The Green Line in Cyprus

The Truce Force implements the Green Line Agreement

Although the Truce Force (Joint Force) had been in existence since 06:35hrs on the 26th December 1963 it was only now that it began to implement the specific details of the Green Line agreement.

At 07:00hrs on Monday 30th December, the 'Orders Group' took place (referred to as the 'O Group') and Major General Young recalls that, "I gave out what must have been rather inarticulate orders. My voice had given out with all the talking of the last sleepless 24hrs".

Marked maps and copies of the ceasefire agreement were distributed and the main points (as remembered by Major Perrett-Young) were:

  • General explanation of the ceasefire
  • Medical help offered to both Greek & Turkish Cypriots
  • The importance of restoring confidence so both sides can live without fear of attack
  • Alert the President and Minister of the Interior to withdraw the police from a number of positions
  • Turkish property occupied by Greeks to be given up

Also included was the decision to move both the Joint Force HQ (at the airport) and the Tac HQ (next to the High Commission) into the Cornaro Hotel.
This was accomplished, ahead of schedule, and by 08:40hrs (30th Dec) the new HQ was 'up & running' amazing feat of organisation.

The Cornaro Hotel was situated on the Green Line and only 400m west of the High Commission 
It had been occupied by Greek Cypriot forces for a number of days and was not the clean and comfortable hotel of earlier days
Image by kind permission of Christopher Meynell

At 15:00hrs (30th Dec) the Ledra Palace Hotel was visited..........the focal point of recent fighting. The upper floors had been turned into the Battalion HQ 1 Glosters.
From the balconies, the heavily sandbagged Turkish lines to the north and the similarly defended Greek lines to the south were clearly visible. 

The Ledra Palace Hotel situated across the Green Line (drawn over the photograph) the image or this link for a larger version
During the visit, Major General Young noticed a civilian in a suit and turned out to be (the then little known) Robin Day from the BBC
Image by kind permission of Christopher Meynell

After leaving the hotel, Major General Young, Major Perrett-Young and Captain Meynell went on a personal tour of adjacent Greek and Turkish quarters to 'show the flag' and monitor Truce Force deployment.

An unknown civilian examining makeshift barricades between the two communities
Image by kind permission of Christopher Meynell

Following a request for RAF support, the first helicopter allocated to the Truce Force (a Bristol Sycamore) landed alongside the Cornaro Hotel at 07:00hrs on the 31st December. This helicopter could carry four passengers and would be used to visit and allay the fears of outlying villages.

The RAF Sycamore (in yellow ASR colours) outside the Cornaro Hotel (with the Central Prison in the background)......07:00hrs 31st December 1963
Image by kind permission of Christopher Meynell

Later on the 31st December, Major Perrett-Young (with others) went on a 'recce' to the north of the old city and, in particular, to Omorfita and Neopolis.

The area of Neopolis viewed from the air........photograph courtesy of Christopher Meynell
Click the image or this link for the full-sized picture

In hindsight he describes this as, "not prudent" and records............

"The streets were deserted and in Omorfita itself the atmosphere could only be described as menacing. Blackened and pillaged houses in every direction and, although the fires were out, rafters and other woodwork were still smouldering. Personal possessions were scattered pitifully outside. Although we saw nobody we had the uncomfortable feeling that we were being watched."

By the New Year, following 59 transport sorties, Britain had several thousand troops on the island. Units who had been on duty since the beginning were relieved by the new arrivals....there was a lot of work to do.

Major General Young's diary for 1st January 1964 records........
"Law and order throughout the country rapidly broke down and village attacked village and community attacked community within each village. Hostage taking by both sides became the major threat to hopes for peace."

Royal Engineers on patrol in Nicosia........1st January 1964
Imaged licensed from Alamy

On the 7th January 1964 it was agreed that only the Cypriot police would search and arrest suspects using, "military supervision to ensure impartiality and fairness".
These principles would also apply to relations with, "properly constituted uniformed Turkish police".

A suspect vehicle is stopped at a checkpoint manned by the Grenadier Guards while the local police search the passengers and bus
Image courtesy of the IWM.....
.© IWM (CT 32)

Even with recent reinforcements, the intensity of incidents that required Truce Force attention was a major strain on all concerned. For the next few weeks, until the changeover of command to Major General Carver, the Operations Log contains a huge number of entries, some minor, some that could ruin the ceasefire and return Cyprus once more to open conflict .

A very small selection is shown below:

  • Arson in Omorfita and Neapolis
  • Turkish looting near the British High Commission
  • Column of armed men seen at Kophinou
  • 14th/20th provide escorts for Shell petrol tankers
  • Episkopi Village Police Station 'visited' by EOKA who 'collected' arms and ammunition
  • New Greek & Turkish road blocks around Nicosia
  • Greeks assembling in the Polis area with an armoured bulldozer
  • Heavy gunfire reported in Famagusta
  • Maronites being taken hostage by Turks
  • A reported sighting of a submarine
  • Two Ferrets stolen from British bases
  • A Greek Olympic Airways jet diverted to Nicosia due to bad weather in Beirut (where the weather was good!)
  • Turkish shepherd killed at Avdimou; tension rising in this area
  • Unloading Red Crescent supply ships at Famagusta; Greeks suspicious of every package
  • CYTA threatens to disconnect Truce Force and High Commission telephones
  • Turks in Pyroi still very frightened; fighting around Louroujina
  • Turks being persuaded to move from isolated and mixed villages
  • Greeks are attacking the Turkish Quarter in Limassol

The Limassol fighting on the 13th February 1964 was particularly savage and threatened the whole ceasefire agreement.
General Young and his ADC, Captain Christopher Meynell flew to Episkopi by helicopter and then by road onto Limassol.

An image of the GOC's helicopter, a 21 (Para) Flight Scout, at the Episkopi airstrip
Image courtesy of Michael Perrett-Young

Christopher Meynell recorded the following harrowing account in his diary.

"At 10 to 6 this morning with the rattle of fire and the approach of a tank, the Greek side launched a full scale attack. Provocation may have come from the Turkish side the day before, but it seems unlikely that the Greeks would have been able to assemble their forces so soon. Obviously pre-planned.
The destruction caused by the Greeks' repeated attacks were utterly unbelievable. Houses had their fronts bulldozed away while still occupied. Instead of having a street lined with normal type houses, each one was laid bare to the winds - furniture still in the same position as when their occupants evacuated some hours or even minutes before. Many houses so destroyed were then heavily fortified by the Greeks, who were using an old turretless Valentine tank, several armoured bulldozers, and various other armoured vehicles. The arrival of the tank was the signal for the opening of fire on all sides. The Turks were driven into an area about 1/3 of their normal area, and were all huddled, bundled, herded, sardined together in one, panic stricken mob - 30 or so to a small room. We are really back to the Middle Ages with all the modern conveniences of war."

A Turkish fighter runs between buildings in Limassol

Friends drag away the body of an 80 year old Turkish Cypriot killed during the fighting of the 13th Februry 1964

After almost twelve hours of intense fighting and robust negotiations, a ceasefire was agreed and signed at 16:45hrs.

The ceasefire document with the words, "for ever" slipped into the text and unnoticed by the the image or this link for the full text

Turkey was roused by the Limassol casualties and announced (once again) that Turkish ships were sailing for Cyprus. American diplomacy and, it is reported, the discreet obstruction of the US Sixth Fleet, persuaded the Turks to 'hold their hand'.

On February 19th at 18:00hrs Major General Peter Young handed over his command to Major General Michael Carver.

Colonel Sale (the High Commission's Defence Advisor) continued his liaison role and briefed General Carver when he arrived.
Note: General Carver became the Chief of the Defence Staff and later described Colonel Sale as...... "a fine soldier who did a very good job in Cyprus".
Colonel John Sale was awarded the CBE for his work in the link to read the citation (opens in a new window).

Major Lockwood's important role in organising the various communications networks was recognised by General Young who, some time later, wrote a letter of appreciation adding to Major Lockwood's 'Mention in Despatches'.

For a larger version - with translation! - click the image or this link (image opens in a new window)
Letter courtesy of Jonathan Lockwood (son of Major Freddie Lockwood)

At the end of Britain's peacekeeping role (when the force became UN) troops had come from nine different units within the SBAs and twenty-eight from other locations.

Click this link for a full list of these units (a PDF document which will open in a new window)