SETTING THE EXAMPLE
THE UNITED KINGDOM POLICE UNIT IN CYPRUS (1955-1960)
REPORTAGE of the Eoka conflict in Cyprus rarely mentions how British Forces were supplemented by a contingent of British 'Bobbies' - both men and women - more used to dealing with road accidents and petty crime than an armed insurgency. RICHARD COWLEY of Medal News and DAVID CARTER recount the Unit's role.
LARGE anti-British riots took place in March 1955, during the court hearings into a ship caught smuggling arms to Cyprus. They were the prelude to a terrorist campaign, which was to last almost five years. Launched on 1 April 1955, it was led by Colonel George Grivas, an officer of the Greek Army, although born a Cypriot in 1898, and Archbishop Makarios.
Because the local Cypriot Police represented the colonial authority, it became an early target. Police stations were bombed and individual officers intimidated by threats of execution if they did not express sympathy for Eoka's aim - enosis, the union of Cyprus and Greece.
As the violence escalated, Britain's newly elected Conservative government tried to reach agreement with the leaders of Cyprus, Turkey and Greece about the Island's future, but failed.
The British answer was to send more troops to the island with Field Marshal Sir John Harding as Governor.
Increasing violence, however, especially after the bombing of the British Institute in Nicosia, and riots following the trial of a man accused of murdering a Cypriot policeman, made the Governor declare a State of Emergency on 26 November 1955.
His Excellency said: 'Public security must come first; and all peoples who aspire to it, as I am sure all responsible citizens of Cyprus do, must provide themselves with a strong, highly disciplined, well trained and properly equipped police force. Through no fault of its own, the Cyprus Police Force has not yet developed up to the standard required to provide the degree of security needed in a modern civilised country such as Cyprus.'
('We must provide ourselves with a police force capable of being a fully effective instrument of public security. Until that has been done, no substantial or lasting progress can be made in other directions. That must, therefore, be the first charge on our revenues. Plans have been made accordingly and are being put into effect as a matter of urgency.')
FROM the start, the Greek Cypriot population supported enosis and, encouraged by Eoka, created civil disorder, pinning down troops, allowing the terrorist gangs to have a freehand elsewhere.
On one occasion, a large number of Cypriot schoolchildren rioted and threw themselves screaming, kicking and scratching at British troops, who were left powerless to strike back.
It became obvious to the British government that to deal with the problem, the civil force - meaning the police - had to be strengthened from outside the Island.
IT was also common knowledge that Eoka had infiltrated the Cyprus Police and the force could no longer be trusted to perform impartially. London decided to send out a contingent of British officers to form a special unit in the troubled Island.
It was called the United Kingdom Police Unit (UKU). Its purpose was to supplement the existing Cyprus Police, not act as a replacement. Integration was not expected to be a problem, as the local force was organised along the traditional lines of British forces everywhere.
The Commissioner was Mr G. N. Robbins. His senior officers were mainly British from former colonies, while the rank and file were recruited locally from both Greek and Turkish communities.
In late December, 150 British officers - all volunteers - were flown to Cyprus, together with several police dogs and their handlers.
The dogs were first 'in action'. Within days of arriving, they were sniffing out arms dumps in the Troodos Mountains.
DETECTIVE Chief Superintendent Thomas Lockley, of the Staffordshire County Constabulary, which had also supplied volunteers, was in charge of the Unit's first arrivals.
His officers' terms of agreement were simple: a two year-attachment, consisting of 21 months' service, followed by three months' home leave, but, in Cyprus, they moved up a rank. Thus, a PC became a Sergeant. A Sergeant became an Inspector and so on.
Their uniform was of the standard pattern of the colonial police: khaki shirts and shorts in summer, with black peaked caps, socks and epaulettes. Winter uniform was 'police blue' high-necked tunics and trousers.
IN the Island's towns, the officers were accommodated in hotels commandeered for the purpose. These were guarded 24 hours a day by armed units of the British Army and Turkish Cypriot policemen.
The day-to-day duties of the unit's uniformed officers consisted of mobile and foot patrols, alongside the existing Cyprus Police, in Nicosia, and attachments 'gaolers' in the Island's detention camps.
The police were fully armed at all times.
Besides the uniformed policemen, there were plainclothes officers of the Criminal Investigation Branch and Special Branch. They liased closely with the police departments of the British armed forces and conducted joint-operations against the 'common enemy'.
Later a Marine Section was formed, as well as Riot Squads, made up of Turkish Cypriot policemen under the command of UKU Inspectors.
UKU sergeants took charge of rural outposts stations, known as 'out stations'. British soldiers always guarded these.
Mobile patrols were conducted using Land Rovers, driven by a Cypriot, with local officers on board. Foot patrols also consisted of mixed groups.
There was also a Traffic Division. This ran blue Vauxhall cars, with Cyprus Police badges on their doors.
At first, some British officers regarded the unit as a holiday in the sun, but things were to change quickly.
ON 9 March 1956, Archbishop Makarios was forcibly detained by the British and exiled to the Seychelles. This so enraged the Greek Cypriots that the EOKA campaign was stepped up, and, within days, the UKU suffered its first casualty, soon followed by another.
Sergeant Gerald Rooney, aged 24, was shot dead on 14 March 1956 in Ledra Street at its junction with Hippocrates Street. A Turkish Cypriot policeman and a nearby civilian were both wounded.
Rooney was from the Kent County Constabulary and had been a constable stationed at Chatham. His body was flown home and he was buried with full honours.
THREE months later, on 21 June 1956, Eoka shot Sergeant Reginald Tipple, a Metropolitan Police constable, attached to the Pyla detention camp, in the head. He had gone shopping to buy his five year-old daughter a present from the market in Larnaca. He died within minutes on his way to hospital.
After Tipple's murder, Eoka stepped up its terrorist activity and the UKU increased its number to 200.
ON 31 August, during the hot summer of 1956, the unit suffered another fatality, in the so-called 'Battle of Nicosia Hospital'.
The security forces had taken Polykarpos Yorgadjis, a known Eoka member, to Nicosia General Hospital for an X-ray. While there, four of his gang members tried to rescue him in spite of the two UK Police Unit guards.
(Yorgadjis was one of Eoka's most fanatatical terrorists. After the independence of Cyprus in 1960, Makarios made him Minister of the Interior. When he gained control of the republic's security forces, he declared: 'There is no place in Cyprus for anyone who is not Greek.' His actions were among the causes of the Island's division today.)
Sgt Eden, from the Met, survived the attack, but his colleague Sergeant Demmon did not.
John Hurrell, who served with Eden as a constable at Gerald Road Police Station in London, told the authors how his friend Eden fought off his hospital attackers.
''Tony used his firearm, killing one terrorist, and when his ammunition ran out, he chased another and clubbed him with the weapon, causing his death,' he said.
Demmon, aged 23, a Metropolitan constable, came from Orpington police station, where his body was returned for burial. He was awarded the Queen's Police Medal.
During the shoot-out in the hospital's main corridor, Sgt Leonard Demmon, aged 23, two hospital employees and two Eoka members lost their lives. The UKU's Sergeant Maurice 'Anthony' Eden used his pistol to drive off the other terrorists.
Demmon was subsequently awarded the Queen's Police Medal for Gallantry, a decoration now only awarded posthumously.
FOLLOWING the hospital incident, Field Marshal Sir John Harding strongly advised Eden to return with to the United Kingdom, with his wife Stella (nee Kenny), a policewoman who left the Service to be with him in Cyprus.
As Harding said Eden should return home as Eoka would make him 'a marked man', but the sergeant was a very determined and self willed person and ignored the advice.
He was recommended for the George Medal. Tragically however, on 17 December, just one day before the confirmation in the London Gazette of his award, he died.
While playing with his puppy, his revolver - which he always kept loaded and cocked - fell from his shoulder holster. The weapon went off and a bullet shot upwards through his chin.
He was flown by helicopter to the British Military Hospital in Nicosia, but was pronounced dead on arrival.
'His body was taken home in the UK and I was chosen, as a friend, to be one of the pall bearers at his funeral, which was held in a cemetery in North London - Barnet - as I recall,' Hurrell said.
FOUR weeks later, the Unit had to mourn two more members.
At the junction of Ledra Street and Alexander the Great Street on 28 September 1956, three EOKA members fired a rapid volley of shots at Sergeant Cyril Thorogood (Leicester and Rutland Constabulary), Sergeant Hugh Carter (Herefordshire County Constabulary) and Sergeant William Webb (Worcestershire County Constabulary). They were in plain clothes.
Carter and Thorogood were killed instantly, but Webb, although hit five times, survived.
VICTOR BODKER of The Times of Cyprus reported the deaths of Carter and Thorogood in his newspaper next day.
"It was a peaceful morning in the Cyprus Mail office. The time was roughly 10.30. The printers had not yet arrived and the only noise to be heard was that of the tapping of a typewriter. But suddenly the silence was broken by the sound of eight or nine shots fired in rapid succession.
"I rush out of the office into Ledra Street. There, practically opposite the Cyprus Mail office, I saw two men lying on the ground, a third leaning against a wall, revolver in hand. There was not a sign of anyone running away and the gunmen who had shot three Englishmen must have disappeared, round a corner within a few seconds of committing their crime.
"I bent over one of the wounded men and asked if he was badly hurt. He could only moan in reply and a Cypriot doctor, George Partelides, who came up at this moment bent over him and said: "He's in a very bad way.
"The second man lying on the pavement was bleeding from the mouth and was kicking his legs in agony and breathing stertorously. I said to the third man leaning against the wall: "Was it one man who did this?
"He re-plied: 'No, there were three. Get me a taxi.'
"A taxi which had apparent-ly brought the men to Ledra Street was there. With the help of a few English women shoppers and some Greek Cypriot men, the three men were lifted into the taxi and driven off to the British Military Hospital.
"A good 15 minutes had elapsed since the shots were heard and no ambulance had appeared. Security Forces arrived on the scene after the taxi had taken the wounded men to hospital.
"After the shooting, Security Forces barred oft all exits from the Greek Cypriot sector of the walled city.
"A full curfew of the walled city was imposed from 5 pm yesterday until further notice.
"Moreover all establishments owned and/or managed by Greek Cypriots and situated within the municipal limits of Nicosia and the suburban village areas of Strovolos, Engomi, Ayios Dometios, Trahonas, Omorphita, Kaimakli and Pallouriotissa were closed from 7 p.m. last night until further notice.
"The word "establishment" means any bar in a hotel, any cabaret, cine theatre club, coffee shop, restaurant, theatre and any other place of public resort or establishment whatsoever.
"But hotels may remain open for the purpose of catering for the residents therein.
"Police cars which announced a curfew in the suburbs did so in error.
"The Commissioner of Nico-sia yesterday ordered the closing "until further notice" of two shops in Pallouriotissa village at St. Andrew Street.
"It was at the junction of St. Andrew and Queen Frederica Street that Surgeon Captain C.E. Wilson of the Royal Horse Guards was shot and killed in his car on Thursday last."
The body of Sergeant Carter was flown back to Herefordshire for burial, but Sergeant Thorogood was buried in Wayne's Keep Military Cemetery.
Nicos Sampson, the 25-year-old Greek Cypriot photo-journalist, was suspected of firing the fatal shots but it was not until the following January (1957) that he was arrested at Dhali for carrying arms, contrary to British emergency regulations.
At his trial, which lasted from March until June 1957, Sampson, identified by Webb as Carter and Thorogood,'s killer was acquitted - due to procedural inadequacies.
Sampson, instead, was found guilty of possession of arms, and for that offence received the death penalty. This immediately provoked further outbreaks of violence and the authorities commuted his sentence to life imprisonment in England.
(NICOS SAMPSON, a former leading member of the terrorist Eoka organisation, admitted in a newspaper article in 1961 that he murdered the British police sergeants. He made his confession in the Greek Cypriot paper Makhi, which he edited and published. His article described how he and two other Eoka men trailed the three sergeants and then shot them down from behind. He says he fired shots at all three men. Sampson has also admitted that he shot down Police Sergeant Leonard in Nicosia General Hospital in August 1956.)
BY the time Makarios was released from exile and allowed to settle in Greece, 53 policewomen from 34 different UK police forces had increased the unit. From his base in Athens, Makarios renewed his agitation for enosis, which naturally worried the Turkish Cypriots.
Violence resumed as the Turkish Cypriot opposition to Eoka, the TMT - the Turkish Defence Organization - demonstrated their disappointment in the administration with street riots. These often developed in crowd battles between Greek and Turkish communities.
At this point Mr J E S Browne took over Lieutenant Colonel White, who had completed his two-year detachment in January 1958.
Browne, 47, had been Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire since 1949.
The unit continued to be strengthened to combat the increasing violence.
On 1 September 1958, Assistant Superintendent Donal Thompson was shot in the back as he walked along 'Murder Mile'. A New Zealander, he was a commissioned colonial police officer of the Cyprus Police.
THE last UKU officer to be murdered by Eoka was Sergeant Stanley Woodward of the Durham Constabulary. His Land Rover hit a land mine on 13 October 1958 while he was on a mobile patrol near Podromos in the southwest of the Island. He died instantly and was buried Wayne's Keep Cemetery.
BRITISH rule in Cyprus was nearing an end. In February 1959, the London Agreement was signed. It promised Cypriots independence, but not enosis.
The Island was proclaimed a self-ruling republic in August 1960. There was no longer a need for the United Kingdom Police and so ended the need for a United Kingdom Police Unit.
Over 600 British policemen and women had served. Those who had been in Cyprus longer than three months were awarded the General Service Medal with the Cyprus clasp.
BETWEEN 1955 and 1960, Eoka had murdered seven UK police officers and wounded nine. One had died as the result of an unfortunate accident and seven more lost their lives due to other causes.
The United Kingdom Police Unit in Cyprus was the first of its kind.
Since then, it has become the model for similar formations deployed by the UK authorities in various other 'trouble spots' around the globe - with the appreciation of the international community.