Captain Peter Singlehurst is from the Media Operations Group(V) and is currently serving as the Media and an Ops Info Officer, with 17 Port and Maritime Group in Cyprus.
We are still busy here on Op TOSCA, this time it has been the turn of VIP visits.
My Last blog focused on a time of commemorations. This time I will be focusing on visits and also a subject close to the hearts of many British people, the weather! As I mentioned in my last blog we were due to have our Force Commanders Inspection on Tuesday 14 May, which duly took place. Before that, however, we hosted the UN Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations, Mr Hervé Ladsous and also a separate visit by the Officers of the 1 Wolf Regiment of the Turkish Cypriot Security Force led by their commanding officer. This unit occupies the Turkish side of the Buffer Zone in Nicosia.
So, a busy time for visits and in the best traditions of the British Army everything was planned and rehearsed. However, after suffering from a mini heat wave with temperatures rising into the mid thirties we have been suffering from extremely heavy rainfall and thunderstorms. This weather is again very unseasonable and has meant that plans have had to be adapted, and in the finest traditions of the Army we have adapted and overcome the problems caused by flooded roads and washed away tracks.
Putting names to faces
The first of our visits was by Mr Ladsous, he is a former French diplomat who now heads the UN Peacekeeping organisation. His visit therefore was extremely important as it gave UNFICYP the opportunity to demonstrate to him the challenges of this mission. Sadly, the weather intervened and so the tour of the Buffer Zone in the old city had to be cancelled, but we were still able to take him to visit the old French Embassy building in the Buffer Zone.
The following Monday the Officers from 1 Wolf joined us for lunch in the Officers Mess of the Ledra Palace Hotel. This visit gave 17 Port and Maritime Group the opportunity to demonstrate who we are and what our previous experiences have been. This lunch was important, for the CO 17 P&M Gp had decided to invite the Turkish Platoon Commanders and this invitation was accepted. It appears this was the first time such an invitation had been made and meant that they would have the opportunity to meet their British counterparts, our Troop commanders. Previous lunches and meetings have only involved the senior officers of 1 Wolf. The lunch was a great success and of course means that names have now become people. This was helped because many of the young Turkish conscript officers spoke English.
The following day the Force Commander, Major General Chao Liu spent the day with us in Sector 2. The purpose of the inspection was to give us the opportunity to demonstrate to him that we have completed our training and are now operating effectively as per his direction.
The Force Commander during his visit did many of the things that would be expected on such an occasion, including briefings, visits to the Buffer Zone and so on, however some light hearted elements were also included, such as the chefs challenging him to the “Omelette Challenge” from the BBC Saturday Kitchen Show.
When Gen Liu visited the QM department he was met with a forklift truck challenge, before finishing his afternoon with a few games of table tennis. The General met all of his challenges successfully and appeared to enjoy himself. The inspection concluded with a social call on the Corporal’s Mess before Gen Liu was entertained to dinner by the CO and officers of Sector 2, in the Officers Mess. The evening was rounded off with the General enthusiastically joining in some Mess games.
Meanwhile the daily work of patrolling and being Peacekeepers has continued 24 hours a day seven days a week.
In future blogs I will take you on some patrols so you can see the challenges the soldiers on the ground face, It is not what you will expect!