The Green Line in Cyprus

The Tripartite Patrols

One organisation, rarely mentioned in literature of the period, is the Tripartite Patrol Organisation (TPO).

This was established in December 1963 by the Commander of the Joint (Truce) Force, General Peter Young, who felt there should be a mediating element that would run parallel to peacekeeping operations.

These patrols were led by a British officer and, as the name of the organisation suggests, a number of Greek and Turkish officers (from the National Contingents already based in Cyprus) would participate.
Note: The National Contingents, although initially placed under the command of General Young, played no active part in the Joint (Truce) Force. The Turkish contingent deployed along the Kyrenia Road and the Greek contingent remained in their camps.

Initially, two units were set up to go wherever they were needed the most. Later, the plan was to establish four units to cover the Nicosia, Famagusta, Larnaca and Paphos zones.

One of these units was commanded by a Lt Commander Martin Packard RN who was a fluent Greek speaker and much of the information in this section comes from his book..........Getting it Wrong, Fragments of a Cyprus Diary.

Commander Packard speaking with a Greek Orthodox priest. He is wearing his Fleet Air Arm wings and naval cap.
His ability to speak and understand Greek enabled him to hear conversations that were often not intended for the ears of a British officer!

Permission applied for.

Each unit consisted of a British, Greek and Turkish officer with a number of support staff (usually about eight British soldiers from a variety of regiments).

The TPO in discussion with a village mukhtar who was a baker and covered in white flour. The Turkish officer, Major Sepici, is on the LHS of the image.
Commander Pickard (with his Naval cap) and the Greek officer, Captain Michos, are on the RHS.
Permission applied for.

Click this link for images of this location in 2019....opens in a new window

When possible, they would have access to helicopters and Landrovers were always available from the transport pool.

It must be appreciated how difficult it was to command such a TPO unit with officers from opposite sides of the conflict. They would have been exposed to a lot of tough propaganda and be tempted to pursue their own agenda.

Commander Packard felt he was fortunate in that the Greek officers he worked with understood/spoke Turkish and the Turkish officers understood/spoke Greek.

The feeling of Commander Packard was that both communities, if freed from extremist influences, could live together quite satisfactorily.

Sadly however, this was not always possible and, in certain locations, they could only advise that one community or the other should be evacuated from their villages.

Turkish Cypriot villagers being evacuated from Potamia.
Permission applied for.

He discovered that many problems were not directly intercommunal but, for example, the tension created by the seizure of a Turkish Cypriot tractor by Greek Cypriot police was due to the non-payment of a loan and not to any anti-Turkish sentiments.

In many villages their mediation was much appreicated whilst, in others, they were met with deep (and sometimes intimidating) hostility.

The Skylloura/Ayios Vasilios area was visited in the link for more details (opens in a new window)

The Tripartite patrols as set up by General Young came to an end on the 27th March 1964 (the date the UN took over peacekeeping duties......see 'The UN Takes Over') and the Greek and Turkish officers were removed from the patrols.

A March 1964 editorial in the Guardian provides a clear description of the work of the TPO..........

"The exhausting and dangerous work of mediation, village by village, pioneered since Christmas by the British Army will have to be continued by the International force. It may never be possible to calculate the number of lives that have been saved by intrepid teams of British, Greek and Turkish officers preaching common sense and reason to villagers tortured by fear of their neighbours. The careful quenching of each individual flicker of hatred is a job that must go on."

The mediating patrols continued under UN control and in April/May 1964 they achieved a major success.......Operation Harvest.
With an immense amount of planning (led by Commander Packard) it proved possible for both communities to gather their harvest without fear or interference.

Commander Packard (centre) planning Operation Harvest
Image courtesy of Richard Sale

The complexity of this operation can be appreciated by considering the fourth provision of the agreement.

"Harvesting in abandoned areas should be done by whatever means is determined by the local UN commander to be best, either by the Turkish Cypriots returning under UN protection to harvest, or by the Greek Cypriots harvesting the Turkish Cypriot crops in the presence of Turkish Cypriot and UN observerers and transferring the value of the crops, less expenses to the Turkish Cypriot owners."

The frequent demonstrations of real cordiality between the two communities during Operation Harvest had the effect of creating a foundation for further communal re-engagement.

In June 1964, following the disappearance (and assumed death) of Major Macey, a military liaison officer, Commander Pickard was withdrawn from Cyprus and his patrol disbanded.

His report on the activities of the TPO in the Nicosia zone was delivered to the British Government but subsequently 'lost without trace'.

The report delivered to the Foreign Office in late 1964 is now described as 'lost'.
Permission applied for.

Commander Packard was ever conscious of a meeting he had with George Ball, the US Under Secretary of State, in the early days of the TPO.
Following a full day touring with the diplomat and explaining the communal re-engagements that had taken place, George Ball told him sympathetically.......

"But you've got it wrong son. Hasn't anyone told you that our target here is for partition?"