The History of Nicosia Airport

The Tomb of Makedonitissa

Initially, this was where the Noratlas (Niki4) crashed during the early hours of the 22nd July 1974 but has since been expanded to include the graves of other Greek/Greek Cypriot soldiers killed during the Turkish invasion in 1974.

The approach path to their chosen runway at Nicosia Airport would have passed very close to this barren area of higher ground and numerous anti-aircraft weapons would have been positioned in this area.

The pilot of Niki 11 (Squadron Leader George Mitsainas) described the scene that night........"I was nearing the runway when I noticed flares in the sky, very close to the aircraft. I was perplexed because I couldn't understand why the Cypriot soldiers defending the airport did that. It soon became clear those red flashes in the dark sky were not flares, but anti-aircraft fire. To make matters worse, hundreds of armed citizens also opened fire against us, as they mistook the Hellenic aircraft for Turkish. It was like a firework display, albeit a very lethal one." 

When Niki 4 crashed, a number of soldiers (from the rear positions) were thrown clear and their bodies buried in the nearby Lakatamia Military Cemetery.
(In 1979, some remains were exhumed from Lakatamia and sent back to their families in Greece. However, only twelve  commandos were properly identified through DNA sampling)

In haste, the remaining aircrew & soldiers from Niki 4 (Noratlas serial 52-133) were buried inside the wreckage of their aircraft.

The remains of the aircraft, crew and commandos were collected and buried under a large mound of earth
Shortly afterwards, a memorial was erected at the spot
The buildings of the UNPA can be seen in the background

The location of the cemetery & memorial in relation to the approach of the 'Operation Niki' aircraft

The burial mound was paved over and memorial plaques were set around the outside to the crew, commandos and others who were killed in the fighting

In February 2014 it was decided to clear away the memorial and exhume the bodies trapped within the wreckage.

The area around the 3m high memorial mound is cleared to enable the exhumation of the buried soldiers/aircrew

The excavated burial mound reveals wreckage of the aircraft and the remains of the commandos and crew

A closeup of a large part of the Noratlas discovered under the memorial mound

Personal items together with weapons/ammunition were also discovered

After 14 months of excavations and identification the bodies of 15 Greek Commandos and Niki 4's navigator were identified and returned to their families in Greece. The remains of pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer have yet to be identified.

The remains of the identified soldiers/aircrew at the Tomb of Makedonitissa on the 4th October 2016

The remains of fifteen soldiers and one airman were transported by a Hellenic Air Force C-130 from Larnaca to Greece on Tuesday, October 4th 2016