War and Politics
The military build-up in Cyprus, unlike the other campaigns of post-war britain, did not begin in response to a threat to that colony. It began due to the British withdrawal from its Egyptian bases with 2nd Battalion the Green Howards arriving in August 1954 closely followed by the 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. Cyprus was to house the British Middle East Headquarters, and at the same time the first stirrings of the Enosis movement began.
The EOKA' campaign opened on 1st April 1955 with the bombing of a series of targets throughout the island. The second series of attacks began on 19th June, with attacks on police station is Kyrenia. More attacks followed there was rioting in Nicosia on 2nd August. In September 1955, sixteen EOKA terrorists escaped from Kyrenia Castle and this shattered public confidence in the Islands administration, the burning of the British institute in Metazas Square in Nicosia on 17th September persuaded the British Government of the seriousness of the situation. On 25th September, Field Marshal Sir John Harding was appointed Governor of Cyprus, he arrived on the island on 3rd October, closely followed by an influx of troops.
In November, five servicemen were killed in one week, two of these died ; In an ambush led by Grivas. On 26th November the Governor proclaimed a State of Emergency and the death penalty was extended to offenses other than murder including the placing of explosives and discharge of firearms. Possession of firearms or explosives was a sentence of Life Imprisonment. Emergency regulation were also enforced, including the collective punishment of youths under eighteen, deportation and punishment. Pictured right is a photo of Grivas with members of his EOKA in the Cyprus hills.
With orders that minimum force should always be used, the army found itself underpinning the police, forming its own riot squads. While the EOKA inspired rioting in the urban areas to divert troops from hunting for the terrorists in the hills, the Royal Scots, Gordon highlanders and Commandoes combed the hillsides for the EOKA gangs. On 11th December, a combined force of Royal MArine Commandoes and Gordon Highlanders mounted a cordon and search operation in the area of Grivas hideout. Unfortunately, Grivas guards spotted the troops and evacuated, leaving a few snipers behind for the British to deal with. One of Grivas deputies, Kyriakides, was wounded and captured in a gun battle with British troops while trying to break out of the cordon near Spilia. Three commandoes had been slightly wounded by a mortar bomb, but Grivas was not in touch with reality. He believed that the British commander and many others had been wounded or killed. Pictured left is a section of Royal Marines providing an escort for Cyprus police and an Informer in the Troodos Moutains.
On 15th December, a terrorist gang ambushed a British jeep in the Troodos mountains killing the driver. Major Coombe of the Royal engineers who was also in the jeep gave chase, he killed one of the four terrorists, captured two and wounded their leader who got away. He was awarded the George Medal. This showed that the British had insufficient troops to cover the terrain effectively, but with operations against the Mau Mau in Kenya winding down, there were troops to spare. January 1956 saw the Parachute Regiments 1st and 3rd battalion arrive in Nicosia, with more troops arriving a few weeks later.
February saw the crisis in the secondary schools reach its height, a riot resulting in a ringleader being fatally wounded by the security forces in a bid to avoid serious injury. The Governor ordered the schools to either take down the Greek flags Grivas had ordered flown or close. The headmasters of the schools were so severely intimidated by the EOKA that this brought secondary education to a hla. By the spring of 1956, only eighty-one out of 499 elementary schools still functioned. Grivas saw this as a major achievement for the EOKA. The British were portrayed as the persecutors of Cypriot schoolchildren and were powerless to influence the situation.
29th February saw the next EOKA bombing offensive started. This caused Harding to form the opinion that the Cypriot leader Makarios had no faith in the peace talks and he took the decision to resist Enosis and on 9th March Makarios was arrested at Nicosia and put on a plane for the remote British controlled Seychelles. On the day he was deported, Harding outlined the Archbishops support of the EOKA and his use of church funds for the movement. He also condemned the Archbishops' silence while policemen, soldiers and civilians were murdered in cold blood. The deportation coincided with a dramatic increase in the EOKAs hostilities. The army was forced to suspend some offensive operations in order to safeguard the civilian populace. The second half of March also saw an unsuccessful attempt by the EOKA on Harding's life, Five British soldiers were killed in the bombing which was carried out by a Cypriot member of his staff. Pictured are members of the Berkshire regiment on " Cat Patrol " on the streets of Nicosia.
By 15th May, the Army had fifteen fighting units on the island, and was back on the offensive. Two thousand troops took part in a sweep of the Troodos mountains, aided by Auster spotting aircraft and helicopters. The series of cordon operations covered 400 square miles, seventeen leading guerillas and large quantities of weapons were captured. Thousands of documents exposing the EOKA's plans and identities of its members were also found. The mountain gangs were smashed and no longer able to operate with impunity as they had done for so long. Grivas narrowly evaded capture, but the operation cost the army twenty death and sixteen seriously injured i a forest fire in the Paphos area. The cause of the fire was unknown, it could have been the guerillas or the army's own mortar fire. Terrorist attacks in the rest of the island did not decline in response to the collapse of the mountain gangs.
The 16th June EOKA bombed a restaurant and unintentionally killed the American vice-consul. The end of july saw the Suez campaign erupt and soldiers were diverted to the Suez Canal operation, although veteran units from malaya were brought in to replace them. Anti-aircraft regiments were also deployed against the prospect of Egypt bombing Cyprus.
In early October, Operation Sparrowhawk captured Pilots Christofi a gang leader with £5,000 on his head. The EOKA gained the offensive as more troops were withdrawn to aid the Suez campaign and the Army suffered fifteen casualties. December found the Suez troops returning and the rise in British operations resulted in several captured guerillas and only two casualties. As the British successes grew, Grivas was killing Cypriots he believed were betraying him, although many were completely uninvolved. January 1957 saw the British forces now commanded by Major-General Kendrew as director of operations, capture fifteen terrorist alone. March saw the death of Gregoris Afxentiou, one of the few gang leaders who escaped the previous summer, when the British burned him out of a hideout when every conventional method had failed at Makheras Monastery. The four months ending in february had been a bonanza for the army, sixty-nine EOKA terrorist were dead and the sixteen terrorist gang were reduced to five. Rioting and bombing had virtually stopped and most of EOKA's victims were Cypriot targets.
Grivas was encouraged by the Greek Government to issue a cease-fire on 14th March if the British agreed to negotiate with Makarios. Anglo-Greek relations improved dramatically, although the Turkish relations worsened. During the summer ceasefire the EOKA rearmed and recruited but refrained from overt operations. Harding was replaced by Sir Hugh Foot on 3rd November, who did not arrive until four weeks later. During that delay, the EOKA blew up a canberra bomber at Akrotiri airfields. Rioting followed in Nicosia on 27th january 1958, and the incident precipitated a pitched battle between British soldiers and thousands of Turkish youths. Seven Turks were killed and twelve soldiers injured.
Not trusting Foot, Grivas' EOKA resumed its campaign in late March. Fifty bombs exploded in the first ten days of April. Foot sent a letter to Grivas on 16th April, in which he appealed for a ceasefire and although Grivas acquiesced he did not reply fearing a British attempt to track the latter back. The Turkish community was whipped into a frenzy by broadcasts from Turkey calling for the partition of Cyprus. Violence between the turks and Cypriots broke out in early June and climaxed when eight Greeks were massacred in a cornfield near the Turkish village of Geunyeli. Again, the British were forced into partitioning the two communities. At this stage, the British Army in Cyprus reached it highest number as more units arrived from mid-June. There were now twenty-six fighting units in Cyprus. In desperation, Fott ordered an island wide swoop and they arrested fifty turks and 1,500 Greeks. In under two months ninety-five civilians had been killed in the inter communal violence and many more injured.
Pictured right are two Sergeants of 3 Para escorting a Greek Orthodox Priest with EOKA connections
The assault upon the army reached it peak in the summer and autumn of 1958, August saw Sergeant Hammond shot dead in Ledra Street in Nicosia, the 'Murder Mile', while walking his two-year old son. The murder of an Army wives in October and the wounded of another was too much for the Army. In less than two hours, the Army arrested over a hundred Cypriots and took them to detention centers for questioning. Some of the Cypriots died as a result of the bad feeling roused in the Army from the assaults. An estimated 256 people were injured in the round-up. The EOKA's cause was severely damaged, but the assault on the British armed forces continued with two RAF men killed on 11th November by a bomb in a NAAFI establishment.
In February 1959, the Greek and Turkish prime Ministers reached an accord and the British Government ratified the Zurich agreement on 19th February in LOndon. On 9th March Grivas reluctantly ordered a ceasefire. As a leader, he had tied down 40,000 British troops and killed ninety-nine. The following 1960 talks ended in July and the British retained two Sovereign Base Areas (SBA) at Dheklia and Akrotiti as well as some British Armed Forces installations in other parts of the island which are republican territory. On 16th August 1960, the Republic of Cyprus came into existence after eighty-two years of British rule.