Home Articles A Visiting Fireman in Africa A Visiting Fireman in Africa. Chapter 4 - Page Seven
A Visiting Fireman in Africa. Chapter 4 - Page Seven 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

We abandoned our roof top and made our way to the prepared car to send a detailed message, but by then there was a crowd of holiday makers standing in front of the headlights which defeated the purpose as we could not get them to move. Everyone was anxiously looking out to sea wondering if this was the Turkish navy coming back to bombard us again, but our reassurance on that point and our plea for them to move along a bit fell on deaf ears. We put plan B into operation and standing on a large rock at the edge of the beach, and using the home made flags finally spoke to the lead destroyer to advise on the number of people to be taken off and requesting helicopters for the wounded. My sons and daughter had cleared and prepared a safe helicopter landing site near the hotel and very quickly now, large Sikorski helicopters from the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes, which was out on the horizon, came in to land just in front of the hotel and began to ferry the people off to the ship. After the wounded had gone off, we had planned to get the people taken off first, leaving the baggage till last, just in case the Turks started up the shooting again. It would have been too unwieldy for people and baggage to go together and would have taken too long. Fortunately, most people saw the sense of this and there was not too much resistance. In the event everyone was reunited with their luggage on the aircraft carrier

Finally, when everyone going had gone, including some that we were told shouldn't have, then between my family, Fred Hamilton, Anthony Valentine, and a couple of their production crew we loaded all the baggage into a steady stream of helicopters, which was then rapidly whisked away to the Hermes too. We all then climbed aboard with the last of the baggage in the very last flight and took off.

Below were signs of devastation; ruined buildings with smoke still rising, army vehicles in the streets, groups of soldiers moving around, bodies floating along the shore line.

Because of crowding on the Hermes, our little group were taken out to the fleet oil tanker. The Olna. which was taking in the overflow. The captain, officers and crew could not have been kinder and many gave up their cabins and sleeping quarters to allow us to rest. Many of the women and children were almost asleep on their feet. By now it was afternoon and for a while, the total contrast was so surreal that it produced a feeling of unreality. One moment we had been hiding in fear for our lives, and now here we were, sitting in a deck chair on the promenade deck of what, apart from the oil tanker plumbing and fittings, could have been a Mediterranean cruise liner, in perfect safety, with a pint of best English beer in my hand and enjoying the peaceful sunshine. Later that evening we were splendidly entertained by a troupe of Russian folk dancers and musicians that had been touring Cyprus and found themselves in the same predicament as us. A truly, seriously weird sensation.

We were fed a most welcome meal, our first for several days, and slept as well as we could. The ships medical staff had offered us their full services if we needed any treatment. [We did not know at the time but my daughter Rosemarie and I had both received a considerable quantity of one of the Hotel plate glass windows in the form of minute particles, as fine as grains of sand, in our faces. The bullets went straight through the plate glass, making neat little holes. There was no sign of any wounds, bleeding nor any pain, but these particles of glass emerged at periodic intervals over the next 30 or so years. Rosemarie made a little collection of some of her larger particles.]