Home Articles A Visiting Fireman in Africa A Visiting Fireman in Africa. Chapter 4 - Page Three
A Visiting Fireman in Africa. Chapter 4 - Page Three Print E-mail
Written by Ray Critchell   
Sunday, 05 July 2009 23:37
Article Index
A Visiting Fireman in Africa. Chapter 4
Page Two
Page Three
Page Four
Page Five
Page Six
Page Seven
Page Eight
Page Nine
Page Ten
Page Eleven
Page Twelve
Page Thirteen
Page Fourteen
Page Fifteen
Page Sixteen
Page Seventeen
Page Eighteen
Page Nineteen
Page Twenty
All Pages

At day break on the Saturday, my wife and eldest son were up at dawn, having packed the night before, and were casually watching a plane circling above. Marjorie called out that this means that the airport must be open and working ok, Raymond called out that he had just seen something fall off the plane . In fact it was a high explosive bomb which exploded with shattering force a couple of streets away, hitting, amongst other things, a garage / petrol station, causing a large fire to develop. Within minutes is was followed by flights of planes which bombed, and strafed with rockets, the town for about an hour or so. Our hotel did not suffer a direct hit but had several close calls, once when a rocket raced past the dining room windows and exploded just up the road. Nearly all the glass in the hotel was broken and the electricity, and this time the water supply as well, went off.

As soon as this aerial bombardment ended, there appeared flights of helicopter gunships, flying very low over the town, laden with armed troops who fired on anything moving in the streets below until they passed over the Trudos mountain range to stage, as we later learned, a full scale invasion Inland. A middle aged American holidaymaker who was staying in the hotel as a guest said the aircraft were all Turkish from a Turkish airbase on the mainland where he worked as the base electrical engineer. He recognised the aircraft as 'his'. Shortly after this, the aircraft, that had evidently gone back to their base to refuel and rearm, came back and the air raids began again.

The hotel staff had all disappeared and we were told by the owners that many of the men would have gone off to join the fighting. It seemed that virtually everyone in Cyprus had a rifle hidden under the floor. We still did not know what was happening around us and the only radio in the hotel that worked off a battery was back to the non-stop martial music. During a lull in the bombardment, Marjorie, with the hoteliers agreement went to see about food for everyone. With no refrigeration the fresh food in the refrigerators was no good and so we made do with tinned fruit and biscuits. The kitchen had been fitted with large windows, now all blown out, and it was interesting to see how rapidly people adjust to situations. When the bombing first started we all ducked or fell to the floor. Now a couple of hours later and Marjorie was walking around in the kitchen inspecting various options with all hell going on outside but now she would only duck down when something hit really close. It reminded me a bit of the attitude developed towards air raids on London during the war.

In the middle of all this, the regular hotel chef calmly walked back in with his rifle and bandolier slung over his shoulder, carrying a couple of chickens which he proceeded to pluck and turn into soup. before returning to the fighting. Fortunately the cookers worked on bottled gas and there was a water cistern up on the roof that held a supply of drinkable water.

By early afternoon the aerial bombing stopped. However, we were then horrified to see a fleet of several warships steaming parallel to the coast which opened fire and started to shoot salvoes into the town from their big guns at almost point blank range.

We all took shelter in the hotel basement which smelt strongly of new paint, was extremely hot, full of dust and cordite smoke and quite crowded as many of the local population now came in looking for protection. When the shelling finally stopped, someone went up to see how things were and came back with the even more horrifying news that there was now a fleet of invasion barges laden with armed troops heading for the beach and clearly heading towards us.