of the 29th December.......the Operations Log records that the Commanders of the Greek & Turkish National Contingents were told to go to the High Commission at 09:20hrs.



Duncan Sandys, Major General Peter Young (Commander Land Forces) and Air Marshal Sir Denis Barnett (Commander in Chief Near East Air Force and Commander British Forces Cyprus) were senior members of the committee
Other participants were the British High Commissioner, the Ambassadors of Greece and Turkey, delegations from both Greek and Turkish Cypriots and the Commanding Officers of the Greek and Turkish National Contingents
Major General Young's staff waited next door at the Tac HQ (the passport office)


At 17:00hrs on Sunday 29th December the Political Liasion Committee met again for a momentous and lengthy meeting. Over a period of twelve hours, following pressure from both sides, the proposed ceasefire line was frequently drawn and redrawn using pens previously handed to General Young by his Intelligence Officer, Major Perrett-Young who recalls...........

"I believe it was during the Conference break that, at his request, I produced chinagraphs for him from the variety of colours I had brought up from Episkopi in my map case. The 'green' was no random selection. Bearing in mind factional sensitivities, my choice was quite deliberate. Blue and red, apart from the latter's association with the 'enemy', and with their Greek and Turkish connotations respectively, were hardly suitable. 'Green' usually used for marking emplacements/fortifications and mineflelds, seemed the least controversial."



A section of the map showing the agreed path of the Green Line which stretched beyond the limits of the walled city both to the west and to the east

Click the image or this link for the full version (opens in a new window)




The ceasefire line (the Green Line) was, in the main, not a physical barrier but in certain flash points in central Nicosia short sections of the Clemens Line were restored
Image courtesy of the Pachyammos Village Museum


The above sequence of events is repeated by the future UN Chief of Staff, Brigadier Michael Harbottle in his book...........'The Impartial Soldier'.
"The meeting continued throughout the night with only one pause to allow the representatives to consult with their colleagues. Time and time again his (General Young's) green chinagraph pencil retraced the line across the talc of his field map, only to be rubbed out and changed in direction to suit the requirements of one side or the other. At last, the pencil wavered no more - and the Green Line was finally and irrevocably drawn."

Major General Young then handed the Tac HQ staff the 'Green Line' map and a copy of the typed agreement. Sufficient copies of the map and agreement were then produced as quickly as possible to go out to the High Commission and Units.



 A video summarising the events of December 1963