The Open Door - Return to Nicosia
On the 19th December 2007 my wife and I flew out to Cyprus, a country I was posted to 50 Years ago as a young National Serviceman. This time I was travelling with memories of places like Ledra Street, Kyrena Beach but above all, the men of 138 Air Supply Platoon, with whom I served.
Memories of some good times long past and even more important, the opportunity to pay respects to a colleague Dvr. R. ‘Bob’ Body, who sadly did not return. Bob had been the first Air Despatcher to greet me when I arrived at RAF Nicosia back then with, “Welcome to 138 Air Supply Platoon”.
Prior to leaving for Cyprus I had been in touch with the British High Commission in Nicosia in order to make the arrangements that would make it possible for us to visit Wayne’s Keep Cemetery. Following this we were contacted by a UN Representative who sent us directions on how we could get to the Security Gate entrance to the United Nations Buffer Zone in which Wayne’s Keep Military Cemetery is situated. This all went to plan and we duly arrived at 1 lam Friday 21st December 07.
We were met at the checkpoint by a British UN Cpl who requested that we follow him up to the car park at Wayne’s Keep Church. At the Church we parked and he then read out guidelines that we must adhere to. We could not take photos and that should any unexpected problems occur on route we would have to follow his instructions. He then put his UN Flag on the vehicle and we set off for approx. 1-2 miles through wood and scrub land to see Wayne’s Keep Cemetery, facing us with a magnificent panoramic view of the Kyrenia Mountains as a backdrop. As we began walking to the Cemetery gate the Cpl remarked that our movements were being observed from the watchtower on the top of the school.
We entered the Cemetery and made our way until we reached the Grave of Dvr R. Body Air Supply Platoon, RASC, 18th June 1958 Age 23, where we placed a Remembrance Cross on behalf of the ADA & Ex-138 ASP. The UN Cpl then took a couple of Photos for us.
Wayne’s Keep Military Cemetery has some interesting aspects attached to it. It is just over two miles to the west of the divided capital in the Buffer Zone that separates the Turkish and Greek sectors. It was established by the British during World War 11. There is also a row of graves of German Airman killed during this period. The Cemetery has been actively tended by both a Greek and Turkish Gardener since the 80s. Two adjacent Cypriot cemeteries are prohibited areas and are left unkempt.
We returned to the Wayne’s Keep Church. There inside can be found much of the story that relates to the Cyprus Emergency period. I found the visit most interesting and moving. There were pictures, stories and records from servicemen, many of whom had returned to pay their respects and were a part of the History of that time.
Finally, having been escorted back to the Security Gate by our British UN Cpl, we thanked him and made our way into Nicosia itself. Here we were in the walled City, now a divided city, walking down Ledra Street amongst its bustling crowds. Still in the background were the Kyrenia Mountains. Looking down upon everything, just as they did on the men of 138 Air Supply Platoon, RAF Nicosia all those years ago. The only difference being, the very large Turkish Emblem carved out on the face of the mountain reminding us of another passage in the island’s history.