UN Tour of Cyprus – 1968

With the granting of independence of the Republic of Cyprus in 1960, the constitution was meant to balance the interests of both the Greek and Turkish communities which was formally guaranteed by Cyprus, Turkey and the UK. However, things between the two communities didn’t work out from the beginning and serious violence soon broke out on the island, so in 1964 a UN mandate was established after all attempts to restore peace on the island had failed. It recommended that recommended the establishment of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), which has remained on the island to supervise ceasefire lines, maintain a buffer zone, undertake humanitarian activities and support the good offices mission of the Secretary-General.

The 1st Battalion formed part of the multinational United Nations Force in Cyprus (UNIFCYP) from October 1968 to March 1969.

It was responsible for the Limassol Zone on the South of the Island which covered the Districts of Paphos (Y Company), Limassol (Z Company) and Kophinou (A Company).

The Force’s task was to prevent any return to fighting between the Greek and Turkish Communities though without resorting to force which could only be used in self-defence. This meant they were required to maintain an active presence in areas of potential conflict while establishing good channels of communication with both Communities in order to avoid a minor incident developing into a major confrontation. In short, the Force was charged with keeping the peace.

To fulfil its role, the Battalion was widely dispersed largely in section strength outposts in critical areas where they manned Observation Posts and carried out local patrols. This deployment enabled constant oversight of an area and the rapid reporting of any unusual activities. Where these occurred, local Community leaders would be contacted in order to first, establish the facts and then, if a problem did exist, negotiate a settlement. If this could not be done locally, the issue would be taken up at the next level in the chain of command and ultimately, if necessary, at UNIFCYP HQ in Nicosia where political pressure could be brought to bear.

While there were occasions during the tour when tensions were raised, the Battalion experienced no major incidents. In the main, the task became one of providing a trusted channel of communication between the divided Communities thereby giving some degree of reassurance to both sides.

In 1974 following a coup d’état engineered by the Greek National Guard, Turkish Forces from the mainland invaded and occupied the north eastern part of the Island creating a state of partition that still exists.