Home Articles A Visiting Fireman in Africa A Visiting Fireman in Africa. Chapter 4 - Page Four
A Visiting Fireman in Africa. Chapter 4 - Page Four 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
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It was at this time that we were able to gather some idea from local residents what all this was about. It would seem that for a long time, going back many years, there was a wish for a self governing island of Cyprus held by both of the principal groups there, the Greeks and the Turks. This current situation was evidently due to a rising up by the Greek population with the intention of taking over the rule of the island. They held the belief that the mainland Greek army would come over to support them. Not only did this not happen but the support for the Turkish people, who seemed to be in the minority, was immediate and brutally lethal, supplied by the mainland Turkish armed forces. Our own armed forces on the British Sovereign bases on the Island, as well as the force of NATO peacekeepers permanently based there, apparently could not intervene, despite there being several hundred UK and other citizens there on holiday, some of whom had by now been shot and wounded.

There must have been considerable resistance to the landing as reports reached us of fierce fighting going on down at the beach and gradually up into the town itself, as the overwhelming firepower of the invading Turks made headway. Occasionally another local resident would creep into the already crowded cellar with details of dreadful happenings outside. As night fell, we crouched in almost total darkness, and complete silence, as sounds of hand to hand fighting in the street outside could be heard. I wondered what I would do if the Turks broke into the cellar, and sat with my arms around my wife and family. That long night eventually passed and the sounds of fighting diminished further up the street. We heard later that the invading Turks had been told by their commanders not to enter hotels where holiday makers were staying. Instead they concentrated on the homes of local Greek Cypriots and many of the local people in the cellar with us, who seemed to be Greek, were aware of the attitude of the Turks towards them and expressed their great fear of being discovered. Mothers with daughters were especially terrified of being caught.

After sunrise the next day, the fighting had moved away from the immediate area of the hotel and we cautiously made our way upstairs to find water to drink and toilets that might still be working. One of the hoteliers had managed to get the BBC on his battery radio and it was odd to listen to the announcer in London telling us in his calm, measured tones that the fighting had now ceased in Kyrenia and that the holiday makers were safe, whilst not too far distant was the continuous sound of gunfire and people shouting and screaming. At one point a pickup pulled up outside the hotel and the owner went out speak with the driver.. I peered out of the window and could see that lying in the back of the open vehicle was the young waiter who had served us on our first few meals there. He appeared to be unconscious, badly wounded, and now had only one leg.

The rest of that day passed slowly with unsuccessful attempts to contact the outside world, or get information that could be of help to us in our predicament. It was raging hot with temperatures in excess of 40°c and then the hotel water cistern ran dry. No one dared to suggest going out to find another source and the hoteliers eventually gave us all carte blanche to their bar stocks, saying that in a short while the Turks would have it all anyway. We gratefully stocked up with bottled water. One Belgian couple took them at their word and emptied out their suitcases and filled them up with bottles of spirits, wines and boxes of cigars.