Cyprus remembered by Bill (Chalky) White
Introduction by Margaret Sheard …..
I love the stories of British national servicemen who served in Cyprus way back in the 1950s and 1960s and was so pleased to hear from another Cyprus veteran of the Welch Regiment who has shared his memories with us.
My Cyprus memories
By Bill (Chalky) White …..
I was sent to Cyprus to do my UK National Service and was there from August 1956 until December 1958 with the Welch Regiment and was attached to the M/T Section. We were an advance party for the battalion and so we flew from Gatwick, via Nice, Malta to Nicosia Airport, whilst much later the rest of the Battalion came over by sea. I originally joined up for National Service and after my service in Cyprus I decided to become a regular and signed on in Germany and was finally demobbed in 1962.
In Cyprus I did part of my service at Aberdeen Camp, Xeros, Lefka and here are a few memories of that time.
When I was at Xeros camp (Aberdeen camp) I was a driver in the M.T section and to relieve the boredom of playing cards, I used to volunteer for patrol duty. On a lovely spring day we were out in the wooded area around Lefka village, when we spotted a bloke running away from the patrol, so as it seemed a bit suspicious we gave chase with all six of us running after him, needless to say he got away. On the way back to the lorry one of the lads called us over to a gate, and on looking down we spotted a large snake shedding its skin, we must have been so fascinated that we forgot all about radioing back to base and the base commander started calling us all the idiots under the sun. The wild life was, and still is, amazing in Cyprus.
We were issued with tins of self heating soup, and you had to puncture the top, if you did not the tin would explode showering all and sundry with scalding hot oxtail soup. Well if we got bored you would find one of these tins of soup rolling down the floor of the NAAFI, great fun. On one occasion we threw an empty tin into the boss’s tent, just to see how fast he could move. Needless to say we all suffered for that little prank, Halcyon days indeed.
I also spent 7 months at Dhavlos (Kaplica) which I thought was a lovely part of the island.
As a 3 ton lorry driver I perfected my driving skills over the mountain roads which was pretty hair-raising but at 18 years of age who cared!
There were a few incidents during my time in Cyprus and these I am sharing below. For instance – who remembers a 3 tonner going over the side of the road with a cargo of 2nd battalion paratroopers, the only time they jumped without a parachute, the driver was Chalky White from Cardiff, (which was mef!).
This happened because one of those ”flying mantis insects” hit me in the eye and, for a moment, I lost control of the vehicle. The paratroopers bailed out of the rear side front top. of the 3 tonner and I was put on a charge for failing to avoid a foreign object – 7 days guard duty and no NAAFI nights..
Our Sergeant (God bless him) was Black Evans (his nickname), once heard never forgotten, his reason for the said charge was that I should have had the front screen up and closed. Looking back in hindsight he was of course correct, but all in all a memorable time we all had as squaddies.
I remember a time coming over the mountain road from Komi Kebir (now Buyukkonuk) to Dhavlos (now Kaplica). I was driving the last lorry loaded with petrol cans, there was no guard on board (we were short of men at the time), on the first bend there was a water outlet pipe from the hills on the side of the road, where we used to stop and fill up our water cans.. We used to have a bet who was last back at Dhavlos was the loser and had to get the beers in that night in the NAAFI.
Racing away the lads left me before I could start up the 3 tonner and when I got it going I tried to catch up with them but the lorry was playing up back-firing and spluttering, and finally it stopped altogether. By this time the convoy was a few miles away, still thinking I was following. By this time the battery on the 3 tonner had gone flat so I abandoned it and I started to walk hoping that one of the gang would realise that I was not with them. I passed a few shepherds on the way and they started shouting and making a noise, so I knew that around somewhere were a few of the EOKA lads.
I walked back towards the 3 tonner and as I got back, coming up the road was a Land Rover with an officer and 2 other ranks, leaving one of the ranks with me, they went to arrange a tow truck to retrieve my vehicle. So after all this I arrived last at the camp and I still had to get the beers in that night .
Maybe it doesn’t sound exciting now, but it did get the old heart racing a bit at the time.
I went back to North Cyprus about 2 years ago and went to Dhavlos to have a look around. On the headland to the right as you come from the old road near the sea there are some old caves and whilst I was stationed there back in the mist of time, I carved my name and the name of my girl friend (who is now my wife) in the rock. Blow me down it was still as clear as when I carved it with my bayonet all those years ago. My wife and I were married in 1963 a year after I was demobbed.
After leaving the Army I started work in the GPO engineering department, in the garage, then went sub contracting with the telephone side of the business working self employed, up until I was 71 then finally packed it in and went touring on the cruise ships
Bill and his wife love ballroom dancing so now he has retired they have an opportunity to go away for dance weekend breaks. Bill has said he would love to come back to Cyprus again and we hope he will, when we can spend some time with him visiting his old camp areas and sharing his memories.
We will also have a look for Bill’s carving in the cave wall at Dhavlos (Kaplica) when we are next in the area.