September 22, 2023


By Sermen Erdogan …

Hasan Hilmi Dağlı was born 19th January 1919 and was from the village of Çatoz in Famagusta. He graduated from Lyceum and was a very smart and intelligent young man. Although his family was well to do, like other young Cypriots, he joined up for WWII with the British Army.

Hasan could speak several languages and  as he was a high school graduate he became a Sergeant and a Military Policeman  for the Cyprus Regiment. His story was related to me  by his son Hüseyin Dağlı.

He was trained like all the volunteers in Cyprus and then sent to war in Greece in the final parts of WWII. He fell prisoner to the Germans and was taken to a German POW camp.  He was tortured in the German Camp. In one of the torture sessions his head was put in a vice and tightened until his skull was cracked by the German torturers. As a result of this injury Hasan suffered for many years from intense headaches that were unbearable. He was sent to an expert on brain injuries – Dr. Miggellis who looked after him. After a while the Doctor and Hasan became very good friends and they remained friends for the rest of their lives. More on this friendship later on.

The Germans were transferring the POWs around Germany depending on the war and Hasan and his Cypriot mates were put on a bus to be sent to another camp near the Swiss border. Hasan discovered that the back door of the bus was accessible to them and one by one Hasan helped his mates to jump off the bus and escape during the journey. However, they did not know where they were in Germany. With the little German they knew they found their way into Switzerland.

As Switzerland did not take part in the war Hasan and his friends found a safe haven. Not just that but the Swiss were welcoming and the girls were beautiful. So, Hasan fell in love and married a girl and a son was born to him and his Swiss wife within a year. However, his longing of returning home to Cyprus was overwhelming. He and some of his Cypriot mates took off and found their way to Italy, Yugoslavia and finally into Greece. Greece was fighting guerrilla warfare with the Germans at the time. Somehow he obtained false papers and changed his identity and name to Yannis Kazancis. He survived as a Greek and was looked after by the Greek villagers. As he spoke the Cypriot Greek language he got by very well and also learned to speak the Greek language as well.

Once the Commonwealth Army and the guerrilla movement succeeded in pushing the Germans out of Greece he handed himself to the British Army and told his story and how he had escaped  from the Germans. Hasan and his mates were promptly taken to England and rewarded with medals for their efforts and bravery.

After the war Hasan Dağlı returned to Cyprus. According to his son telling the story, Hasan Dağlı was given another assignment by the army to go to Egypt as part of the British Army but due to his head injury and the headaches he was suffering, he refused and resigned from the British Army in 1946.

Once in Cyprus he pursued treatment and met Dr Miggelis at a Mental Hospital or Asylum for Mentally Disturbed. Hüseyin says his father was acting sometimes like a crazy man not knowing what he was doing due to the skull injury so he voluntarily stayed at the Hospital.

Under the treatment of the good doctor, Hasan was recovering and Dr Miggelis liked him so much he trained Hasan as an assistant who could give injections to other patients in the Mental Hospital or Institution.

Hasan from time to time would massage his head. He could feel a little lumpy growth which, over time, he extracted from the top of his head. It looked like a piece of cartilage that he took to Dr Miggelis. The doctor said that this was the skull’s production of cartilage of the skull  healing itself and that Hasan was very lucky indeed that this growth was towards the outside of the brain rather than under and towards his brain. Hasan recovered fully after that episode.

Hasan got married to a young girl in Lefka and started a family. By 1955 he had eight children and needed a good steady income. He was lucky and an opportunity arose. Dr. Miggelis informed Hasan that there were jobs offered by the British Government as Customs Officers and that he was well enough and qualified enough to apply for one of these jobs, as he was a returned war veteran. Hasan applied  and got a position at Larnaca Harbour as a customs officer.  He moved his family to Larnaca. He rented a house on the seafront close to the harbour of Larnaca. As a 4-year-old  Hüseyin remembers their house very well in Larnaca. He remembers an occasion that stuck in his mind and is one of his first memories.

One day his father returned from work with a young man in tow that looked exactly like his father except for the green eyes. They sat down around the dinner table and Hasan introduced the young man as his son from Switzerland. Evidently the young man became a ship’s Captain and specifically volunteered for one of the trips to bring goods on a ship to Cyprus to find his father. Hüseyin continued telling this story and what his older siblings told him.

Evidently the Swiss brother landed at the harbour and asked the first Cypriot person  he sighted at the port, who was a Customs Officer, if  he knew  Hasan Hilmi Halil  Dağlı. You can guess who the Customs Officer was incidentally.

This photo was provided by the Swiss son of Hasan Hilmi Halil Dağlı when he found his father.  It depicts Hasan in MP uniform in WWII

But Hasan did not tell the young Swiss man he was his father straight away until he took him to his family and introduced him. Everyone was shocked, including the Swiss son, as well as Hüseyin’s mother. The young captain sent parcels of food and goods for his father’s family for the duration he was at Larnaca harbour and then left, never to return ever again. However, as the Dağlı family had to move to Lefka in 1964 as the result of the war in Cyprus, Hüseyin thinks even if his Swiss half-brother returned it would have been very hard for him to find them in Lefka.

Hüseyin continues on that once in Lefka his father continued his job as a Customs Officer at Xeros Harbour which was a small port used for exporting minerals from mines of Karadağ and Polis. However, he also joined the Cypriot Turkish Army  in protecting the enclave of Lefka from the Cypriot Greek attacks and harassment in 1963. He was a high-ranking officer in the  army, however, he had to remain under cover as he was still working for the Republic of Cyprus.

Hasan Hilmi Halil Dağl RIP

Hüseyin remembers the 1974 war  in Cyprus as a young man and the annihilation of Lefka by the Greek soldiers. People were killed walking down the street and his father, as one of group of officers in the army, had to give up and hand themselves to a much superior Greek Cypriot army. It was not a good situation as a lot of the public and the Turkish Cypriots were taken as prisoners of war  Later the women and the children were released but not the men.

However, to the surprise of Hasan Dağlı’s family he returned after a day of imprisonment to his home and family. Everyone was surprised. Hasan explained to his family that he put on an act of a crazy man as he discovered that Dr. Miggelis was present in one of the interviews he was taken to. Of course Dr Miggelis was a friend and straight away recognised Hasan and vouched that he was mentally disturbed and should be released straight away. Of course that was far from the truth.

Hasan Hilmi Halil Dağlı passed away on 12th April 1991 and he  is buried at Lefka cemetery in Cyprus

2 thoughts on “Story of Hasan Hilmi Halil Dağlı, told by his son Hüseyin Dağlı

    1. Thanks Ismail Veli for your interest. I am gathering the untold stories of Cypriots in World Wars for a book and have several like this one. I am interested to find out if you know any Ismail.

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