I was fortunate  to have spent 8 months in Cyprus with the UN Peace Keeping Force . It was originally a 6 month tour of duty; but, a year before I was transferred the Dental Officer with the contingent had brought his wife over for the tour. This was not permitted so he was sent home after four months and the dental “rotation” was out of sync with the contingent. I arrived when the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry were two months from their tour end. They were succeeded by le Royale 22e Regiment, called the Van Doos, a corruption of Vingt Deux, French for 22. They are a French Canadian Regiment. It was noticed by the powers that be that a French speaking dentist was a requirement . So I ended the tour with the Van Doos. A full eight months compared to the usual six.
            This is a complex chapter in that it will cover the origins and duties of the UN Peace Keeping Force in Cyprus, the history and sights of the Island, the excellent social aspects of Cyprus and several side trips I made during my 8 month stay. All with the usual personal ways each affected me. So I will subdivide this chapter into several sections.

          It is humbling; but, an enlightening learning experience for a North American to spend time in Cyprus. It is a wondrous land that can boast of scenery ranging from lovely beaches along the Mediterranean to mountains that are high enough to have ski facilities in winter. I have referred to it as the Crossroads of the Mediterranean in that all the major Mediterranean civilizations, at one time or other, had a presence and influence in Cyprus. There has been evidence of a Stone Age presence and wells dating back, among the oldest of this sort of implementation, to 10,000 BC, according to some experts. There is also evidence of a bronze age presence with tablets found that may have been written in an early native Cypriot language that survived till 4000 BC. Evidence of trade between Cyprus and various Mediterranean civilizations are found throughout ruins on the Island. Hittite, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans are but a few who traded with the Cypriots. As well, an early Greek influence is found in traces of pottery going back to ancient Crete, the same is also evident in Egyptian pottery found at a few excavation sites. In turn the island was ruled by the Assyrians, , the Egyptians and the Romans. Among “celebrities” involved with Cyprus, Mark Anthony is said to have given the island to Cleopatra, For a time Cyprus was an ally of Alexander the Great. For a period of time Arabs and the Byzantium Empire shared the rule of the Island. With the Byzantines prevailing around 965 AD. The Island also became a target for the crusades. Richard the Lionhearted married Berengaria in Limasol on the 12th of May 1192. This site is still present and it was an interesting visit. The Venetians ruled Cyprus from 1489 – 1571. The Ottomans gained control until 1878.

FROM WIKIPEDIA: In 1878, as the result of the Cyprus Convention, the United Kingdom took over the government of Cyprus as a protectorate from the Ottoman Empire. In 1914, at the beginning of World War I, Cyprus was annexed by the United Kingdom. In 1925, following the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, Cyprus was made a Crown Colony. Between 1955-59 EOKA was created by Greek Cypriots and led by George Grivas . Their stated goal was to perform Enosis (union of the island with Greece). However the EOKA campaign did not result union with Greece but rather an independent republic, The Republic of Cyprus, in 1960
              In 1960, the mostly Muslim Turkish Cypriots were only 18% of the Cypriot population. However, the 1960 constitution carried important safeguards for the participation of Turkish Cypriots to the state affairs, such as the vice-president being Turkish Cypriot, 30% of parliament being Turkish Cypriot, etc. Archbishop Makarios would be the President and Dr Fazil Kucuk would become Vice President. One of the articles in the constitution was the creation of separate local municipalities so that Greek and Turkish Cypriots could manage their own municipalities in the big towns. This article of the constitution was never implemented by the Republic and President Archbishop Makarios.
         Internal conflicts turned into full-fledged armed fighting between the two communities on the island which prompted the United Nations to send peacekeeping forces in 1964; these forces are still in place today, in smaller numbers . Turkey invaded the island in 1974 and seized the northern third of the island, Turkish Cypriots in the south would travel north and Greek Cypriots in the north were forced to move to the south. The de facto state of Northern Cyprus was proclaimed in 1975 under the name "Turkish Federated State of Northern Cyprus". The name was changed to its present form on 15 November 1983. The only country to formally recognize The "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" is Turkey. Turkey has repeatedly violated numerous UN Resolutions[6] and refers to the Republic of Cyprus as the "Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus".
               After the southern, Greek speaking part of Cyprus became a member of the European Union, it adopted the Euro as its currency on January 1, 2008, replacing the previously used Cypriot Pound; whilst the northern area continued to use the Turkish Lira and on January 1, 2008 the New Turkish Lira.

         The concept of a United Nations Peace Keeping Force was developed by Canadian Prime Minister Lester B Pearson in 1957. It was in response to the Suez crisis. He won the Nobel peace Prize for this program. Multinational Forces have taken part in Peacekeeping in many areas of the globe with varying success and sadly in areas with limited results.
             UNFICYP was originally set up by the Security Council in 1964 to prevent further fighting between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities. After the hostilities of 1974, the Council has mandated the Force to perform certain additional functions. During my stay from August 1971 to May of 1972 the island was relatively quiet. But there were; however, rumblings of a possible outbreak of hostilities. I recall during a briefing where this was discussed. Several of my fellow officers joked that the “dentist” would not have much to do. I pointed out that after the contingent MD, I was most qualified to render first aid at a high level. The Canadian Contingent ( Cancon ) Commander picked up quickly on this and I was tasked with running a civilian evacuation hospital in the event of hostilities. I of course did not wish for an invasion; but, my soldiery half along with my Dental training made the possibility challenging should it have occurred.
           There were some minor problems but nothing more pressing than what one might find in a normal countryside. At an early briefing of new officers , the UNFICYP Second in Command , Canadian Brigadier General Leslie gave us an explanation of our role which caught me off guard; but, one which was accurate as future European developments and internecine conflicts would attest to. He told us that we were not there to just keep the Greeks and Turks apart; we were in Cyprus to prevent World War Three. His explanation was very deep and well thought out. It introduced me to areas of concern I was, frankly, not familiar with. He mentioned that in the event of hostilities fellow Muslims from the Middle East could possibly come to the aid of the Turks. In Bulgaria, Turks who had been living in a slightly oppressed life might rebel and come to the aid of their fellow Turks in Cyprus or even rebel against the Bulgarian majority with input from Turkey. Mainland Greece and Turkey could become involved in a hot dispute on the European continent thus weakening the southern flank of NATO. Macedonians in Northern Greece had issues with the majority Greeks. There was a concern that in the event of a Macedonian rebellion fellow Macedonians in Yugoslavia could become involved and turn some of their concerns against their fellow Yugoslavs. The ethnic division in Yugoslavia was not very well promulgated in the West but made a lot of political truth as problems later erupted , especially in what was really a racially divided Yugoslavia.
             In this equation the concerns about the USSR came forth. If Yugoslavia began to unravel it might lead to a Russian participation. The same applies to a possible Bulgarian concern. As well long festering wounds between Armenia and Turkey could lead to some military retaliation. And the position of Israel in the event of Middle East stirring could never be discounted.

             It was an edifying briefing and one that was new to me in concept; but, one which I feel was an eye-opener. I feel I matured politically or at least I saw international politics as they pertained to our role in an expanded light. He ended by telling us the real peace keeping force was not the UN Force but the Turkish Air Force 40minutes away. Again, all very focusing. That is not to say our role was futile, in fact B Gen Leslie emphasized that the better we performed our duties the less likely a worst case scenario would unfold.

           My role was as the Canadian Contingent Dental Officer. We had a nice clinic set up, there was the operatory where dental treatment was rendered and a dental laboratory where a technician could make dentures, repair dentures and cast crowns ( Caps) . There was an assistant and a laboratory technician both of Sgt rank. The clinic and the lab were air conditioned. In fact in the UN Force , at least at our support company base, there were only 3 air conditioned offices. B Gen Leslie's and ours. It was 45 C about 110 f when I arrived so air conditioning was really a rare luxury. The lab tech and the dental assistant both lived in small side rooms off the clinic and lab…the rest of us sweltered  . :)   Our clinic set up was great and I had excellent staff and we set about to ensure that we were able to both provide good dental care and to make sure that the Royal Canadian Dental Corps preventive program was implemented. In the late 1960’s Lt. Col. Chatwin was the architect behind establishing a dental care program that focused on prevention. The goal was to make military personnel ready for duty free of dental concerns and maintaining them at this level. It was a pioneer program that Military Dental Branches around the world sought out for consultation and implementation . It was a proud feeling to be a part of it.
                 In order to carry out the annual exams my staff and I decided to go to the troops rather than try to just get them all to come to our clinic. There were about 575 Canadians in UNFICYP. It was mandated that all personnel on UN duty should receive a preliminary exam before they were sent on duty. Major dental treatment was to be performed before they left. The idea was to ensure that down time due to dental problems, was kept at a minimum. Of 575 soldiers in the Regiment only 200 had received the required dental exam. This was against all Dental Corps directives. So that part of our work was cut out for us. CANCON was set up in three main camps across Nicosia. Once a week we would commandeer a jeep and go to one of the bases. We would do dental exams, appoint patients, if they needed treatment and we would go through a program of oral hygiene instruction and give each patient a fluoride preventive treatment. The three of us at the clinic were very pleased with our efforts. By the time we were transferred back to Canada all the soldiers in our care had been examined and many had possible problems intercepted and treated.
            After two months both the lab tech and the dental assistant “rotated” back to Canada and they were replaced. Our programs were well underway so the transition to two experienced Sgts was easy. My DA whom I will call by his nick name “Tricky Dicky” was almost like radar in MASH. He was great. A fun guy and someone who could manage to get whatever we needed. I quickly learned that often there is the official way and the way that works. On one occasion I was asked to make a new denture for the Regimental Sergeant Major. He is the highest ranking non-commissioned officer in the battalion. I checked over his chart and he had received a new denture 6 months previous. Dick said , “Sir he needs a new denture” . I kind of read into that . I did my part of the process but when it came time to present the new denture, Dick did so at the Sgt’s mess ( A mess is the Sgt’s home away from home, in the US it would be called the Sgt’s club) . The denture was normal except for the two fangs on the eye teeth. From that time on we could do no wrong, need a jeep. done, need certain supplies done…great way to go for sure. Dick also had “contacts’ with the kitchen. Every day we would get a drop off of fresh fruits at the clinic door. Not earth shaking but far from home was gold :). The acquisition of a jeep for our weekly dental exams around the sites in Nicosia was a real example of how a man in the know could get things done. Dick was our go to guy. I often tell people affectionately he was straight out of Mash, my very own “Radar”.

           There were several nations in addition to the Canadians in UNFICYP. There were troops from the UK, the Royal Hussars and the Royal Irish Rangers from Northern Ireland, a contingent from the Republic of Ireland, troops from Sweden, Denmark and a Finland continent. In addition there was a UN Hospital from the Austrian Army. There was also a police contingent who acted as a go between with the Turkish and Greek police. They were from Denmark, Australia and Austria. One Austrian police officer had the interesting name of Otto Karr, "The Car " as I called him . The Support base was called Camp Blue Beret, in reference to the light blue berets we wore.

            All in all I was in my glory with this international blend. There were a number of “official” affairs where various continents met for national holidays, sport events or for Medals Parades, where people on UN duty were awarded their UN service medals.
          Our work day at the clinic was six days a week from 8 till 1 PM. We ate at the support company Sgt’s mess. We shared this arrangement with the police and a few of the other troops who were assigned to the Support base, where we were stationed. As well there were a number of Greek civilians employed in secretarial, janitorial and as bar tenders at the Corporals/ Private’s mess and at the Sgt’s mess.
          After hours we played as hard as we worked. I was single; but, I know that some of the married fellows had a rough time missing their families back home. In fact my first lab tech asked for a compassionate posting home. I supported this his request was granted.
              It was interesting for me to sit in on some of the after hour's discussions at our Officers’ mess. Most of the issues were minor but I was exceptionally proud of the professionalism our troops showed. One fellow told me that the diversion of a trickle of water could be a major concern in some villages a combination of tact and fairness was paramount.

             One story I was told might initially offend some so please read it through and remember customs may be different in other parts of the world. I was told how, at the beginning of the UN presence a major task was limiting such things as the number of sand bags at critical or sensitive areas, where the two communities intersected. At one point in Nicosia there was a constant back and forth between the UN force and locals. One Canadian officer was getting particularly annoyed as every day there were complaints from one side or the other about the unapproved number of sand bags being put up at the barrier. One day he and his men showed up and local women were putting up the bags while the men sat drinking coffee in a nearby outdoor café. The local men were having a bit of a laugh as the Canadian officer faced a minor   dilemma. But, in a great example of lateral thinking the officer went to a woman and told her to dismantle the barrier she was putting up. The local men had a laugh as the woman just turned and made a mocking comment. The officer went up to the woman and slapped her face then he went over to the men and told them to remove the sand bags. They immediately snapped to it and got up to remove the bags. The point is that in our culture such an action would be condemned. But, in the local setting it was a sign that the UN Officer meant business. And the bottom line was that a perhaps a more serious problem was averted. This is a major positive in a possible war zone. Again one has to look at the bottom line. Such incidents could get out of hand in an area where tensions were long standing, as in centuries long. The Officer in fact did the right thing.

            It was interesting visiting with other contingents, as they too were often involved in what could be seen as petty disputes..... but to the Cypriots, a minor problem in our eyes could be interpreted by them, as  a deep insult or worse. The UN Police were particularly busy with day to day problems. A minor incident such as a traffic infraction often was given more emphasis than was really proportional to the event. At that time the Turkish area was a “wedge” , geographically, between parts of the Greek area. Today, Cyprus is divided into North Turkish, and the South Greek. During my posting, Greeks were not able to just wander into the Turkish area. They had to cross a border to drive through to the North shore. I recall stopping with an Australian friend for a coffee in a small Turkish town when a UN escorted convoy of Greek cars drove by. Some Turks gathered by the road and spent a few minutes deriding the passing Greeks. UN Personnel could cross with no problem, but it was  unsettling to see such  difficult procedures involving locals on a small island.

           An emotional  event   transpired when one of the Australian police officers died in a traffic accident. The funeral mass was held at the small church at Camp Blue Beret. He was only about 27, as I recall. It hit home that this was in fact a mission that could go sadly wrong, for whatever reason. This young man died so far from home in the service of Peace. Catholic Padre Hassett held a moving military ceremony. As the coffin was borne out of the church we spontaneously formed two rows along the walkway and as the coffin passed we each saluted in turn. It was a heartfelt and emotional gesture. Father Tom later told me he was also moved by the spontaneity of this.

          I had an opportunity to visit the Austrian field hospital. It was a compact; but, well appointed health centre and it was encouraging to see it was available should the need arise. I spent a bit of time with their dentist and was able to discuss some treatment modalities. He had been practicing over 10 years so it was a professional learning experience for me. Later around Christmas the Austrians held a Christmas party. It was a rather formal event but it was again an interesting view of another culture. I guess Canadians would be downing a few ale and singing raucous Christmas carols, this event had a fellow playing some Straus on a violin. I had a flash back to my time in Switzerland where I felt a tad less sophisticated than the Europeans ☺
               I always found it interesting to attend UN briefings when possible . I was not an active combat arms officer; but, my skills in the first aid and injury fields could be called into play in the event of hostilities. As  fortune would have it, my tour was not marked by any major events, aside from the accidental loss of the Australian police officer.

               A week before Christmas I went to the Post Office building in down town Nicosia , where overseas telephone communications originated. I put in a request for a line to Canada. In this day of cell phones, Skype and satellite communications this may seem unusual to those not aware of how it once was. But, I had to wait 20 minutes for a line. I believe the telephones calls went via microwave to Turkey and across Europe either by land line or microwave to England. There they went by undersea cable to North America. When the call went through and my parents answered I was thrilled to hear how very clear it was. In fact I could hear my mother coming down the hall asking who was calling. It was 7:30 AM in Montreal. We had a great conversation. I know they were worried; but, I assured them all was well. A few months later a man who was a Ford Dealer ( Dad worked for Ford Canada) came over on a trip. He also owned a TV station in Canada. My dad had asked him to look me up. That evening there was a social event on at our mess and I had  a BOAC flight attendant as a date. She was attractive and had on a low cut dress . A friend said someone, who knows you father, wants to meet you. I went over and as his eyes bulged out when he saw my date he said. "Your dad was concerned about you, I guess there is nothing to worry about " ☺ Later in March my brother called a day after my Birthday, March 26, again, a clear call. He called the day after my birthday as he had been forced to abandon his car is a very big late winter snow storm in Montreal. I had to admit to him that I already had a midsummer tan due to the climate of Cyprus ☺ . I had made a “tanning” area behind the clinic. We knew less about skin cancer then sadly. It was a 4 walled low area with a lounge seat. The walls were covered with tin foil. On one occasion a friend went in and took off all his clothes and fell asleep. Let’s just say he was tanned where the sun don’t go ,and nearby environs ☺ .

        Now and then I would go on a jeep tour of the observation posts to visit the lads who were at the “sharp end”. I had initially started to do this just to familiarize myself with what lay beyond my somewhat restricted confines at the support base. A few positive comments were made that made me feel that  it was a good morale booster. Some of the troops liked the fact that we, at the dental clinic ,did go beyond our mandate to take in what was being done. Christmas Eve was a memorable time. The junior ranks, Privates and Corporals, had a Midnight Mass and a party afterwards. In order to free them from duty the Senior Non-Commissioned Officers (Senior NCO’s) and Officers took over their duties at such tasks as the switch board and at the observation posts. I was a bit surprised that there was such a pleasant feedback  from the Regiment when all of us in the clinic volunteered .  I was given a briefing and a review of the 9 mm pistol. The magazine had 5 rounds, the dark joke was that 2 were for the Greeks, 2 for the Turks and the last one was for oneself
            I began the evening manning the switchboard for the observation posts. It was a manual telephone switchboard with plug ins to connect callers. After a short while it was obvious that most calls were of a back and forth personal nature. I could listen in and if they were just casual conversations I would often jokingly break in and ask the callers to deposit a Cypriot 5 pence coin. This coin was brown and was nicknamed a ‘shit nickel” . So “another two shit nickels please." Hey you had to be there.


                I manned the switch board from 10 PM till Midnight. . I was then picked up and driven to an observation post. Years before an officer had drawn a line denoting the Greek and Turkish sections. He used a green pencil, hence the demarcation was called the Green Line. There was an extension of this line called the Red Line where I was assigned. It apparently was a quiet post, so not to worry. I had expected bells to chime out from the Greek Church at Midnight, then I realized that they celebrate the Orthodox Christmas Jan 7 . I was alone at the post and I did have a nice feeling of Christmas’s past with my lovely parents and brother. The padre came by after mass as did the commanding officer. Nice gesture and they even had a small tot of whiskey for us. At 2 AM a Van Doo Officer came by to relieve me. He told me he was to be on duty at 6 Am so I did the right thing and told him to let me finish the shift. So I was on till about 8 AM. A tad tired but I had a real feeling of having participated in “The front lines’.

              After the Christmas duty finished I got a lift back to our Support camp in a jeep. I had not slept since 7 AM the previous day so I felt a bit of a nap was in order.  I am a multi-tasker so I went over to the base shower and bath facilities. They had old porcelain tubs on legs. I assumed they were of British origin as our camp had apparently been an RAF camp when Cyprus was a British colony. I filled the tub, got in and proceeded to have a great 2 hour nap. After my nap I hitched a ride with a British officer to our main Officers’ Mess in Nicosia. There the Van Doos were hosting a champagne breakfast. Several of our British lady friends had been invited. As a single lad I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised at the fact that dating was in fact a viable option. Several of the British gals were teachers on the two British Sovereign bases in Cyprus, Akrotiri and Dhekelia. As well a couple worked in Nicosia at the UK Embassy and in hospitals. Over the years a couple of the Canadian officers married British women they met in Cyprus. In fact the dentist who took over from me met a wonderful Scots Lass and they now live a happy life in British Columbia.
           So after only two hours sleep in over 24 hours I succumbed quickly to the bubbly. I was never anywhere near being a fall down drunk. In fact I have prided myself on never doing that. But life was a bit happy to be sure. The Sgts. came by for a bit of the champagne and a Christmas greeting . And all was well in the world. I got a ride back to the base camp .  I had come down a bit to what would pass for normal. I had another quick nap and then off to the 'Sgts At Home' to the Officers, at our support  base camp, a bit more of the funny water and some snacks. Again, I will point out I am not a staggering type; but, I found I was having trouble speaking French for some reason. But, and here is the strange part, I cornered a few Austrian police officers and to my ears my German sounded great. Again, a short nap and back to the Officers’ mess for a Christmas dinner. It was a nice sense of camaraderie that prevailed. We each had previously picked a name out of a hat and we bought the person chosen a modest Christmas present. I bought a Greek French dictionary for the fellow I had chosen. My present was a toy army helmet and small plastic rifle. It was labeled “Combat Dentist”. We also had a belly dancer from the Turkish side. Quite cute actually ☺

            I had grown to love Cyprus. It was an historic land filled with beauty and history. The UN presence did keep a lid on things till 1974. During my stay I ventured to both sides of Nicosia freely. Little shops would always welcome me as a guest. We did not get into political conversations, a pattern that all sides observed with decorum and politeness. But, I could not help but feel a deep sense of sorrow that people were , like so many conflicts, the victims of petty politics. I used to go to the Turkish side to have handmade shoes custom made. I always thought it was special to get items which were crafted by local people. I still have several pairs of those boots I bought at the Paris shoe shop. The owner was a Turkish man of about 65 years old. The routine was: the first day they would measure and outline your foot and measure your instep. The second visit they would fit the top of the shoe or boot and place the sole and outline it. On a third visit the shoe would be delivered. The inside of their shoes  were a soft leather lining, authentic old world craftsmanship. On one occasion I went in for the second fitting and the owner told me they soles were not ready. It was a first and I asked why. “It was a Greek Holiday last week and my Greek friend makes the soles”. I was floored.... totally taken aback. Two older men had been friends since they were children and still managed to work together. My initial thought was to let these men work out the Island’s problems. What a sad moment as I again reflected on the fact that it is not the ordinary people who have a say; but, isolated politicians. My mind went back temporarily to Nurnberg and the site of the rallies. I also had a few jackets made at a tailor on the Turkish side . He had two girls who worked in his shop. The first day they all sat me down to talk. They never rushed business, they gave me a Turkish Coffee ( Called Greek Coffee on the other side ☺) . It was a small demi-tasse . The coffee was brewed in a pot with all the ingredients in the water. So each demi-tasse had  fine coffee grinds near the bottom. I had a sweet version which was tasty. I sipped slowly then took a deep sip near the end and got a mouthful of fine  grinds. Apparently most new comers in the UN did this . All in good fun. A few months later the two girls told me they were getting marrried. I replied that since they were Muslim who was the lucky man. They got a good chuckle out of this. The Turks in Cyprus and Turkey are quite Westernized , or were when I was there so there were no tensions that can be felt in some areas of the Levant  today.


                  I had developed a bit of a rule of thumb. Due to cultural differences I never dated a Cypriot. I heard several stories about some problems that had occurred. One happened when a British soldier, at one of the British sovereign bases ,dated a Greek woman. He had treated it like a relationship one might have back home in the UK. But, in Cyprus after a couple of dates one is considered engaged. He let it be known that he was in no way interested in getting married. The word came out that he was to be a victim of a “Honour” killing. He was secretly whisked off the Island and served in Antarctica at a British base. This is  a story I heard from well informed people. Another story I heard ,before I left Canada ,was of an Australian police officer. On the first date the father of the girl came along, and then on the second date the mother came with them. On the third date he went to her home and came in to workthe following day, ashen faced. He said that the previous night had been , “His engagement party”. His senior officer said that in briefings they had been warned of the different social norms. He did allow that he liked the girl so they did tie the knot. Interestingly before they were married the “engagement “was considered to be akin to a civil marriage.” He went to Beirut several times with her for weekends. And, to make this story, even more interesting. On a trip across Cyprus with one of my Australian police friends we went to their regional Headquarters in Paphos. I met her and her son. She told me they were now living in Tasmania. She was visiting family in Cyprus and was very happy with her new life “down under”. A neat story, as the world has been proven to be very small at times.


            I attended many UN social events. I guess it is fair to say they were a lot of fun. Liquor was duty free and all contingents seemed to follow the axiom that we worked hard and played hard. At times my off duty time was like a fraternity. When one writes in a two dimensional medium such as the pages of a book, an outside monitor might read a bit of frivolity into some of the stories so I won’t go into too may details. The Van Doos used to say “Ceci est en famille” This is in the family. In other words some things are kept to ourselves. I would have to state that I enjoyed myself more than most ; so if I do kind of talk about a few party incidents remember I am not pointing fingers…because when you point three fingers are pointing back at you.
          In my training summers one of the Dental Corps senior officers told us , “As long as you do not hurt anyone physically or mentally, have a lot of fun." So with this spirit of camaraderie I will tell a few tales now and then. I have to say that I was often the centre of the fun and later in my career I found a few back stabbers had not followed the axiom I have just discussed. In basic training I was told by a training phase mate, “There is nothing lower than a buddy fucker”. Not quite Aristotelian in wording but a concept worth living by. I have always felt that life was best lived if fun was a part of it. So again another reminder of what some of my tales may contain ☺.
         One important rule in the UN Force was that people did not drive when they had been partaking. In fact ,if I am not mistaken all officers had access to military drivers, a sort of taxi service. I kind of bent the rules when I rented a car for a while. I had become involved in a rather good social scene and I needed to drive about with dates. I never drank when I drove and in Nicosia if that occured I  would take one of the cheap cabs. It was policy that not everyone was invited to all UN functions at the other contingents; but, if one placed oneself in the right circumstance one could wangle an invitation. I would often dentally treat members of the other contingents and as a “thank you” I was sometimes invited to events such as mess dinners, a formal dining-in as we called it. A number of invitations went to each contingent but I sometimes managed to jump the queue. One party at the Danish contingent was quite a bit of fun. During dinner the Danes and Swedes would stand up and chant something along the lines of a drinking song and down Schnapps quickly. It had an almost Vodka taste to my uneducated palate and quickly had a “warming” effect. Unbeknownst to myself , the Canadian group had left early and I missed the ride. But I had become good friends with the Irish contingent doctor so I spent the night across the Island at Limasol

           To be honest alcohol was duty free and a lot of parties did present an almost unavoidable opportunity to over indulge. When I left Cyprus I did have a short introspection of whether I might have become a bit of an over indulger. But when I got back to Canada I recall having a case of beer in the fridge for weeks without touching it. A worthwhile introspection though as I have known several people including relatives who had alcohol related problems.
          I have the fortunate circumstance of not really getting hung over after a night of party going. I have seen friends who seem to be walking on their teeth when the morning after, pops up. Is that a strange analogy or what ?  I have had 2 headaches in my life, one was as a result of 20 glasses of wine in an hour when I was a student and the other as a result of clenching due to the stress of an exam during my post doctoral year .  And again maybe I do have a good limiting mechanism and know when to kind of slow down. But in all honesty I usually did like to be at the centre of the festivities .  Not in an attention seeking manner but in a participating way.


            I found it intriguing to see the different national proclivities, as it were. I had heard of the class system in Britain; but, I can assume most emigrants from the UK to Canada did so leaving that behind. At one mess dinner I was introduced to several Royal Hussars Officers. It was considered a regiment to which one was recommended. In other words Joe off the street could not become an officer. At least that was the story I was told by an Australian  . More on the Aussie / Brit rivalry later. At the dinner I was next to a fellow from a rather wealthy background. I won’t repeat his name out of respect for his privacy. I had just arrived a few weeks earlier and was quite convinced this was going to be a great posting . He told me he was leaving in a week. I asked if he was going to miss Cyprus. “Well no it is the horse season back home and all”. Now here comes the old hayseed Canadian, I replied , “Oh do you own a horse”. I didn’t sense a put down but I couldn't  blame him . He replied “Yes I have several really “ man I still find that funny….’DO YOU OWN A HORSE?” . Not hard to spot the colonial
           Later while on the way to a rugby match I was in a car with a Royal Signal Corps corporal from the UK. He seemed quite intelligent and knowledgeable  electronics and communications are a hobby of mine as a ham operator. He obviously knew his stuff and I asked if he had ever thought of applying for a commission. He said, “No, not with me accent” in a way in which he would not be out of place on Carnaby Street ☺ So the class system was alive and seemingly a part of life.

          The Hussars had two Royals who served in Cyprus separately. I never met them; but, a few of our officers did meet both the Prince and Duke of Kent. On one occasion; before I arrived, a few of the lads were invited to the British Officers’ mess at Blue Beret Camp and several Hussars officers were present. Most had some sort of title. I wasn’t there so I won’t venture a guess as to which titles. One fellow was asked what his title was and he said , “I do not have a title  actually ”. One of our lads retorted, “Of course you do you are the Duke of Sweet Fuck All” . Not dinner conversation material but kind of a social comment which I have told many a time..and if you are reading this it still is being told ☺

      I had the honour of being invited to the Irish contingent for  St Patrick’s day party. Normally 5 invitations per contingent were sent out; but, I was a good friend with the Irish contingent MD. He had trained in French, in Switzerland and I introduced him to the Canadian Officers’ mess. I gave him French Canadian lessons and he fit in quickly . The evening was somewhat sedate to start with. I quickly realized there was a slight but palpable tension in the air between the Irish officers and the British officers of the Royal Hussars. I found it a small study in international interactions, in a quasi-political science mode. The Irish and British officers were over polite with each other, which I found intriguing. One had to be aware of and understand the not too distant history of conflict between their peoples. I could almost say I had on a double UN Blue beret that evening ☺ . I had no preconceived prejudices or opinions so I was able to just observe some of the tensions. Nothing untoward occurred ;but, one could sense the slight tension. The British officers bid their adieu early and the party then really began. The Irish and French Canadians are both cut from the same cloth when it comes to having a good time. A lot of the fun was frivolous; but, very much positive as far as I am concerned…Did I mention my Irish <Orange and Green>  / French Canadian genes ☺ ? I loved it.
             There was a lot of singing, both French Canadians and the Irish love a good song. One of the highlights of the evening was the Irish MD driving by the party with our Catholic padre and two Irish padres on the hood of his car, nothing dangerous and they gave us a blessing St Patrick would have been proud of ☺. Again one had to be immersed in the festivities to appreciate that a night of fun, with a modicum of good drink, good company and lots of singing is actually a heartwarming experience. Some look down their noses at what they feel is frivolity; but, in a real way I think it brings people closer together in a philosophical way. To the uninitiated that may seem incongruous; but, in moderation a good party can cement relationships.
          UNFICYP also had a number of sports events. I went to a small High School in Dorval, a Montréal suburb , which had no real facilities. So I never really had a chance to participate in track and field. But, in Cyprus I got a late start. One event was a UN “Olympics” organized by the Swedish contingent and I took part in a 2 kilometer relay and I was involved in a discus throw. Interestingly one of our Dental Corps hygienists was visiting the Island from Germany . He later told me he was on a tour of the Famagusta area in a bus and someone ran by who looked like me..he later asked me about this and I confirmed it was in fact me ☺ A small world indeed . Later the Swedes held a UN Tug of war day. The sports were fun and every competition was capped off by a great dinner and the occasional drink, occasional I said ☺ . Apparently the Swedes liked to have the Canadians come to parties, as we proudly earned a reputation as the best party goers. In my travels I have always found that Canadians do tend to belie the false image people have of us as quiet and conservative. I would emphasize that we are not loud in the ( "Oh look at us and back home everything is better" mode) we are more the life of the party types . In my travels I have come across this many times. In fact I take pride in the fact that I have always had a good time when I ran into fellow Canucks . Again, not to give a wrong impression, I really never ran into Canadians who were breaking the law by dumb or destructive behaviour. But noisy ? ☺ This applies to my tour in Cyprus. And friends I made from Australia and the other contingents echoed this…"Mike we can always count on a good time if we are with the Canadians “
    During one  evening conversation at the Swedish mess I mentioned the fact that two royals had served in the Hussars. One of the Swedes said, “Yes they are cousins of mine”. He told me he was a Count. So my brush with Royalty continued.
           As I have  mentioned I discovered rugby when I graduated and was posted to Halifax. I was 26 at the  time when most sensible people are hanging up their cleats..:) In Cyprus , I used to jog  in  a sports pitch at the RAF Nicosia base next to our Support Company base. One day I came across some lads playing rugby. They had a set team; but, I offered to come out and practice with them and be available as a substitute. One weekend a team of British oil workers from Kuwait, were in town and wanted a fun match, euphemistically called a “friendly match” in Brit speak ☺ . I was asked to join the Kuwait  team and it turns out I had a good game. In all modesty I really didn’t know what I was doing; but ,I could run, pass and tackle and by now I was quite fit. So after that match I became a regular on the team. We played Wednesday and Saturday afternoons both in Nicosia at the RAF field and at either British Sovereign bases, Akrotiri or Dhekelia. The competition was every bit as keen as I had encountered back in Canada and I was kind of a loose cannon to some of them. I recall I had made what I thought was a good hard, but clean tackle. The fellow was from Wales as it turns out, he punched me full force in the head. He hit me above the eyes with a very flat fist. I didn’t really feel anything; but, I said, “Hey man don’t do that “. His face went pale. Here he figured he had hit me full bore and all I did was protest. Later in the match one of my team mates hit him low and I hit him high and landed on him. It was not intended; but, we winded him. I whispered in his ear , “Keep your fists to yourself from now on Taffy ( Taffy is a nickname for Welshmen) .” In Keeping with the sportsmanship of rugby I had a few conciliatory words with him at the post game “social”. I explained I was new to the game and I had not intended to hit him in a dirty way. All’s well that ends well. Great game and a great opportunity for some social intercourse ( Okay wipe that grin off your face) 
        One of the players was a fellow on exchange with the RAF from Guyana. A few years later in Canada I ran into him while he was on a tour of Canada as part of a Staff College exchange. And in Ottawa  one of my patients , who is originally from Guyana as well, told me he knew him. I am always intrigued by the so called 6 degrees of separation.


          As a single lad the social scene was also pretty good. I was able to date women from Germany, Britain and even a Canadian nurse. But , the Swedish "flickas"  threw up a barrier when we spoke with them. Someone said you had to be introduced to them to get a date. I again found this to be the case in travels to Spain, particularly Majorca, where many Swedes holidayed. As I have mentioned a couple of the officers during my tour married British women they had met. One was the dentist who succeeded me, another ironically had been our Catholic Padre. He was a fine person with a really caring manner. But, he could not abide by the tenets that forbad priests from marrying. He became a counselor in the Forces and is the proud father of 5 children.
         Another prime activity of the Canadian Contingent was to go scuba diving in Kyrenia. Andreas Koriolu  was a former sponge diver who had crafted a successful business by  taking tourists on enjoyable scuba excursions. He also made history when he discovered a classical Greek ship which is preserved in Kyrenia. The ship was 4th century BC and 75% of the remains are intact. The discovery and follow up was covered in National Geographic magazine. Andreas would take about 20 people out each trip , the dives were divided into shallow, about 5 meters, medium about 12 meters and deep which could run to 30 meters. Andreas gave lessons. By standards I later heard, when I returned home, they may have been lacking; but, I did well. The shallow dive was first, and then as one progressed weeks later a  the medium  dive was permitted followed later by the deep dive. The water in Cyprus was warm and quite clear. Sadly there were not many fish as the fishermen had used dynamite to harvest their catches. I called it a CIL trawler ( CIL being a dynamite manufacturer). But the sea bottom was pretty and on a few dives we came across some Roman ruins. They were pillars . Diving among the small remains was a bit esoteric as I have said about many historical sites I have been blessed to have seen. I saw a few eels and after one dive I was snorkeling and I noticed the water below me was shallow and covered with sea cucumbers…WITH SHARP SPIKES AHHHHHH >  One learns. It was interesting seeing the dark remnants of the cucumber spikes or quills as some call them, embedded in my skin, they apparently have a mild material which can cause a sting. Not quite what I would have chosen for a learning experience but hey education is on going .
             After a dive the routine prescribed was  a Brandy Sour, a favourite Cypriot drink, and one to which we UN lads did not object. There was no drinking before a dive, but once one had completed that dive  a pleasant afternoon was spent sampling the local wines. As well Andreas’s wife always prepared a great repast of local food. Vine leaves stuffed with rice were among my favourites. And the companionship was warm. Andreas was a unique personality whose smile represented what was good about Cyprus. He was open, friendly and genuinely kind. A couple of years after I left Cyprus I read with regret that Andreas had given his life trying to save a Canadian UN soldier who had suffered what may have been a heart attack. It was a noble act and one that fit him well.  A day with Andreas was unique. I brought several Canadian visitors on his boat and everyone said it was one of the highlights of their visit to Cyprus. Andreas you were an honorable man.

          As a single lad my social activities were something out of a Club Med scene. We wore our uniforms whenever we were off the base. This was an era of the Vietnam War and in some circles a military uniform was anathema. But, in Cyprus it was..well shall we say a ‘babe magnet’. Most of the year it was warm and we wore shorts. It is an interesting irony that when I arrived I did not have shorts as part of my “kit”. So a fellow gave me a pair, as he was being transferred back to Canada in a few weeks. He was 5’10” ( 1.77 metres) and I am 6’3” or around 1.92 metres. I never wore shorts before  that time so it never occurred to me that they looked more like a version of short shorts than a military uniform. As I mentioned I was somewhat inexperienced socially as I had been going with one gal for over 6 years, till I was shown the curb. So I naively had no idea that I was a bit of a sex object to some female eyes…oh the horrors  . As I said there are some 6 billion of us running about the planet so I have not gone into the old mating game routine; but, suffice it to say I had a great time socially. It never occurred to me at the time, but while I found dating European women exciting I think they found a Canadian was a bit of a nice change.
           As I said I did not date Cypriots out of respect for their social norms. A date was considered almost as an invitation to marriage, which was not quite my style at that time. I did date a couple of Germans and several British women. I really enjoyed the different backgrounds they came from. I still find it satisfying to meet people from other countries as one thing I really learned from my travels was the breadth of the human experience. It was sad we were in such a lovely land trying to keep wonderful people apart.
           After I had only been in Cyprus a few weeks our Catholic Padre came to me to ask a favour. He had apparently been asked to judge a beauty contest at one of the Beach hotels in Famagusta. He figured it might not be a good move with the Vatican so he offered me the “honour”. And a great time it was. I was greeted by the hotel owner and treated like an honoured guest. I was able to wear “civvies” as I was off duty . So I fit well into vacation scene. The beach was full of tourists from Germany, Scandinavia and the UK, and of course half were of the female persuasion, of whom many were single. My fellow judges were the owner of the hotel, who was all keen on us voting for a Cypriot gal..  and she  as very striking. Another judge was the Under Sheriff of London, which as I understand, is one who carries out the administrative roles of the Sheriff who performs more political activities. He was a fine chap, as one might say, with a good sense of humour. There was a German woman and me. What a crew indeed. The contest was a lot of fun and the Cypriot wine flowed. Guests from the hotel were contestants. The owner got particularly excited when the Cypriot girl came on the stage. The Under Sheriff remarked that it seemed we were being coached to vote for her  . She of course won and all ended happily.
         On subsequent visits for a weekend at the hotel I was always treated as a special guest. A bottle of wine at my table, on the house bien sur. Nice conversations etc. All in all it was something I had never quite experienced. And I again wore the uniform as a badge of Canada which reflected my pride in the way our lads were performing their duties.

         The officers’ mess ( Our private club as it were) was the centre of many of our social activities. I recall one time going into Nicosia to our mess and I had just been given a raise. The word spread so the treat  was on me. There were 12 Van Doo officers at the bar and I bought a round. I put down a one pound Cypriot bill, worth about $2.50 at the time and I got half back in change. It was hard not to enjoy the local flavour as it were. It was about 10 cents a drink.

        Restaurants were amazing. Part of the experience for me was learning about new foods. Today many ‘exotic’ restaurants are to be found throughout Canada; but, then it was less common. Steak and fries was my exotic date cuisine in Montréal. The fine quality and variety abounded throughout the Island and Nicosia was the centre of the culinary experience. Some restaurants were equal to the best I had experienced before or since in Canada. One in particular was the Cosmopolitan Club. We of course wore our uniforms and with a name tag we were always addressed by name. Not a major thing; but, the way they did it seemed personal and warm. I was introduced to a fare of escargots, local steaks which were cooked to perfection, and the mezé. This was a variety of small dishes. Usually smaller less sophisticated venues held mezés. The meal, or should I say feast, started with a variety of salads from cucumbers in local yogurt , various leafy dishes with a variety of intriguing sauces and a plentiful supply of bread and buns baked in the restaurant. The latter always pleased me as I am the grandson of a small town, Ontario baker. Then the ‘main’ courses would come . Spare ribs, chicken, cutlets and something called sweetbreads. I made the mistake of asking what they were… heart , brain and even sheep testicles. The latter kind of caused a spontaneous clamping of the lags from all present. We would usually go in a group to mezé .
           I have mentioned Adreas Koriolu, the owner of the scuba boat. His port was Kyrenia, a port that dates back to the Trojan war times. It , as with all of Cyprus, has been influenced by all invaders , Byzantium, Ottoman , The British etc. The harbour front had several outside tables which were a popular venue for tourists and we UN Soldiers on Sundays. In the "cooler" weather the venues moved inside. One Friday one of the majors asked us to join him for a dinner in Kyrenia. It was about a 45 minute drive from Nicosia. We went to a small restaurant and to our surprise the main offering was lobster from Shediac New Brunswick. It was not the clawless variety found in Europe or the Mediterranean. It was North American Lobster. And the price was about $10 for a full course meal, wine included . Again something we treasured. And all would be ended with a wonderful assortment of baklava which was again made on premises. I was playing rugby twice a week and jogging 5 miles a day . Despite this exercise I managed to put on 15 pounds on my tour. I wonder why ?  

      There were also a number of excellent smaller venues where we went more on dates rather than as a group of guys. On one occasion a friend and I had a nice before dinner martini, then a dozen escargot prepared to perfection. Our main course was accompanied by a local red wine. The Cypriot wine was not the caliber of a French vintage; but, my palate never was trained so I loved it . The main course was an exquisite filet mignon, which was as fine a steak as I have ever tasted. A nice salad and potatoes filled out the main course, with the customary fresh warmed buns. For desert we had a nice local ice cream accented by an Irish coffee. Now this was a few years ago..but..the total cost was the equivalent of $7 Canadian for the two of us, about three Cypriot pounds.  Not only was I experiencing and learning about fine cuisine; but, I was not breaking the bank . Cyprus is now very expensive from what I have been told. So my timing was perfect ☺
           There are two points to be made about the culinary experiences.  First it was not out of our price range, in fact one could not afford not to eat well . But, I was again expanding my knowledge. This book is about this as much as anything. To share with people the truly exhilarating moments travel can provide. I was of course privileged to have had this opportunity and I am still in awe of what I was blessed to have received on an almost daily basis. And tears do well up when I think of how the experiences unfolded in such a memorable and warm manner.

           I should point out that all was not just eating and drinking. I met some great people in the UN Force, many of whom I still contact. One was then Captain Lewis Mackenzie. I am not in contact with him often; but when we meet it is always with a few memories of Cyprus and some of the people we served with. Lewis went on to become a Major General and is best known for his fine work in Sarajevo. As a Captain in Cyprus he impressed me as an officer who had the support and respect of his troops. This is a trait I feel is most important in effective military leadership
        Several officers I served with come to mind when I think of effective leadership and duties accomplished. Capt Bob Pelly was a Newfoundland Van Doo, an English Canadian in a French Canadian regiment. He was what one might call a character, and he used this to accomplish a lot. One one occasion there were rumours of a Turkish invasion of Cyprus. One aspect of intelligence was to determine the members of the Greek and Turkish contingents to see which regiments had personnel in Cyprus. Not an easy task as they did not advertise their presence. Bob came up with the creative idea of having an exercise for junior officers near the Turkish camp. They were ostensibly doing a land survey of the area. The Turks came out and “arrested” them. They were brought  back to the Turkish camp to explain themselves. Of course the officers under custody were taking mental note of the shoulder patches which distinguished the Turkish regiments.  The Turkish soldiers  found nothing  to be wrong with the Canadian exercise  so they were released  from the camp. At the next UN intelligence briefing, Capt Pelly, who was the Canadian Intelligence officer, gave a thorough break  down of the Turkish presence. The British officer in charge of UN intelligence was taken aback by a mere 'colonial' coming up with such information. Bob had thought way outside the box and did us proud, as did so many of our troops of all ranks.



         When I was sent to Cyprus I read quite a bit about the Island. Lawrence Durrell's “Bitter Lemons” was a good introduction. One part about his buying and bartering for a house was comical and it  gave me a heads up on the business aspects of Cyprus. It was an eye opener for me on how to  wander about the markets and to not accept the asked price for items I was buying. I also sent home many souvenirs which were locally  handmade. We had a weekly mail run back to Canada and many a surprise awaited my parents when the opened a box from me.
                      Cypriot wine was also a treat and again inexpensive and served with pride. It was interesting to get to see where the wineries were located. A sommelier might not have been as keen on the local “plonk” ; but, we were able to enjoy many a meal with a few, okay many, glasses ☺
          Nicosia was about a 5 minute ride from the base camp where I worked and lived. By Taxi it was about $1.50 and as often as not , we could get a lift on a UN or Canadian vehicle. The walled city dates to the Venetian presence and within the walls are the many shopping venues. Ledra Street was the main shopping area but side streets also had pleasant surprises where  I was able to buy many hand crafted articles , which I still have in my home or my office. I found the pride and skills of many of the craftsmen were both intriguing and in many ways inspiring. One day I was walking about in Nicosia and I saw an artisan nailing a copper sheet to a frame, he told me he was going to cut it and form it into a copper pot, a sort of plant holder. Over the days I walked by to see the sheet transformed into a seamless plant pot. He used heat to mould the metal and form into the final shape. On my last visit I bought the pot which I still have.  It is about 10 cm deep and 30 cm wide. On the surface are intricate patterns chiseled into the surface. It was made from a piece of copper shaped as though it were sculpted from clay. I had access to a Canadian postal service outlet , run by the Forces, so it was easy to ship even large items home. My mother told me she never knew what to expect when the postman rang the bell. One time I sent home an engagement and wedding ring in a box of slides. I had purchased them from the visiting Beirut Jeweler, Joseph Kassis, whom I later sadly learned had died in the 1972 civil war in Lebanon.


            One of my Australian Police friends, John M. had access to a Land Rover, a  jeep type vehicle and he was very generous in offering me trips about the island. With John, I was able to visit some of the lesser visited places as well as the major tourist locations. One was Kykkos Monastery. It was originally founded at the end of the 11th century. It was not too large. And the Monk who greeted us knew John, so we got a nice tour. Many Icons were on the walls and the view was picturesque from a hill side . There were bushes growing about the grounds with small red berries. The Monk invited me to try one. I eagerly did and bit hard into the hottest pepper I had ever tasted. Later John told me that this was the usual joke and he held his tongue to allow the Monk to play his trick. All good fun , John and I also visited St Hilarion Castle which was on the Turkish side and it over looked  Greek Kyrenia, the sea side then Greek town where we often went. Early buildings  back to the 7th Century and was named after St Hilarion who had escaped prosecution in Palestine. The Castle itself dates to the Crusaders in the 10th Century. There are strong rumours that the Disney group used the design of the Caste for the Snow White movie. When we visited it was an typical warm day and the view in all directions was lovely.  Cyprus ranged in geography from excellent Mediterranean beaches, to lovely mountains. As mentioned Mount Olympus had skiing in winter. Several of the Canadians skied, sadly I wish I had, just for the bragging rights ☺.
     Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of love, was said to have been born in Cyprus. There are also legends of another birth place but Cyprus seems to have won out in that it is called the Island of Love . According to legend she was born on the beaches from the foam of the sea Near Paphos. A lovely site to visit despite the somewhat painful process as denoted below  The Roman equivalent is the Goddess Venus.
From Wikipedia:
According to Hesiod's Theogony, she was born when Cronus cut off Uranus' genitals and threw them into the sea, and from the sea foam (aphros) arose Aphrodite. Thus Aphrodite is of an older generation than Ze





















































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































































     Gad a tad painful, I prefer the more convention means of procreations ☺ But, as a North American it was always fascinating to wander about sites of such legends. It is a time warp regardless of one's beliefs.



Lt-Rt.  Sgt Mack Allen, Capt Greg Ames, Me, Sgt Dick Innes
Sgt Paul Mahler , Me, Sgt Harry Ayerst