Captain Peter Singlehurst is from the Media Operations Group (Volunteers) (MOG(V)) and is currently serving as the Media and Ops Info Officer with 17 Port and Maritime Group in Cyprus.
In this first post I will introduce you to the Unit and what we are doing here. In future I will report on some of the activities of this peacekeeping tour that is so very different from the majority of the Army’s recent experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Welcome to Cyprus!
In this blog I intend to share the experiences of 17 Port and Maritime Group’s tour in Nicosia, Cyprus, as part of the UN Peacekeeping mission on the island. The British Army’s contribution to the UNITED NATIONS FORCE IN CYPRUS (UNFICYP) is now the longest continuous operation for the British Army. We have been here since 1964, which of course means many have heard of it and have seen the medal that goes with the tour, but what do we do and why are we here?
Well, it is not Afghanistan and it is not Iraq and nobody is being shot at and, yes, in some quarters the tour is known as a sun bathing tour. That said this is a real tour that has its own challenges and the reasons that nobody is shooting at anybody is thanks to the UN in Cyprus and those who came before us in the past. They were the ones who managed to stop the fighting and who have slowly but surely de-escalated the situation and kept the peace. We now, as a result, are able to patrol and negotiate unarmed between two armed forces who look out at each other 24 hours a day. Outside the Regimental Headquarters is the memorial to the 28 Canadian Peacekeepers who lost their lives on this tour that reminds us of those who went before.
North and South
So now the situation is that two armed forces face each other across a buffer zone and in between we, 17 P&M Group, as UN Peacekeepers, patrol and seek to maintain the status quo so that the UN can work with the political leadership in the North and South of the island to find a political solution to the ‘Cyprus question’.
To maintain the status quo we therefore have to monitor the two sides’ positions and ensure that they are manned at the agreed levels, that no positions are enhanced, and that neither side encroaches into the Buffer Zone. To do this takes a keen eye and a level head. And who is doing this challenging work? In the main, it’s patrols of two soldiers, made up of Privates and Lance Corporals.
17 Port and Maritime Group is formed around the Headquarters element and 54 Squadron from 17 Port and Maritime Regiment, Royal Logistic Corps, based at Marchwood and commanded by Lt Col Rob Askew RLC, who is also in command here in Cyprus as well. The Group is augmented by members of the TA in the main drawn from 165 Port Regt RLC (V), the TA sister regiment of 17 P&M Regt RLC.