Introduction by Margaret Sheard …
Many readers will be aware of my liking for helping to write the memories of British veterans who served in Cyprus. This one is a bit different as John Davies would love to meet up again with Androulla, who was a child during the time of his military service in Cyprus 1973/74 and would now be in her mid-40’s.
This is John’s story.
Where is Androulla now?
I arrived in Cyprus in December 1973 and was attached to 9 Signals Unit at Ayios Nikolaos.
I was with the Royal Engineers, and together with a Warrant Officer – Royal Signals and Lt. Colonel – Royal Army Ordnance Corps we had a team of 18 Greek Cypriot labourers who delivered and collected boxes of the belongings of personnel in respect of postings in and out. They also towed a water bowser around the hirings, topping up water tanks during shortages. The labourers were responsible for keeping the camp tidy and did a bit of gardening, under the supervision of myself and the Warrant Officer. A very easy job for us! That was until the 15th July 1974.
I had been allocated a hiring in Varosha, this was a bungalow at 10 Romis Street, and our presence reassured the local population. Across the road from us in 2 small concrete houses lived 2 Greek Cypriot families. In one of these houses lived Androulla, who was around 4 or 5 years old. My son was then nearly 3 years old and she would come over most days to play with and look after him in our garden.
I was based at Lion House at the bottom of Dhimokratias, between Akteou and Phalirou, there was me, a Corporal, a Warrant Officer and a Lt. Colonel. Our responsibility was to control all hirings to British personnel plus other family orientated duties. One of the roles was to keep a register of names and numbers of people in the hirings in the event of evacuation.
At one point we sheltered in Lion House with a load of local women and kids, who were terrified, during a bombing run. Most of the guys were helping and giving food to neighbours and friends, even later, if they could find them in refugee camps. Even though the Greek Cypriot Eoka B constantly harassed and threatened us quite a lot, there were a couple of incidents when the EOKA gunmen fired their weapons off in our direction.
On the 15th July 1974, which was the start of my leave, I was picked up and taken to Lion House, due to the dangerous situation of the coup which was taking place. EOKA then instigated a curfew. When the Turkish Army landed on the 20th July, we were ordered to start evacuating families. During this time considerable firing was taking place around our area.
My wife and son left on the first evacuation. I said they were not going back to the bungalow when it was suggested by the powers that be. They were flown out to Brize Norton on a Military Hercules with other wives and children. The whole situation was terrifying for them too with lots of shooting and the bombing.
On the 2nd August some families returned, which reassured the local population. On the 14th August, we were ordered to evacuate those families for a second time, as the Turkish Army was heading towards Famagusta.
On the 15th August, I went back to our bungalow in Romis Street, to pack up our belongings. Androulla was outside her home with her parents, they were all looking confused. I took over the tricycle she used to play on and gave her parents all the food and Army rations from our house. Androulla’s father had a large tipper type vehicle and I told him to pack everything onto it and get out of Famagusta. As they didn’t speak English, I never knew if they understood what I was telling them.
I went back to our bungalow several times after the local population had left on the 16th August. I was still in Lion House when the Turkish Army moved in, which is another story, and finally we were pulled out in early September 1974.
I would love to make contact with Androulla again, she could be anywhere, so I am hoping that through this worldwide website maybe she might possibly see this article and maybe recognise herself as a child in Famagusta. So if you do read this Androulla please make contact with me through cyprusscene.com.