The History of Nicosia Airport

Ready for War

During the years up to 1943 the tented camps were replaced by solid buildings, tarmac taxiways were laid joining the ends of the three runways (two of which were extended) and new hard-standings were constructed.
Sunken fighter pens and two protected pens for bombers were also built.

A sketch of the airfield in 1943 showing its location to the south of the Nicosia-Morphou road
The position of defensive pill-boxes (PB) can be seen as well as the additional buildings and camps
The six fighter and two bomber pens can be seen at the southern end of the main runway - 14/32 

A Hurricane landing close to one of the sunken fighter pens (just visible to the left of the aicraft) 

In 1943 a railway existed from Famagusta to Morphou which conveniently provided a connection to the airport.

A military train enters the siding at the northern edge of the airfield

On the 1st August 1943, a large force of US bombers attacked the oil refineries at Ploesti (in Romania) from their bases in Libya. If they found themsleves unable to return to base they were briefed to land in Nicosia. During that evening ten bombers landed in Nicosia before being refuelled for their return to Libya.

The US bombers attacked Ploesti at very low level and suffered very high losses (of the 178 that took part almost 1/3 were lost)

Following the Italian surrender in September 1943, the Allies attempted to capture and hold the Dodecanese Islands.
Two squadrons of long range fighters (Bristol Beaufighters) were based at RAF Nicosia to support this campaign. Unfortunately, the campaign failed and the Germans took control of all the islands. The fighters were withdrawn from Cyprus as the island was too far from any active battlefield.

Bristol Beaufighters attack German shipping off the island of Kos in October 1943

In late 1943 an Operational Training Unit (OTU) was planned for Nicosia. This new unit would require a modern control tower together with extensive  accommodation and administrative facilities. The taxiways would be straightened and improved maintenance facilities provided with the construction of large 'Bellman' hangers.

The new control tower would look after the 80+ aircraft based on the airfield

On the 1st February 1944, No: 79 OTU was formed ready to train General Reconnaissance and Anti-Surface Vessel (ASV) pilots.

The unit's Fairey Battles, Bristol Blenheims and Beaufighters arrived in April 1944

Alongside the development of the training unit, the airfield had one final wartime role to play.
As part of the Overlord (D-Day) plan, Nicosia was the base for air raids on Rhodes, Leros and other German held islands.
The six week campaign in June & July 1944 was intended to force the Germans to spread their forces as widely as possible during the invasion period.

These raids were carried out using Lockheed Ventura aircraft

Within weeks of beginning training, the OTU realised that the hardstanding areas were much too small and that the sunken fighter pens were dangerously close to the edges of the runway. In October and November 1944 the runways were resurfaced, additional parking areas were provided and the fighter pens were filled in.

The No: 10 Course group photograph at 79 OTU in 1944
Seven of the airmen above did not survive the war

In April 1945 with the end of the war fast approaching, the unit began its final course and was closed, two months later, in June 1945.

The wartime role of Nicosia was over.

Those interested in examing the layout of the airfield in great detail can download a large map (JPEG.....9mb)

Click on this link or the images above to open the map in a new window or right click and choose "Save link as"