In March 2014 the Police Roll of Honour Trust launched an appeal for funds to enable a memorial to be erected to the police officers who died serving the Crown in the British Colony in Cyprus during the period of 1955 to 1959. The initial target was £15K but this rose to £18K. This additional cost was due to the foundations having to be strengthened as the cemetery was in an earthquake zone. The memorial to the Police was to complement the military memorial erected in 2009 commemorating the 371 military losses. The fund appeal reached the target in September 2014 and the build finished in November of that year.
The troubles of 1955 to 1959, known as the Eoka crisis, was a period when attempts were made to wrest control from the British Administration and for the island to unite with Greece under Greek Cypriot rule. Terror tactics were used and the colonial administration declared an emergency in response to the violence.
During the period 62 officers serving in the colonial police died. These consisted of British Colonial Police made up of Brits, Cypriots of Turkish and Greek origin, among others. Police Forces within the U.K. were requested to find volunteers to serve on the island to augment the colonial police and some 1000 officers from across England, Scotland & Wales served during the period in what was called the U.K. Policing Unit ( known as the United Kingdom Unit -UKU). All officers who served in the UKU were upgraded to the next rank and many were sent to supervise at the smaller outlying police stations some of which had been attacked by the terrorists. Eleven of the UKU officers died on the island some due to terrorist activity, accident and natural causes. Irrespective of how the officers died during the period it was decided to commemorate their deaths by naming them all in the memorial. Some research was needed to complete the known list of deaths and this proved challenging to say the least. The National Archives in the U.K. had much on the political intrigue of the time but nothing on the casualties. The division of the island into Greek and Turkish interests compounded the research difficulty.
Attempts to gain publicity in the U.K. media had little impact but within the wider police family and community the project attracted a lot of attention. The Trust was given the opportunity to address the members at the annual conference of the Police Federation of England & Wales to launch the appeal. This brought an immediate response from branch boards across the country. The overall donations from the Police Federation were outstanding and made for the success in completing the build this year. Frankly without that support the memorial may not have happened. Monies were also received from chief officers, police & crime commissioners and individual contributions from serving and retired police officers and their relatives. A sister police charity also made a significant contribution. In all the response within the wider police family and the interest generated made for the success of the appeal in achieving the target.
As we reached September 2014 we had sufficient money to commission stonemasons H.L. Perfitt Ltd of Norfolk to undertake the design, preparation and build of the memorial. They had built the military memorial already erected in the cemetery and are renowned for similar projects elsewhere. The memorial is a testament to their professional skill.
Since the start of the appeal we have been in constant contact with the Cyprus Memorial Trust. The members were retired military personnel who had erected the military memorial. Most live on the island and are members of the Royal British Legion in Kyrenia where the memorial was to be erected. The RBL operates a Trust which administers the cemetery. Their contacts within the Turkish administration proved invaluable in getting approval for the memorial, clearing the bureaucratic problems caused by importing it into the island, obtaining police approval to close the busy main road outside for the unveiling ceremony and a host of other issues too innumerable to mention.
Within the U.K. we sought not only financial support from chief officers but asked them to send serving officers to the unveiling. Those attending were initially to be in uniform but sadly approval was not given by H.M. government and they subsequently attended in plainclothes with Sir Hugh Orde, President of ACPO and patron of the Trust presiding at the unveiling. Some of the Forces in England sent official representatives to the unveiling as did Police Scotland. We are most grateful to the chief officers who allowed this to happen.
On Saturday, 8th November at 4.30pm the unveiling ceremony took place with some 300 persons present. Of the various Forces which had lost officers during the crisis the official representatives together with known surviving relatives of the officers were in attendance. Many serving, retired officers and ex-pats living on the island made up the congregation. The parade standards of the Royal British Legion, the Metropolitan Police Service, the latter for the first time in memory displayed abroad, a newly commissioned standard of the British Cyprus Colonial Police and the Union Flag led the opening procession. As the ceremony progressed the sun slowly set against the backcloth of the mountains creating a moving and emotional atmosphere as the wreaths were laid in remembrance of those who served and died in the service of the Crown. It was a fitting conclusion to events forgotten in the main but remembered by those surviving who had served on the island or by relatives who had lost a loved one during the period.
The unveiling of this memorial to those who died in Cyprus is unique in many ways. This project has been totally funded by the wider police family in the U.K. No government funds were asked for or indeed expected. While the principal object was to remember those who died that had volunteered and been part of the U.K. Policing Unit, it also commemorates all of the British colonial police deaths irrespective of race or origin. Indeed arrangements were made to conduct translations of the service into Greek and Turkish during the ceremony and translation of the words “Lest we forget” are inscribed on each tablet commemorating the Turkish and Greek Cypriot deaths. No other memorial is known to have been erected in a former part of the Empire to remind us of those who served the Crown, in this case a diversity of people.
Now that the memorial has been unveiled the Police Roll of Honour Trust wishes to acknowledge and thank all of those who donated individually to the fund or through associations such the police federation or other groups of retired officers e.g. Narpo. The Royal British Legion Kyrenia branch in Cyprus has been unstinting in its efforts to ensure that the unveiling ceremony has been a fitting remembrance to those who died. The RBL has been given custody of the British Cyprus Police standard to be paraded each Remembrance Sunday in Kyrenia as a continuing reminder that our motto “Lest we forget” is not an empty phrase.
The unveiling coincides with the withdrawal of the British Army from the conflict in Afghanistan where the losses were slightly more than those of Cyprus.
Let us hope that after 60 years their sacrifice is not ignored by HMG as was the Cyprus fallen who at this time proved to be an inconvenient memory best forgotten when set against the British government’s interests in Cyprus. The Book “Policing EOKA” by the author Richard Cowley – ex Northants police gives a useful insight into the crisis as does “Mayhem in the Med” by Richard GML Stiles
Sidney MacKay, Chairman