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The Cyprus Emergency 1955-59

In 1955 some 80% of the Cypriot population were of Greek origin and the remainder were largely Turkish. The island had been leased by Britain from Turkey in 1878 and then become a British colony in 1923.

The Greek Cypriots wanted to be united with Greece, a concept called Enosis. But the Turkish minority feared for their own position should this happen. After 1945 the demand for Enosis grew, spearheaded by Archbishop Makarios. George Grivas, a Greek Army colonel formed EOKA, a terrorist group to force ENOSIS. It used strikes and riots in towns, and ambushes on government posts and security forces to achieve its aim. Up to 25,000 British troops were involved in Cyprus at the height of the emergency.

The 1st Battalion in Cyprus 1955-6

The Battalion arrived in Cyprus in November 1955 as part of the first re-inforcements on the island. There were constant patrols, guard duties at vulnerable sites, road-blocks and curfew enforcement. As well as constant vigilance, the work required good communications and self-reliance, because most of it was done by small parties of men.

Sadly, the largest loss of life was caused by a forest fire during a military operation which took place in June 1956. 21 men were killed, five of them from the Royal Norfolk Regiment.

The British, Greeks and Turks agreed to a peace formula in 1959. The Cypriots, Greeks and Turks would govern themselves and the British would keep a small sovereign area on the island as a base to fulfil her treaty obligations. This formal peace agreement has not stopped sporadic violence between Greeks and Turks.

Cyprus was formerly a British colony until 1960 when it became an independent republic and a member of the Commonwealth in 1961. In 1974, following years of violence between the ethnic Greeks and Turks, there was an attempted coupe d’état by Greek Cypriot nationalists, of whose aim was to annexe the island to Greece. Following the invasion by Turkey in 1974 to one third of the island and the displacement of thousands of Cypriots, there continue to be tensions. The Republic of Cyprus is now an advanced economy and has been a member of the European Union since 1st May 2004. In January 2008 it adopted the euro.

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