Friday, July 23, 2004

History Friday: One I was there for.

Although this did not happen today and therefore isn't a Friday "History Friday" thing, I'm going to exercise historic license as I was actually there for this one:

BBC ON THIS DAY  July 20 1974: Turkey invades Cyprus: Thousands of Turkish troops have invaded northern Cyprus after last-minute talks in the Greek capital, Athens, failed to reach a solution."

On July 20th 1974 I was one day shy of being 13 months old. My dad was 26 and a Royal Air Force engineer with a squadron of Lightning fighter-jets; my mother was 20 and living overseas for the first time. Dad was based at RAF Akrotiri and we lived down in the civilian town in a rented house when the Turks invaded. Although not involved in the fighting, the British air base of course went on full alert and my dad spent his days keeping the Lightnings ready to respond to any threat (the British presence on Cyprus, which continues to this day, may have seem like a colonial hangover until one realizes its close proximity to flashpoints in the mid-east). He slept under a ping pong table in the rec room and was not to see my mother or me for almost a year.

As for mum and me, I'm told that we cowered down below the window line of our house, keeping out of sight of the factional fighting while we waited for evacuation. Our mail slot was taped shut to prevent grenades being rolled into the house. The Army was eventually able to rescue the military families from the chaos raging in the streets; I think our saviours were from the Royal Scots, but I'm sure a relative will correct me if I'm wrong. After all, I have no memories of my own of this, just being a wee baby at the time...

We were housed with several other families until the evacuation flights could arrive. My mum, just out of her teens and with an irraciable baby in her arms, was shunted from pillar to post friendless and alone until a place was found on a plane for us. Somehow we had become mixed up with the Army families, and the animosity between the British service branches was almost as strong as that between the Greeks and Turks. Finally, we made it onboard a trooper, and clutching my yellow teddy bear I apparently snoozed the whole way to England.

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