The Green Line in Cyprus

The United Nations takes over.....Early Days

At the start of 1964, Britain was militarily stretched by actions in Aden and East Africa and declared itself unwilling to act indefinitely as policeman.
In the light of these issues, the 'London Conference' was organised for the 15th January 1964.

Duncan Sandys addressing the London Conference at Marlborough House in January 1964

Duncan Sandys, once more in the chair, stressed the urgency of finding a workable solution to the island's problems.
Both sides initially presented their own view in extreme form but, following separate talks at Chequers, there were signs of compromise.
Unfortunately, after the Chequer's talks, the Greek Cypriot leader was recalled to Nicosia and the Turkish Cypriot leader was summoned to Ankara.
Both delegations then returned to their previous hard-line and the conference broke up in mutual recrimination and increased hostility.

Fighting between the communities spread from the capital to Limassol, Paphos and other areas.
Alarmed by these developments, Britain proposed a NATO led peacekeeping force but this was considered unacceptable by President Makarios.
After much debate and behind the scenes negotiations, it was agreed on the 4th March 1964 that a multinational United Nations peacekeeping force would be sent to the island.

U Thant announces the unanimous adoption of Resolution 186 on the 4th March 1964

On the 6th March 1964 Indian Army General Gyani was named as Commander of the UN force with General Carver as his deputy.
After only a few days in Cyprus, General Gyani flew back to India for personal reasons and didn't return to the island until the 25th March 1964.

UNFICYP (United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus) became formally operational on the 27th March 1964 with a three month mandate.
The mandate of UNFICYP was originally defined as, "…in the interest of preserving international peace and security, to use its best efforts to prevent a recurrence of fighting and, as necessary, to contribute to the maintenance and restoration of law and order and a return to normal conditions." 

A few days after the UN resolution, the Canadian aircraft carrier "HMCS Bonaventure" arrived at the Famagusta docks.
The carrier, which brought a further 95 officers to join the Canadian contingent  also carried 16 Ferret armoured cars, 36 trucks and trailers and 160 tons of stores for the Canadian troops.

A Ferret armoured car is unloaded from the Canadian aircraft carrier in the Famagusta docks.........dated 30th March 1964

A silent video showing the arrival and early deployment of Canadian UN troops.....courtesy of Pathé News

Until the UN force (comprising troops and civilian police) was operational, British troops wore the 'Blue Beret' and patrolled alone.

British UN troops patrol along Hermes Street in central Nicosia.........dated March 1964

British UN troops patrolling the Turkish quarter and an Observation Point in Limassol.......dated April 1964

The 'Blue Berets' were deployed all across the island in areas of close military confrontation (not just in the Nicosia area). Observation Posts and mobile patrols were used in areas of intercommunal sensitivity (such as the few remaining mixed villages) and close liaison was maintained with all levels of both communities.

Canadian UN troops patrol Kyrenia and observe from Trakhomas (Trachonas) at the northern edge of Nicosia

Barely a week after the Canadians deployed, there was serious fighting in the Kyrenia Mountains. On the 4th April 1964 Government forces captured a Turkish Cypriot position close to the strategically important St Hilarion Castle (this area controlled the road from Nicosia to Kyrenia).

Note: As power-sharing had de facto come to an end, the Government of Cyprus was composed only of Greek Cypriots. They were the internationally recognised representatives of the entire state as created in 1960. However, in the following texts, "Government forces" can justifiably be read as "Greek Cypriot forces". 

Greek Cypriot forces celebrate the capture of a Turkish Cypriot position near St Hilarion Castle

Over the next three weeks, the Greek Cypriots attempted to take St Hilarion Castle itself but the Turkish Cypriot forces continued to hold out.
Canadian troops created permanent UNFICYP posts with the forward troops of both sides and this acted as a deterrent to any further offensive action.
By the end of April, newsmen who visited the battle area around the castle west of the pass noted that the positions of the two sides had not changed basically since the Government forces began their surprise assault.

A newsreel  (without commentary) filmed around St Hilarion Castle showing Government forces close to the castle and looking south towards Nicosia
There is a view of the small Turkish Cypriot airstrip in the enclave north of Nicosia and Canadian UN troops (22nd Regiment)

An Auster of the UN Flight monitors the area around St Hilarion Castle (to the right and below the tail)

One area where UN troops were permanently deployed, Ayios Theodoros and Kophinou, was to become the focus of world attention in the coming years.

British UN Troops in the village of Ayios Theodoros (behind the Turkish school and escorting a Greek Cypriot across the bridge between the two communities)

Author's note: Today, at locations across the island you can still see the remains of earlier UN presence

A summary of events across the island in May 1964 records 14 serious incidents resulting in 11 deaths and 12 woundings. The report states that this does not include the daily exchanges of fire (especially in the northern suburbs of Nicosia). 
Special arrangements have been made to supervise the harvesting as there is a, "predilection of both sides for picking off lone farmers in their fields, nice easy safe targets".

As of the 8th June 1964, a UN force of 6411 men from nine countries was on the island.
Click this link to view the breakdown of numbers (image opens in a new window).

Their next major challenge was the outbreak of fighting in August 1964 around the Turkish enclave of Kokkina  on the the north-west coast. The Cyprus Government claimed, with some justification, that the bridgehead was being used by the Turkish Cypriots for smuggling reinforcements of arms and men.

The villages involved in the August 1964 fighting
Six large 25-pounder guns were positioned in the Pomos area
Xeros is 20km off the right hand edge of this map

In late July, the Government began to increase their forces in the area and this process continued until the 7th August when there were about 2000 troops and a significant number of artillery pieces that could be brought to bear on the enclave.

Image courtesy of the Pachyammos Museum.....the location was not recorded but the museum confirmed that it shows Government forces overlooking a Turkish Cypriot village

Earlier, on the 3rd August, one of the newly acquired Government patrol boats shelled the villages of Kokkina and Mansoura. Over the next few days, Government forces attacked from the south and reduced the size of the Turkish enclave and caused the Turkish Cypriot defenders to retreat into Kokkina. Turkish Cypriot women and children from the battle area were evacuated by the UN to Kato Pyrgos.

On the 7th August, four Turkish F100 aircraft flew over Polis (a small town 25km to the west) in a demonstration of force and fired their weapons out to sea.
Despite calls from the UN for the fighting to stop, the attacks by Government forces continued.

On the 8th August, Turkish jets bombed Government positions that were being used to attack the enclave. A Government patrol boat was hit, set on fire and finally beached at Xeros. During this operation one Turkish jet was shot down.

The burnt out patrol boat beached at Xeros.......image courtesy of the Pachyammos Museum

Newspaper headlines and images of the time describe the fighting in the Kokkina/Mansoura area
Turkish Cypriots defend the enclave of Kokkina and Turkish jets attack the Government patrol boat
During the fighting, Pakhyammos was heavily bombed by Turkish jets causing extensive damage

A burnt out Government Marmon Harrington armoured car, destroyed during a Turkish airstrike
Image courtesy of the Pachyammos Museum

A silent video showing the aftermath of the bombing around Pachyammos..........courtesy of Pathé News

Following 'strenuous efforts' by the UN, a ceasefire became effective on the night of the 9/10th August.
It is interesting to note that, following disputes over the exact position of the ceasefire line, the UN clearly marked the line with white paint on large immovable rocks. This project was completed, not without incident, on the 10th November 1964.

Fortunately, such large scale incidents were rare but the frequency of hostage taking by both sides, the problems of movement between towns and villages and the removal of emplacements & fortifications kept the UN forces extremely busy. There was a continuing economic blockade of the Turkish Cypriot community and many essential items were severely rationed and in short supply. In October 1964 a modified list of materials declared to be 'strategic' and therefore witheld from the Turkish Cypriot community was given to the UN.

​Click this link or the above image to view the full list (in a new window)

In October 1964 the direct road to Kyrenia (which passed through a stategically important Turkish enclave north of Nicosia) was re-opened for use by Greek Cypriots. However, travel was only allowed with a UN escort. All vehicles were thoroughly searched before being allowed to join the convoy.

Pictures of the first escorted Kyrenia convoy on Monday 26th October 1964 photographed by Col John Sale

All throughout this period there was the constant threat of a Turkish invasion which added to the already tense atmosphere.
Note: An invasion would have been extremely difficult as, at that time, the Turkish military only had a small number of paratroops and didn't have any landing craft.