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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
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Wednesday 20 October 2021

Armour on Cyprus

 I managed to get hold of a Greek publication, 'Armour in Cyprus' by Ioannis Mamounidakis, for my Cyprus 1974 project. This is the must-read book on the Greek Cypriot National Guard's armoured units (DIT). I had to get my copy from Greece, which is not cheap, but you get an Osprey style publication, profusely illustrated with orbats, maps, and colour plates for your money. 

However, a brief health warning. This is not an objective history of the conflict, a common problem with this conflict. It is written entirely from a Greek Cypriot perspective. For example, the Greek EOKA militia was part of a 'national liberation struggle', while the equivalent Turkish Cypriot militia, the TMT, was a 'terrorist group'. This means the text has to be treated cautiously, but that doesn't detract unduly from the book's usefulness for my purposes.

When the National Guard was established, it acquired a wide variety of improvised armoured vehicles. These reminded me of the Croatian vehicles produced in the 1990s and included converted trucks and a WW2 Valentine tank. In 1964 they acquired significant numbers of Marmon Herrington MkIVF armoured cars from Greek stocks. These were the WW2 (1942) vintage British armoured cars produced in South Africa and Canada. They had a two-pounder gun and a couple of machine guns. While obsolete by 1974, they remained the mainstay of the National Guard's armoured reconnaissance unit (21 EAN). Still effective when fighting lightly armed Turkish Cypriot militia, but of limited value against modern armoured units.

Unable to get modern armour, they purchased 32 T-34/85 tanks from the USSR. These were refurbished and supplied with ample spare parts and ammunition. The same deal brought 32 BTR-152V1 armoured personnel carriers. Together they equipped an armoured battalion (23 EMA) of two tank companies and an assault infantry company. The BTRs also equipped a mechanised battalion (286 MTP).

These three units constituted the armoured forces of the National Guard in 1974, although in practice, they were split up into smaller battle groups. This was partly because they played an important role in the coup that ousted President Makarios, which meant they were not focused on defending against a Turkish landing. 

The operations involving the armoured units are covered in some detail. Both the initial landing and the subsequent Turkish breakout. There is a great story about a captured Turkish M47 being used to knock out six Turkish M47s in the western sector near Skylloura village. It is undeniable that the Greeks captured an M47, as it can be seen today. However, the Turks contest the veracity of this story and Erickson (Phase Line Attila) is sceptical. 

The author reaches some conclusions about the handling of armour by both sides in 1974. He is critical of not upgrading the engines and radios on the National Guard armour and not purchasing a modern medium tank. He also argues that all armoured units should have attacked the beachhead landings, preferably at night, an argument reminiscent of the Rommel/Hitler differences in Normandy in 1944. His criticisms extend to the Turkish forces, which he argues showed no particular skills. Poor maintenance and supply added to cautious handling. The accuracy of artillery and air attacks was also poor.

Finally, the book covers the modernisation of National Guard armour after 1974. They now have modern MBTs, including the French AMX-30, M48A5 and Russian T80, as well as the BMP-3, Leonidas and VAB AFVs. In addition, the venerable Marmon Herrington's have been replaced by Cascavel armoured reconnaissance vehicles.

This book was the inspiration I needed to get the 20mm project underway. First up is a T34/85 and BTR152. I bought an Iraqi T34 from the Easy Model range as it had no markings. The National Guard left their tanks in the Russian Green and, in some cases, slapped mud on them as an improvised camouflage. However, the Iraqi camouflage was too professional, so I repainted the whole tank and weathered it. More BTR152 units used the improvised camouflage, but it looked a bit of a mess, so I stuck to the same paint job as the T34. The model is from the Butlers range. I have probably been overcautious with the weathering, but I like smart!

The Turkish M47 is also from the Butlers range, and the M113 is a repainted Easy Model. Most Turkish armour appears to have a plain, possibly Olive Drab finish. However, some in this book had a two-tone camouflage, which looks better, so I have gone for that. I used the Battlefront US spray paint I picked up at Falkirk as the base colour, which seems too light and brown. Certainly compared to the colour plate in the Osprey Vanguard. 

 More armour, guns and infantry to do, but at least it's a start. I am off to Cyprus next week, so the museums may help with more colour photos. But, of course, I am bound to be distracted by Crusader Cyprus!



  1. Interesting little project there. I look forward to seeing more of it.

    Enjoy your holiday.



    1. That's a bit different...fascinating stuff

    2. The wargamers eternal search. History is endless!