Cyprus – 1974

In April of 1974, 1 Commando and 1AB Field Squadron were sent to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus in rotation of the United Nations Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP.) A few short months later fighting broke out between Cypriot forces in the capital Nicosia and UNFICYP was put on alert. It quickly became apparent that the Greek Cypriot National Guard had staged a coup d’etat, ousting the president Archbishop Makarios III.

Turkish Tank Five days later Turkey invaded under the pretext of safe-guarding the Turkish minority on the island. The invasion began with airborne insertions near Nicosia and amphibious landings at Kyrenia. The Greek forces used UN positions to shield their defensive operations necessitating the evacuation of UN observation posts as they came under fire.

The UN forces worked tirelessly over the next few days to establish a tentitive cease-fire which gave the rest of the Airborne Regiment to deploy to Cyprus and re-enforce the UN troops and their 1 Commando bretheren.

On the second of August The Airborne CO, Colonel G. Lessard took command of the UN forces and began to take control of the situation through heavy patrolling, re-establishment of the UN Observation Posts and forcibly removing of Greek and Turkish roadblocks.

Then on the 14th of August the second wave of the Turkish invasion began and both sides began to target UN positions. Two days later a ceasefire was called and the Turks and Greeks began building defensive positions. Meanwhile, the Airborne troops patrolled the buffer zone between the lines, assisted with the delivery of relief supplies to refugees and organized exchanges of PoWs.

For their courage and professionalism during the Cyprus conflict, members of the Airborne Regiment received two Stars of Courage and six Medals of Bravery. Five members of 1 Airborne Field Squadron (Engineers) were awarded the Member of the Order of Military Merit. Para G Perron and Para J.C. Berger from 1 Commando were killed and 30 other airborne soldiers were wounded.

I would appreciate updates, additions or fixes to this section. If Anyone would like to contribute, please contact me.

18 Responses to “Cyprus – 1974”

  1. on 14 Aug 2009 at 9:19 pmPetros

    I am a refugee from Cyprus and lived there during the Turkish invasion. From all acounts I have heard, Greeks never attacked UN soldiers or positions. I have heard of at least 36 UN soldiers killed by Turkish bombers and advancing Turks.

    Also I have heard of several cases where UN helicopers hovered over Greek positions (in particular at the Nicosia airport and ELDYK defense positions) and gave the exact positions and strength of Greek defenders who were later attached by the Turks. Before the incidents the Turks shelled the Greek positions and did not even hit close to them, but after the incidents the shells landed very close or on the Greek positions.

    While the majority of the UN peacekeepers were honorable and fought to help the people and Cyprus, a number were clearly aiding the advancing Turkish army.

  2. on 31 Dec 2010 at 1:06 pmRalph Reich

    I was the R Maint O, stationed at Blue Beret Camp. I find the previous statement ridiculous in the extreme. The Turkish forces were very aggressive and not at all befriended to the UN. Besides supporting the force, one of our tasks was the defense of the Nicosia airport. The turks were the potential attachers. We certainly were not interested in helping them. Thank God they did not attach us. That would have been tough times indeed for us.

  3. on 19 Feb 2012 at 2:16 pmDIGENIS AKRITAS

    Ralph, I am not particularly overly concerned about what you think is “ridiculous in the extreme” CANADIAN UNFICYP troops , after discussions with the Greek and Greek Cypriot National Guardsmen in the aiport at the time, GAVE strength numbers and mortar coordinates to the TURKS, which then begane firing at the CORRECT azimuth. Personally I would have preffered the Greeks to have killed all those canadian scumbags and any others who were with them. They VIOLATED their mission and mandate and deserved DEATH!

    The instances I speak of are covered by Drousiotis, an expert on the entire campaign and who is respected by all sides of the conflict as being ” accurate “. The messages to the turks FROM YOU BACKSTABBERS………was intercepted by Greek B-Raider Commando’s , who landed at the airport the night before and had acquired the latest Israeli electronic monitoring equipment AND radio’s.

  4. on 12 Jan 2013 at 5:31 pmRicardo Espinoza

    The canadians along with the brits were tacitly in support of the turkish invasion. There were no “neutral” canadian forces to wit. They were in fact, giving information to the turks, as mr. digenis above has already stated. Along with the british bastards, your people are also bastards and lying fucks. Fuck canada and fuck britain.

  5. on 13 Nov 2013 at 2:17 pmSven Bolke

    After reading the commentaries of Mr. Akritas and Espinosa and their colourfull language I have come to the definate conclusion that they have both had a frontal Labotomy and now have the intelligence of a Corn Flake. I was there during that time and if it had not been for the Canadians the Turks would have occupied the Nicosia airport.As far as Canadians aiding the Turks that is a load of BS and not worthy of any kind of discussion. By the way I personally witnessed Turkisch fighter Bombers Napalming a Canadian Convoi of APC’s that were evacuating Finnish troops from Kykko Camp while driving down the valley between the Police academy and Camp BBC.That is not exactly what one would do to somebody that is supposed to be aiding you. So you two morons gocry in your spillt milk,the war has been over for almost 40 years.

  6. on 07 Dec 2013 at 7:11 pmEd Skelding

    Ed Witt was not a hero, no was Ron Blagdon. The soldiers of D company were,

  7. on 07 Dec 2013 at 7:17 pmPetros Lambros

    Mr. Bolke, I doubt you were on location at the time or else your information would be much more accurate regarding the airport. All historical accounts of the action at the Nicosia Airport state that the airport was held by Greek Cypriot and Greek commando’s at the time ( who arrived 2 days later to assist the Greek Cypriots there). The Turks had suffered more casualties/dead at the airport than at any other single place on the island. It was one of the few objectives they had not been successful. It is true that the U.N. was able to control the airport due to agreement between Greek and Turkish forces which were there, but let’s not get carried away and say that if it were not for the Canadians, the airport would be in Turkish hands. Nothing could be further from the truth. Canadians had a disproportionate amount of complicity with the invasion forces as well. I agree with the sentiment here, that all of you backstabbing canucks who went there to “protect civilians and uphold peace” went only to support the invading Turkish forces and the lot of you should have been shot. YOU sir are the moron, not anone else here. Atleast own up to your underhandedness instead of using smoke screens!

  8. on 07 Dec 2013 at 7:31 pmPetros Lambros

    Greek Cypriots are also very thankful that the Canadian contingent is now gone from Cyprus. Your presence there was a constant disgrace and blight for my people. Your actions in 1974 with regards to aiding the Turkish invaders disgusts us and we hope you remain off our island. I am certain however that the turks were sorry to see you leave. You can try and deny all you wish, but you cannot change the historical truths. All of us know what many of your Canadian “peacekeepers” had done. I am sure that there had to be some decent Canadian peacekeepers there at the time but the sheer audacity to aid the Turkish forces by even a few of you is enough to keep it fresh in our minds. What a disgrace to the U.N, what the U.N is supposed to stand for and towards humanity as a whole.

  9. on 16 Dec 2013 at 4:42 pmEd Skelding

    Sven, you are full of shit. The Canadian convoy was not napalmed. Bullshitter

  10. on 16 Dec 2013 at 4:46 pmEd Skelding

    Ricardo, what are your true feelings. If it was for the Canadians and British it would gap have been bad. NO OTher group did as we’ll.
    Check your mommy

  11. on 16 Dec 2013 at 4:48 pmEd Skelding

    Digenis, poor baby. Had a bad day.
    Grow up you small dicked crybaby.
    Your country hang on to the UN, help us
    Get a life

  12. on 16 Dec 2013 at 4:51 pmEd Skelding

    To all, Canadians gave their all. For what, a whinny bunch of C Greeks.
    Get over it

  13. on 28 Dec 2013 at 12:48 pmGeorge Mandrakis

    ed skelding, your canadian troops at the Nicosia airport were siding with the turks. As soon as your troops had discovered the presence of mainland Greek Commando’s at the airport, who sneaked in the night of July 22, right in front of the UN canadian camp, behind your stupid backs, the commander of the Canadian force had given the new strength totals of the defending Greek and Greek Cypriot forces directly to the turks. Obviously your commander was being bitchy and embarrassed that the Greeks were able to put one over on him.The battle of Nicosia airport and the details of Canadian and British support of the turkish forces , with information, is well known. You can complain about what we know, but it makes no difference, we know and to try and state otherwise to us or anyone else who knows the truth is an exercise in futility. Furthermore , the defense of the airport by the Greek and Greek Cypriots was successful and to say to any Greek ” your country hang on to the UN, help us”……….is very funny since without your uhm “help” we defended the airport successfully and it was never taken from the Greeks. The airport however, was handed over to the UN , days later by the Greek side in a detailed agreement, so the troops could be used elsewhere . We all know what you people had done and it was not honorable.

  14. on 28 Dec 2013 at 1:06 pmGeorge Mandrakis

    Here is some information I gathered from a famous Greek military correspondent and author Solanakis and Drousiotis. (forgive the errors in translation where they may occur)

    The battle for Nicosia airport.

    Most historical accounts of the events in Cyprus report that when Greek metropolitan and Greek Cypriot forces delivered the civil airport to UN forces the Turks attacked to seize it and engaged by UN forces. What is not known publicly is that before the UN takes control of the airport fierce battles between Greeks and Turks took place in the airport. Greeks the last moment saved the airport and handed it over in a military manner to UN. Our narrator is a Greek conscript sergeant of the Greek special raiding forces or LOKS as they are known who participated in the battle. A full special ops squadron was transferred by Noratlas cargo planes in Cyprus. Each of the 15 Noratlas was loaded with 30 raiders and 1500 kilos of ammo. Full history of the flight called operation Nike (Victory) will be posted soon. One Noratlas was shot down by friendly fire (Greek Cypriot AA guns) killing 27 raiders and crew. Flying from Crete in sea level to avoid Turkish radars without the escort of fighter jets was a suicide mission. The Noratlas’ Nike 6’ avoided the last minute collision to a US aircraft carrier. When finally the planes landed the raiders were regrouped and participated in classic special ops behind Turkish lines but also as elite infantry due to the heat of events and absence of other forces. One such battle is the battle for the airport.

    Island of Crete

    In our camp in Chania our A squadron was on alert since the government ordered general mobilization. The plan is known-send forces to Cyprus. At first the news is that B squadron from Macedonia will go to Cyprus. The time is passing and finally we got the order to go. We are to fly by Noratlas military cargo aircrafts. We repack our gear to be mission specific and have minimum loads due to aircraft regulations. One of the fifteen Noratlas will be loaded with the squadron’s heavy weapons. Our lieutenant throws his food cans and loads his Bergen with more than 300 bullets for his 45 pistol and FN FAL rifle. ‘Commandos’ he shouts the Cypriots will provide food on site. As a result we follow his lead and the whole place is stuffed with cans. Our bergen consists only ammo, a spare BDU and water canteens.

    The announcement that we go to Cyprus sends us to heaven. We are singing all the time traditional Cretan songs. The morale is high. A fellow hospitalized commando when he hears that the squadron has a go, leaves the hospital and is coming to join and pick his gear.

    21:00 hours – 20 July 1974. We are transported in military trucks going for Souda military airport. We pass through Cretan villages. Villagers are out in the streets shouting’ honor your weapons’. Older men, veterans of the Battle of Crete wearing their traditional vrakes (wide trousers) petting their moustaches smile with satisfaction. Many have sons serving in the squadron. Their children are going to continue their tradition. Our force is 360 men plus 60 combat divers from a unit covering the Aegean. Half of the combat divers are officers – instructors.

    On the ground – Cyprus.

    01:00 July 22. We try to recuperate from the loss of our friends during the landing. There is no time for thinking, we must take some sleep. It’s an unsound sleep and full of nightmares.

    Morning – July 23. Archbishop School of Nicosia. Our company, 41 LOK gets orders to be at stand by. After a wild 42 LOK and finally all three companies are ready .We check our bergens and web gear. Weapons, radios, ****ytrap devices, explosives and ammo plus food and water cans are at reach. We drink a coffee smoking a much appreciated cigarette. Finally we get the go. Our mission: protect Nicosia airport. Intel indicts that the Turks will advance forces to seize it. The airport is of strategic importance and is guarded by a company of Greek Cypriot raiders, a company of the Greek Contigent in Cyprus (ELDYK) and the airport’s police guard armed with 106 recoilless rifles.The airport is 2 km behind the confrontation zone. We board some old city buses driven by Cypriot MPs. We lie down so the buses look empty. We split to four parties and we go to the airport by different roads so no one can predict that this is a joint force with a joint objective.We move parallel to the frontline and we arrive at the airport. About 500 meters at 3 o’clock we see military trucks unloading infantry troops. Ours or Turks? Can’t say from this distance but they also don’t seem to recognize us. It doesn’t matter, we are inside. I am a radio operator carrying an Israeli made GRC 25 but also a medic to cover the losses of the landing.

    Battle positions.

    Commandos soon begun to assume battle positions. Our lieutenant, a sergeant, seven LMGs, one MG plus three 90 mm recoilless rifles, one sniper and me quickly go to the roof of the airport’s main hall. We walk bending and post our weapons. In the roof we find already posted a LMG and a MG with Cypriot raiders.
    My company’s firing line is vertical to the Turkish axis of attack. Our lieutenant instructs the 2 MGs to let the Turks come close enough to a wide area so the 8 LMGs will reap them out. In this way a death zone is created since the area is clear with no vegetation or something to cover.
    Inside the well-hole the sniper observes through his sniper scope and begins to report valuable info. Our lieutenant sees with his binoculars. I take the signal from the radio: LOKS ready to fight. The tar on the roof begins to melt. Raiders swim in their sweat.Temperature more than 40 C. The Turks notice our positions and the fighting begins. 43 LOK fires first and sequentially all airport defenders join. A raider and a Cypriot MP are wounded slightly. We have also some old M-8 APC’s courtesy of airports police. My company has a UN camp directly at 12 o clock so we will hit the attacking Turks from aside. We have no fear of a direct attack due to the presence of the UN camp. Our only concerns are the Turkish air force and mortars. The Turks probably thought that the airport was defended only by Cypriots and so did the UN. They can not know that three companies slipped from the city in buses under their noses. I must say that the Cypriot raiders did miracles and won all the battles they fought.
    But we are with the finger on the trigger. Turks are preparing full attack with infantry and tanks. The lieutenant, a compatriot from Evia says to me:’ Patriotaki’ they are ****ed. They don’t know we’re here. They are sanding troops to every direction. It will be a slaughter’.

    Continuous attacks

    Indeed Turks spread and attack. About 150 of them in every direction begun to advance. Both 42 and 43 LOKs fire at them at 12 o’clock we hit them from their side. It’s hell. No Turk from this first wave survives as I see it. Some only at the back begun to retreat and take cover inside a small park near to the UN camp with the hope we won’t shoot at this direction. I look around and see the lieutenant. One hand holds the binoculars, the other rests on his rather large fighting knife he carries. He smiles under his moustache with satisfaction-probably for the outcome. What happens sir I ask, are they leaving? No sergeant they are just regrouping. Haven’t you heared the infamous Ottoman jurusia? If they got their lesson and calculated our fire they will come back probably with a battalion strong and more so it would be more difficult. Before I realize his thought a shell explodes a thousand meters behind me. The lieutenant immediately finds azimuth with his compass and he orders me to write it. Soon a second shell explodes in the same line but 200 meters closer to us, so he orders me to report that we are taking fire by 4.2 mortars with direction the opposite of the azimuth. The Turks having the UN camp in the front can’t shoot our side directly so they are firing mortars progressively every 200 meters until they hit the building. One Turkish shell destroys a civil aircraft 500 meters from the building.Then quiet. ‘It looks they have no other shells’ a sergeant says smiling. Sergeant they are coming again FIRE!! FIRE!! the lieutenant screams. More attacks at the hot zone. I see body parts flying all over -the remaining pool back. The M-8s are going to a counter attack firing at them. The Turks who are sheltered near the UN camp try to create us a headache. We fire a barrage of M79 white phosphorus grenades and the bushes take fire. They are burning alive. There is an abandoned house up in a hill and they try to use it as an observation post. The sniper shouts: ‘People inside the house 1800-2000m’. They are out of range for the recoilless rifles. Something needs to be done. The sniper fires two shots. A 90 mm recoilless rifle crew takes position. The lieutenant instructs the shooter to hold the 90mm steady raising it 45 degrees above the usual fire position. Target beyond maximum range.
    Fire!!- The whole place shakes. ‘ALL DOWN’ the lieutenant’s voice is piercing. Suddenly a MG burst strikes the roof. Luckily no one is hurt. The sniper reports that the 90mm hit 200 meters from the house. The Turks are leaving it, they thought it was a mortar. Why don’t they use their tanks?
    The day passes with more wave attacks with the same results. During pauses commandos field***** the LMG’s and clean the gas regulators because they jam from continuous fire. Turkish yurusia are coming again again. But our calculated fire is lethal.You see 3 of our officers are members of the official shooting team of the Greek raiding forces and they have trained us superbly. My lieutenant’s motto is: ‘When you believe the bullet you fire, your fear takes a walk’.


    Its afternoon and UN forces arrive at the airport. Orders from Greek Cypriot command are CEASE FIRE. At least a battalion of Canadian soldiers armed and escorted by APC’S are coming to stop the battle and take control of the airport. Their commander, a lieutenant colonel ignores our commander and doesn’t talk to him as is the proper military protocol. He bypasses him giving him an ironic glance saying: What do Greek raiders do here? Furious from this remark a raider raises his FN fal and fires at him in point blank range. Miraculously the FAL jams and other raiders disarm him quickly. If the UN commander was killed like that we would be in tons of trouble. During negotiations our sniper reports suspicious activity. Our lieutenant observes with caution and sees that during the negotiations Turks are trying to advance this time with tanks. He orders me to radio back the Greek Cypriot command and they realize that they play games against us. The UN commander demands us to leave first and when the airport is empty UN troops are to enter. His sympathy to Turks is obvious. If we leave he will let the advancing Turks to take the airport. We won the battle, the place is full of Turkish corpses and yet the Turks must prevail as winners. Not to mention the fact that we have no cover if we leave. It’s a method commonly used as we found out later by the British forces that openly collaborated with the Turks despite serving under UN. But if the UN officially takes control as we demand can’t deliver it to the Turks.

    Luckily our sniper spots the Turks and warns us.’ Commandos listen up’ the voice of our lieutenant is dominant:’ Load and prepare’. A UN officer will come with a radio man. They must believe that if the Turks won’t retreat we will break the cease fire. Indeed a UN lieutenant with a radio operator equipped with a US made GRC radio are coming to the roof. The two lieutenants talk some time when our guy shouts ungry making gestures. The UN guy begs: please sir just a minute: Our officer is out of control or he is playing it real nice?’ Commandos ARM’. Other UN officers the same time are talking to Turks. Finally our officer shows his five fingers and says’ five minutes’.’ Ok Sir Ok Sir’ replies the UN guy and begins to talk to the radio. Finally an agreement is reached and Turks return to their original positions. Our replacement is taking place normally by UN. Man to man, platoon to platoon, company to company as all world armies do. We go last of the roof with the lieutenant who cheques constantly the area. We pass the corridor and I see the airport’s vault. Sir we must deliver the vault to the Cypriot command. ‘Listen patriotaki’ he says and write it down inside your brain: We came to fight Turks; we won’t pollute our hands with money. ‘Stay away’. I can’t forget his words. When we are about to leave I try to communicate with the others but it’s impossible; People talk in every frequency. But my Israeli made GRC has extra frequencies unreachable by the US made radios. Finally all radio operators turn to a pre-arranged frequency and we manage to coordinate our forces.

    We arrive in Nicosia and rest to an abandoned camp. The same night BBC reports that Greek Cypriots assisted by Greek metropolitan forces defended the airport inflicting heavy casualties to the Turks. Probably is a report by British journalist Philips who was present at the airport but was drawn away by our commander for his personal safety. Later I heard he was killed during a mission. Petty, he was a noble man. Our casualties are a master sergeant dead and a raider wounded. The master sergeant Photopoulos Athanasios was killed when he left his barricaded position and started walking towards the attacking waves firing his rifle from the hip full auto . Raider Andrulakis had his right arm amputated after receiving a round in the shoulder. The shot was fired by the Canadians from the UN controlled area and our people fired back.

    Turkish casualties are a question. Cypriots intercepted a signal to the Turkish commander at the airport. He was asked why he had so many casualties with no success. I remember that after two weeks Turks attacked again despite the cease fire but intercepted by UN troops

    Today almost 20 years later, often I recollect the events. My mind remembers my dead and wounded friends. They wrote history with their heroism. We did our duty. The rest is a job for historians.


    Some useful info:

    Greek officers on site claim that after the failure of the first wave Canadians informed the Turks about the exact strength of the defendants and they threw an entire regiment about 2000 soldiers at the airport the majority of which was wiped out. The good thing is that the official Turkish KIA’s for the entire operation in Cyprus is 1285!!! Nicosia airport was never used again since 1974.

  15. on 19 Aug 2014 at 3:52 amSven Bolke

    Hi Ed,
    I just happend to look in this website again,the incident that I mentioned certainly did happen.The only reason no Canadians were hurt or vehicles were hit is that the Turkisch pilot dropped his load while flying much too high. I took Photo’s of this incident Which ended up in the AB HQ & Sigs training office archives.

  16. on 24 Aug 2014 at 5:49 pmJarkko Jalkanen

    Hi Sven

    I was in Kykko Camp that time and can witness several napalm droppings by the turkish fighters. Canadians took our company of newcomers to RAF area, heavy fighting came closer and too many wounded guys and poor shelters was the reason.

  17. on 01 Sep 2014 at 2:02 pmRobert

    I notice a few misguided posts on here obviously written by Greek posters who were obviously not there but relying on the word of a (Journalist) and the local grapevine and gossip. Not one fact that proves that Canadians gave any information to the Turks.
    All Hear say, Bullshit and speculation.

    If it had not been for the Canadians then the Turks would have taken out Nicosia Airport and more than likely Nicosia within a day. Keep in mind they had almost 50 M48 battle tanks on the Kyrenia Plains not far from the Airport. Once the Turks had the Airport then they could have brought in all their equipment and troops by air instead of by sea. The Greeks knew they could not hold the airport so surrendered it to the UN in order to deprive the Turks of a tactical advantage.
    I salute these brave Greek soldiers who put up one fierce battle against overwhelming odds but with all due respect they could not hold out indefinitely due to lack of supplies and ammunition.

    One writer even mentioned that Canadians gave the Turks the azimuth for the mortars. This person obviously has no clue on how to use a mortar. Nicosia Airport Terminal was / is a fairly large structure and could be seen for miles and certainly from the Turkish Mortar pit and Turkish spotters on the ground.
    A round is fired and the spotter pinpoints the impact spot.
    An adjustment is made and the mortar is then walked up onto the target by subsequent rounds and then fired for effect on said target. The exact spot of the Terminal was not a secret as it was on every map that both sides had.

    Fact is that two Canadians were killed by Greek soldiers. Gilbert Perron. Shot in the back twice.
    Claude Berger shot in the back of the head by Greek soldiers.

    I just wonder if these Greek posters ever think what would have happened if the Canadians and UN had not been in Nicosia during the 1974 war. I dare say the Turks would have overthrown the Island and there would have been hell to pay for the Cypriot population.

  18. on 15 Nov 2014 at 8:35 pmGeorge

    Hello, I have studied the Cyprus invasion in depth. The Canadian forces were small in number and had very few anti tank weapons. The Cyprus national guard did take out a few Turkish tanks and held out alone without U.N. help. There were also some forces from Greece which landed after the Turkish invasion, at the airport which gave further support to the growing Turkish investment in the airport attack. Greek mainland troops which landed were enough to keep the turks out completely. I don’t know how anyone can say that the U.N. had held the airport between the 20th and 23rd of July 1974 since that simply was not the case. The Greek Cypriot forces and Greek mainland forces had held the airport alone , despite the U.N. presence. Only when the Greek forces came to an agreement with the U.N. was the airport handed over to the Canadian contingent, which I believe happened on the 23rd or 24th of July, but not before then. The historical accounts earlier in the thread are largely the truth and were from people who were there. You cannot tell the Greek forces which were there, defending the airport what happened, even if you do not like what they have to say.

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