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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave

Thursday, 4 November 2021

Cyprus 1974 remembered

 On 20 July 1974, the Turkish armed forces landed at Pentemilli (Five Mile Beach) near the village of Karanoglanoglu, as it is called today, after the colonel of the 50 Infantry Regiment who died there. The beachhead was secured, and the Turkish forces just about held off counterattacks from the Greek National Guard before being reinforced. 

This is landing beach today. The first thing that strikes the visitor is how small it is.

Inland, Turkish militia held the strategic Kyrenia Pass and territory towards Nicosia known as the Turkish Triangle. They were reinforced by Turkish airborne forces brought in by parachutes and helicopters. Lacking heavy weapons, they also struggled against Greek counterattacks until they were reinforced by armour coming off the beachhead. Both incursions relied heavily on Turkish air superiority. After a short truce broke down, the second phase of the operation resulted in Turkish forces reaching their objectives along the line that divides the island to this day. 

The best book on the operation is by Ed Erickson and Mesut Uyar, Phase Line Attila. For an excellent analysis of the amphibious operation, I recommend Güvenç, S & Uyar, M, On Contested Shores: Chapter 17: Against All Odds: Turkish Amphibious Operation in Cyprus, 20-23 July 1974 (Marine Corps University Press, 2020). Both are available as free downloads.  

The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) remembers 1974 in a series of memorials and museums. I visited a number of them during my trip to Cyprus. The starting point should be the Peace and Liberty Museum at Karanoglanoglu. The usual Cyprus health warning, do not expect objectivity in Turkish or Greek museums on this subject!

The small indoor museum was closed, but there is an outdoor section with an excellent collection of Greek National Guard armour, captured or knocked out during the fighting.

The T34/85 was the main tank deployed by the Greek National Guard.

3 Ton Gaz-63 trucks. Some carried the 106mm RCL.

British 25pdr field gun

Not quite sure what this is, but I suspect it is a TS APC used by the Assault Company of 21 EAN.  They were initially bought to transport the SA-2 SAM. Otherwise, it is an improvised AFV.

These are labelled as Dingos. But I think they are Marmon Herrington Mk IVF armoured cars.

BTR-152VI APC. The primary National Guard carrier.

Above the beach, there is a Turkish Navy landing craft. I assume it has been renumbered for the memorial.


The Karaoglanoglu Martyrs Memorial includes the monumental tombs of 8 officers, 5 sergeants and 58 soldiers who died here in 1974. The column behind symbolises the Turkish and Turkish Cypriot soldiers, with the gap in between symbolising a window to the Fatherland (Turkey).


In the mountains above the coast near St Hilarion Castle, there is a monument to Turkish and Cypriot soldiers who died fighting near there.


The Kyrenia Pass today is a modern dual carriageway, but in 1974 it was a narrow road. The battle for the pass is symbolised by this memorial.


The 287 Turkish and 26 TMT troops who died in battles in the Turkish Triangle north of Nicosia are commemorated in a huge memorial at Bogaz Sehitligi.




In Lefkosa (North Nicosia), there is the Turkish National Struggle Museum (Milli Mucadele Muzesi). This reflects the intercommunal violence before 1974 with a predictable focus on Greek atrocities. There are graphic photographs, artwork, newspaper reports, and a collection of weapons.




Outside the museum, there is a collection of TMT improvised AFVs and heavy weapons.






The Greek National Struggle Museum in Lefkosia (South Nicosia) has very little about 1974. Instead, it focuses on the resistance to British rule that led to independence in 1960. Predictably, this has a very different take on the island's history. This information board summarises their case.


Perhaps the most effective visual in the museum is on the top floor. I assume the photos are of those sentenced to hang by the British, although most were commuted and nine were hanged between May 1956 and March 1957. Their graves are inside the central prison, known as the imprisoned graves.


The city maps do refer to the National Guard Commando Museum, but that is now a shop. I understand that there are plans to open a new National Guard Museum, and the exhibits are in store. This means that the remembrance of 1974 is more than a little one-sided, but they do say that history is written by the winners.

If you are in any doubt that you have entered a different country when crossing the border, this TRNC flag on the mountains is the size of six football pitches!



7 comments:

  1. We,3RRF, were sent to Cyprus after the Turkish invasion to protect British bases. It was uneventful from our point of view. I did see Turkish jets bombing Famagusta and we fed refugees in Athna forest.
    Luckily, I was at Dhekelia base while most of our battalion was out in the field dug in. The beach wasn't great but we enjoyed our time in Cyprus.

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    1. Thanks for sharing that. I have read a couple of memoirs, and some of your colleagues got caught in the crossfire. There is also a TV news clip on YouTube of British troops being fired on.I drove through the Akrotiri base area. It was very strange to see British house styles and road names in the garrison village!

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  2. Lovely pictures. Thanks for sharing them. 😀👍

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  3. Thank you for your account of a really intriguing and little known operation, and especially the references to the two USMC documents.

    The two trucks labelled by the museum as Gaz-63s don't look much like any of the photos of Gaz-63s that I have seen - might they be something else ?

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    1. Anything by Erickson on Turkey is worth a read. On the Gaz-63s they could be wrong. They got the armoured cars wrong, so you do wonder about other labels. They do look similar, but it is difficult to tell because of the damage. The Greek National Guard certainly had 100 Gaz-63 trucks delivered, so, unlike the Dingos, I assumed that this was right.

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  4. Fantastic pictures- must have been a great trip.

    Cheers,

    Pete.

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