By Richard Chamberlain …
I was only 18 years old when I arrived in Cyprus on 28th May 1954 and landed at the old Nicosia International Airport. There were about 100 soldiers on the old propeller aircraft. On the way to Cyprus we had to land at Valletta in Malta to refuel. The planes in those days could not make it to Cyprus without refuelling on the way. All the soldiers had to take their boots off before getting on the plane so as not to damage the carpet with their hobnail boots. We had to sit with our boots on our lap!
When we arrived at Nicosia Airport, there were army lorries to take us to Ayios Nicholias (4 mile point) just outside Famagusta. I was a wireless operator in the Royal Signals Regiment and was billeted with all the other wireless operators.
As soon as I arrived, the Sergeant in Charge told me to get ready to march in the Queen’s Birthday Parade which was in about a week’s time. In the next few days I was marching up and down the parade square with the other soldiers. After about 3 days, the Sergeant in Charge told me I had not had enough practice at marching like the other troops so I could have the day off. I was pleased because I could go down to Famagusta Town (near Maraş) to photograph the Queen’s Birthday Parade with the camera I had taken with me
After the parade I went round the old town photographing almost everything I could see. It was all so different to me being in this lovely country away from the small town where I lived in England. I could not believe my luck being sent to this magical island! After that day in June 1954 every time I went anywhere I took my little film camera with me to capture as much of the way of life of this beautiful island and the Cypriot people as I could.
The army had a photographic “dark room” in the town of Famagusta so in the evening I used to go and develop the film I had taken to see what the photos I had taken during the day were like. Then I used to print them. Readers of this have to realise that there were no digital cameras then, only film cameras.
I took many photos but the one I am most pleased with is the one taken on the old Famagusta city wall of an old cannon and the historic city of Famagusta. I used this photo for the cover of my book of photos of Cyprus which I have published.
When I returned to England after my 2 years army service had been completed, I put the photos and negatives away because I didn’t think they were of much interest at that time. More recently, as Cyprus is more in the news, I have put all the photos together and published them in a book entitled “Cyprus Scenes and Way of Life in 1954”. It has proved to be very popular now that the photos are like modern history and show how things used to be in Cyprus 63 years ago. I have sold and given away about 1,000 books up until now and have just had another 1,000 books printed. They are available in black/white at 40TL and colour at 70TL and can be purchased from The Round Tower, Best Seller Bookshops in Karakum and Alsancak, or by telephoning me on 0533 859 7663.
When I returned to England I resumed as an apprentice in the printing industry for another 3 years. I also continued with my love of photography. I have re-visited Cyprus many times, still taking photographs of this lovely island. Finally, I have moved to live here.
I have now tried to visit all the places I photographed in 1954/55 and taken the photos again showing the differences, if there are any. I have now published another book with some of the 63 year old photos alongside the photos taken more recently. Sometimes there is a big difference and sometimes there is hardly any change at all. This book is also available from The Round Tower, Best Seller Bookshops and by telephoning me.
I am now 82 years old and love living in Cyprus. I don’t want to live anywhere else. I still have my lovely old camera with which I took all the black and white photographs of Cyprus and now of course modern digital cameras.
When I pass on, I will request that my old camera, plus film, be buried with me in case there is anything to photograph in the next world!!