THE OXFORDSHIRE AND BUCKINGHAMSHIRE LIGHT INFANTRY Cyprus 1956 – 1958
THE 1ST GREEN JACKETS (43rd & 52nd) Cyprus 1958 – 1959
INSURGENCY IN CYPRUS
In 1878 Cyprus came under British administration before being formally annexed during World War 1 and made a British Colony in 1921. The island was of particular strategic importance as a base in the Levant especially after the British withdrawal from Egypt on 1954. After the First World War demand for enosis (political union with Greece) began to mount amongst a Greek Cypriot underground movement. There was also unrest amongst the Turkish community who became increasingly nationalistic. The British was forced to clamp down on the Turkish-Cypriot agitation.
Archbishop Makarios, later the first President of Cyprus, took a leading role in the campaign for enosis with Greece, claiming that ‘Cyprus has been Greek since the dawn of history and it will remain Greek.’ In 1953 Colonel George Grivas began the terrorist organisation EOKA (National Organization of Cypriot Fighters) to mount a guerrilla war against the British administration. Grivas opened the EOKA terrorist campaign on 1st April 1955 forcing the Governor of Cyprus, Sir John Harding, to declare a state of emergency in November.
Ferret Armoured Car used by British Forces in Cyprus. This particular example was used by the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry
A helicopter landing in a platoon position
THE OXFORDSHIRE AND BUCKINGHAMSHIRE LIGHT INFANTRY IN 1956
The Regiment received orders for deployment to Cyprus on August 3rd, cancelling plans for a move to Hong Kong. After departing Southampton on the 10th, they disembarked in Cyprus 10 days later. The Regiment was approximately 700 strong and included a large percentage of National Servicemen, most of whom were aged between 18 and 21 years old.
The security situation in Cyprus was serious with EOKA’s shooting and bombing campaign against the Turkish Cypriot community as well as the police and British personnel. Any Greek Cypriots who were not loyal to the “cause” were also attacked.
After temporary accommodation in Limassol the Regiment moved into a new tented camp outside Nicosia nicknamed ‘Oxford Camp’. Many of the men weren’t impressed by their accommodation with the dust in particular causing problems. Patrols came under attack on several occasions but each time the bombs or grenades thrown failed to explode.
‘Cooking was the greatest difficulty as it was impossible to keep out the dust. Sahara Stew was the standard dish according to the soldiers’.
Out on patrol in the hills
A Company bivouacs in the foothills
On December 2nd the Regiment returned to Limassol to replace the Norfolk regiment, handing over ‘Oxford Camp’ to the 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards. The new camp was an improvement over the old one with permanent shower huts and electricity in all the tents and messes.
THE OXFORDSHIRE AND BUCKINGHAMSHIRE LIGHT INFANTRY IN 1957
On New Year’s Day the regiment was involved in ‘Operation Cordon Bleu’, a cordon and search of the village of Pakhna. This resulted in the capture of Haralambous Andronikeou, a terrorist with a £5,000 bounty on him, as he tried to escape through the cordon.
Active terrorism ceased in March following the release of Archbishop Makarios from his captivity in the Seychelles. Makarios had been exiled to the islands the previous year for his suspected involvement with EOKA. Security was decreased, and off duty personnel were able to leave the bases unarmed from 10th April. During the summer months the regiment was able to send lorry loads of soldiers to the beaches each afternoon to swim.
Breaking for a swim
HM The Queen’s Birthday Parade at Polemidhia
A number of commemorations were held including the Queen’s Birthday Parade on 13th June which involved B and C Companies. On 14th September the Regiment marked the Centenary of the Storming of the Cashmere Gate during the India Mutiny with the construction of a replica gate by the regimental pioneers. Over 1000 spectators came to the event.
The Regimental Detachment doubling past on HM The Queen’s Birthday Parade
THE OXFORDSHIRE AND BUCKINGHAMSHIRE LIGHT INFANTRY IN 1958
Early spring 1958 was a relatively quiet time for the Regiment, whose primary role was to carry out continuous patrolling of the hills. By April the British were aware of the possibility of the security situation soon deteriorating and the regiment planned accordingly. Holidays and celebrations were cancelled and the next few months saw the Regiment increasingly ‘standing by’ in the town expecting trouble. Restrictions on movement, the requirement to carry personal arms and vehicle escorts were reintroduced.
Stop and search by an Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry patrol
Searching a suspect at a road block
That summer saw an increasing escalation of violence between the Greek and Turkish populations. July alone saw nearly seventy recorded fires in Limassol as well as a number of bomb incidents and shootings, requiring several curfews on the town. Operation ‘Matchbox’ was launched on 21st July which aimed to strike a lethal blow against EOKA by arresting everyone known to have any connection with the organisation. In all 352 people were arrested in the first thirty eight hours.
Although a temporary truce was called by Colonel Grivas, by October this seemed to have collapsed following the appointment of Turkish political representative by the British Government. Attacks on British civilians became increasingly common as were ambushes on military vehicles. The Regiment spent an increasing amount of time on patrol in Limassol.
Ferret Armoured Car of the Machine Gun Platoon
END OF THE OXFORDSHIRE AND BUCKINGHAMSHIRE LIGHT INFANTRY
The Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry had originally been created in 1881 through the amalgamation of the 43rd and 52nd Regiments of Foot. Following the 1957 Government Defence White Paper the Regiment was itself amalgamated into the Green Jackets Brigade.
25th July 1957 – The Regiment learns that it will become part of the Green Jackets Brigade.
1st April 1958 – All ranks of the regiment are transferred from the Light Infantry Brigade into the Green Jackets Brigade.
7th November 1958 – The regiment becomes the 1st Green Jackets, 43rd and 52nd. All Privates are designated as Riflemen.
A parade was held at the new Green Jackets Depot in Winchester on 6th November 1958 in inaugurate the new cap badge and regimental titles, despite the new 1st Battalion’s continued presence in Cyprus.
H.R.H The Duke of Gloucester inspecting the parade at Winchester
THE 1ST GREEN JACKETS, 43RD AND 52ND 1959
On 19th February the London Agreement on the constitutional future of Cyprus was signed in Lancaster House in London, paving the way for independence. As a result security restrictions were able to be lowered, the Regiment concentrated in a single camp and a training system was established for the first time since August 1956, the Regiment’s arrival in Cyprus.
‘The next two months were most enjoyable. We trained and played games hard, swam almost daily, ate kebab in Turkish cafes, visited Greek cabarets and drank the local vino’.
The Regiment hosted a number of official visits during these months, highlighted by the visit of the Colonel Commandant of the regiment in February, Major General Sir John Winterton.
Visit by the Colonel Commandant to Buckingham Camp.
From left to right:
Lieutenant Draco, Major Gerhaty, Major General Winterton, Lieutenant Colonel R.A St G Martin, MBE, Lieutenant Elliot.
On 13th March the Regiment received word that they would be sailing home from Limassol on 20th May that year. The Regiment boarded H.T Dunera on the 20th, played off by the bands of the Royal Engineers and the Devonshire and Dorset Regiments. With a brief stop off in Malta during the journey, the 1st Green Jackets arrived in Southampton on the 30th, greeted by the Colonel Commandant, the Mayor of Oxford and the band of the 2nd Green Jackets. The Regiment disembarked the following day and headed to Jellalabad Barracks in Tidworth, before all ranks went on block leave.
‘A year of ceaseless activity in which the most important event has been our return to England for a two year tour for the first time since 1939’.
GENERAL SERVICE MEDAL WITH CYPRUS CLASP
The General Service Medal (GSM) was awarded for campaigns and operations that were not classed as a full scale war. Clasps were awarded for each campaign.
This is the medal set of E. G. Field B.E.M, with the GSM the third medal from the right with the Cyprus clasp. The medal also has the Arabian Peninsula clasp. The oak leaf shows he was mentioned in dispatches, having already received this award during the Second World War.
Field became Regimental Sergeant Major of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in 1957. He left the regiment in 1959 following a commission to Lieutenant Quartermaster.
All the photographs and information presented in this exhibition came from the Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum’s archive and library and the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry Chronicles.