Tuesday, 13 Aug 74
Dearest Susan, Tonia and Cameron,
Greetings from Cypress...at last. We finally departed Edmonton Friday morning and arrived here Saturday evening (local time) after a two hour stop in Trenton at which I saw Jeff for about 10 minutes and another 2 hours in [Lisbon?]. We arrived in Akrotiri and after waiting for the cargo to be off-loaded and then put into trucks we headed north to Nicosia by convoy arriving after dark.
We had a late dinner at Blue Beret Camp (B.B.C.) and then I went over to the mess and saw a number of people including Colin (who is fine now, his foot healed). After 2 drinks I was exhausted but what with the time differences etc I only managed to sleep for a few hours, restlessly.
Next day (Sunday) I cleared in and then moved down-town where I eventually found out where I would be working. Ken Smith, much to his chagrin, remained at BBC to become the new welfare officer, a dull unchallenging job. He was still muttering when I left.
I got a room in the Ledra Palace which is taken over and completely run by the Canadians. About 450 of us are here while all the logistics staff stays at BBC and 2 Commando has an apartment complex near BBC which belonged at one time to the US Navy. The Ledra is a lovely 5-storey hotel with much charm but it has been extensively damaged in recent weeks. It is of very high strategic value to both Greeks and Turks and the bulk of the fighting centered around it. I have one of the few rooms with no broken glass or bullet holes. Two doors down and on the other side of the hall a room used by a Greek machine gun squad was blasted by a rocket which has destroyed half a wall, the entire bathroom and killed two of the Greeks.
I went up on the roof, yesterday, where we keep an outpost, and looked down on Turk and Greek emplacements within 50 yards of any side of the hotel...houses sandbagged up and grubby little “soldiers” scurrying around trying to stay under cover. It’s almost comical until you consider the history of the past few weeks. Also yesterday, from the roof, we watched 56 Turkish tanks roll down from the north hills and stop on the edge of the city, not four miles from us. We hear very occasional rifle fire but peace does prevail right now and most indications are that it will. We only travel in vehicles and always with a guard. Night travel is limited to very necessary activity and shift changes at our various outposts (O.P.s) around the city. We have tennis, table tennis, mini-golf, and nightly movies available and of course the bars (messes). It is very pleasant to sit on the patio after dark as the evenings cool down considerably. The pool is being filled (slowly) after a live mortar shell and much debris was removed on Saturday.
As for my job...it turns out to be one of the more interesting ones going. There are four Ops branches under Col Lessard and I head the Ops E. Branch as District Economics Officer. Although Col Lessard is my direct boss, I work for Maj. Murray Smith who is the U.N. Force economics Officer. I am in charge of the entire Canadian Contingent District (about ¼ of the island) with regard to any economic problems. It is apparently a very busy job, working almost completely independently and a lot of travelling. In fact I have my own jeep (with radio equipment) and a permanent driver plus one of the largest offices going. And after a bit of negotiating yesterday Ken Smith is going to work for me.
Okay, so what do I do. When problems crop up between Turks and Greeks involving day-to-day living conditions I must go out and talk to both sides, and try to make arrangements to solve the problem either at a local level (preferably) or at as high a level as becomes necessary. As and example, yesterday we visited a Turkish town surrounded by Greeks, about 30 miles from Nicosia. The Turks required delivery of fuel and other commodities which they needed and were willing to pay for them. However the Greek businessmen were afraid to drive to the town for fear of being shot. So we talked the Turkish police sergeant and received a promise from him that the trucks can come into the town with a UN escort (probably me). Then, with the money which he gave us, we went off to arrange with the Greeks to escort them in and to pay them, as they naturally do not trust the Turks to pay.
Disputes arise over water rights and electrification of buildings, replacement of refugees, travel of sick persons to better hospitals and a myriad of other problems. I deal with most of the heads of government agencies and indirectly with both the Greek president (Cypriot) and the Turkish Vice president. The chap who I am replacing is with 1 Commando and he is spending 3 days checking me out. He has enjoyed it very much. It is really a liaison job requiring patience and a smiling face and I guess I fit the bill. All the duty Officers have told me they would love to have my job.
In any case, Susan, I hope none of this upsets you. I could either try to play down everything here to keep you from worrying or I can tell you the way it is so you can appreciate my life here. Yes, it is still unsettled here, but indications are that things will remain quiet. We are prepared to leave the hotel on very short notice and withdraw to Akrotiri if necessary. And the Canadians are real professionals who know what to do if they have to move under fire.
Everyone is looking forward to going home and it still appears we will in late October.
I am glad you got to Kelowna O.K. I hope everyone is fine and that you are having a bit of a rest. I miss you, Susan, and the kids too. I only hope the time passes quickly for all of us...I think it will. Please say hi to everyone for me and write soon, of course. I love you dearly.
With all my love,