By Jim Fury ex-Highland Light Infantry ….
I served with the 1st Battalion of the Highland Light Infantry in Cyprus 1956-57.
The regiment were warned for service in Cyprus in January 1956 and that we would be moving to Cyprus. The Advance Party went out on 15th January 1956, we went out on the 25th January. I remember it well. I was excited knowing I was going somewhere that I had only seen on a map.
We flew from Blackbushe in old planes that seemed to be stuck together with chewing gum. The noise inside the plane was very loud. I remember the Electric Storms when coming into Cyprus, which were frightening to say the least.
After landing we went to Golden Sands, Famagusta, sleeping in bivouacs. After that each company moved to different places in Cyprus. I was in B/company, and moved to Komi-Kebir (now called Buyukkonuk), then to Dhavlos (which is now called Kaplica). We lived in bivouacs and had a lot of duties, first of all digging trenches to be used as latrines. That was something to say the least, going to the toilet you had to keep looking about as the big beetles used to nose dive into the latrines, ha,ha, I can laugh at it now.
We were always out on patrol up and down the Panhandle also known as the Karpaz Peninsula looking for “EOKA” terrorists, I remember going on board the HMS Defender and getting dropped off at somewhere on the Island and also going up into the mountains searching for “EOKA”, as usual we never found anyone. We also had our good times there. We would go swimming, however, we did to have a guard watching us all the time in case we got caught by the “EOKA”.
We also did guard duties at Government House, which I did not like, as we had to wear number one dress, which was unbearable in the heat. I cannot remember the exact date, but one of the servants put a bomb under the bed of the Governor whilst they were having dinner. It was supposed to go off when he retired to bed that night. However, luckily for him, he went to bed later than usual. The bomb went off at the arranged time and culprit got caught.
We had a few casualties in our battalion during 1956. A/company were playing football at an Inter-platoon game, at the village of Lefkoniko (now known as Geçitkale). After the game the lads ran down for a drink of water at the fountain. Sadly, as they got there a bomb was detonated, one of our lads was killed outright, another 3 were injured and moved to the British Military Hospital in Nicosia. Unfortunately, one of the other three lads died as well.
On 28th October the Battalion, was placed on 72 hours notice for Egypt. We were glad it was cancelled.
The Battalion was kept busy for the rest of the year looking for EOKA, along with all the rest of the other regiments and Corps who were there. We even had the French Foreign Legion camped next to us. They were a mad lot, they would shoot anybody walking about after curfew. I met a few when I was in the British Military Hospital in Nicosia, one chap was in the next bed to me. He had his right leg blown off, so I used to wheel him about. I never knew what he was saying, ha,ha, but somehow we got through understanding each other.
I ended up in the British Military Hospital with a gunshot wound. B/coy was patrolling the Panhandle, when my NCO, who was in front of me, tripped and his Sten Gun went off, ouch! I got shot through the chest, the bullet went right through my chest and came out under my collar bone. It missed my heart by a thread so, as they say, I was very lucky, but with the heat the wound would not heal. Would you believe it was a day before my Birthday, some present to take home with me but I cannot complain, I will be 82 years of age on the 6th October, I was one of the lucky ones.
I was sent back to Blighty in November 1956, with a few other army lads, we all still had our pyjamas on, with a blanket around our shoulders. I ended up in the British Military Hospital, Tidworth, and stayed there for 6 weeks. I was then sent up to Glasgow Cowglen Hospital for 3 weeks before arriving at Maryhill Barracks Glasgow awaiting my Demob.
I really enjoyed my National Service and miss all the lads that I got called up with. I will never forget my time in Cyprus.
Obviously, myself and many others have more to tell. Some good and some not so good.
Unfortunately Jim lost his “Soldier Box” which was in his Bivouac back at camp when he was sent back to the British Military Hospital in Tidworth, England, in fact so was all of his Kit. He did have some photos which had been sent to him by mates which we have included above.
Jim came to the Kyrenia Remembrance service in 2016 and has also sent some photos of this visit, when he laid a wreath at the memorial in memory of those Highland Light Infantry lads who lost their lives in Cyprus.