1RCR in Cyprus

1RCR in Cyprus, 1970


The island of Cyprus is located in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, south of Turkey and southeast of Greece. As a result of different powers and leadership in the island’s history, the population of Cyprus is ethnically split into Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots. An agreement between the Ottoman Empire and Great Britain at the end of the 19th century left the British in control of the island, and Cyprus was officially annexed as a British territory in 1914.

When talks of independence from Britain grew stronger in the 1950s, Greek and Turkish Cypriots disagreed on the island’s future. Greek Cypriots wanted to re-unify with Greece, while Turkish Cypriots wanted to divide the island and declare the northern section part of Turkey. Despite these arguments, the Greek, Turkish, and British governments developed an independence strategy and the Republic of Cyprus became an independent state in August 1960.

Three years of rising tensions and constitutional crises followed until representatives of Cyprus formally asked the United Nations (UN) for a peacekeeping force to observe a ceasefire and create buffer zones between the two sides. The UN agreed and Security Council Resolution 186 established the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) on 4 March 1964. The government of Canada agreed to provide military personnel in support of this mission a few days later, and the first Canadians were in Cyprus by the end of the month.

Canadian participation in UNFICYP was given the title Operation SNOWGOOSE in July 1974, but this name retroactively describes all Canadian support for this mission. Canada contributed significant military support from 1964 to 1993, and continues to send every year an officer to operational staff in the capital city, Nicosia. UNFICYP remains an ongoing operation.


Change of Command Certificate, 28 March 1970



The 1st Battalion of the RCR (1RCR) was sent to Cyprus in 1970 on a tour that lasted just over six months from March to October. Arrival in Cyprus involved several steps beforehand – two reconnaissance parties were sent to Cyprus in January and February to connect with the current Canadian Contingent before returning to Canada to continue planning the tour. The unit was granted embarkation leave in the beginning of the month of March and then reconvened for deployment mid-month. Personnel gathered at Wolseley Barracks and traveled by bus to the London Airport where a Canadian Armed Forces plane “Yukon” (CC106) flew them to CFB Trenton. The Regimental band played during the send-off at the airport. From CFB Trenton the group flew to CFB Lahr in West Germany, and then on to Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus and the location of the Canadian Contingent’s headquarters.

Upon arrival in Cyprus, the current unit, the 2nd Battalion of the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) handed over control of the Canadian Contingent to 1RCR. The official rotation occurred from 23 March to 1 April. The change of command ceremony was held on 28 March. This ceremony transferred leadership and responsibility of the United Nations Nicosia District section from Lieutenant-Colonel W.B. MacLeod of the Black Watch to Lieutenant-Colonel D.G. Loomis, Commanding Officer of 1RCR. This formal certificate, which features the symbols of the UN and both regiments, was signed by the officers during the ceremony.


Date: 1970
Donated by: The Royal Canadian Regiment Collection
Object ID: RCRM2021.001.001

UN Flag


This UN flag was flown from the Ledra Palace Hotel in Nicosia in 1970. The Ledra Palace Hotel was a hotel built in Nicosia in the late 1940s that fell within the boundaries of the Green Line buffer zone created by the UN in 1964. The hotel was used as a headquarters for UN staff within the Nicosia District, and to host meetings or peace talks between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot officials. During the 1970 tour, 1RCR used the second floor of the hotel as their base for the Operations Section, which contained paperwork and communications equipment.

 

 

Date: 1970
Donated by: Walter M. Holmes
Object ID: RCRM2010.005.011
UN Flag, RCRM2010.005.0011

Peter Spuzak: "OP 205 Nicosia Cyprus, 1970"


In this watercolour painting, an unnamed soldier stands outside Observation Post Number 205 in Nicosia, Cyprus. The image was painted by Canadian artist Peter Spuzak in September 1970, as the signature in lower left indicates. It was gifted to the Regiment by Commanding Officer Lieutenant-Colonel D.G. Loomis. Peter Spuzak spent five weeks in Cyprus in August and September, painting and recording the activities of the Canadian Contingent. It is likely that he was sent to Cyprus as part of the Canadian Armed Forces Civilian Artists Program, which embedded civilian artists with Canadian Armed Forces personnel domestically and internationally from 1968 to 1995.

Duties for personnel in Cyprus included patrolling and monitoring more than two miles of the Green Line buffer zone across Nicosia. A combination of patrol routes and manned observation posts enforced this space. Observation posts sometimes included sentry boxes like the structure seen in this painting, made from metal sheeting and painted UN blue to be highly visible. The 1RCR in Cyprus, 1970 commemorative journal describes observation post duty as “the boring, tedious task of standing many hours on post observing and reporting Green Line incidents […] all will agree it took lots of mental and physical self discipline.”

Date: 1970
Donated by: The Royal Canadian Regiment Collection
Object ID: RCRM2019.001.014

Peter Spuzak: "Urban Landscape, Nicosia"


This watercolour painting by Peter Spuzak depicts a street scene in Nicosia, Cyprus. Also painted in September 1970, the focus of this piece is several cars and a winding road. Driving and auto accidents were of particular concern to the UN during this time, and safe driving awards were given to soldiers who were able to drive a certain number of miles without a traffic incident. The weekly UNFICYP magazine, The Blue Beret, reported on these awards and often included a weekly count of all traffic incidents on the last page.

After Peter Spuzak finished his stay in Cyprus, a small exhibition was held in the Pro Patria Club (the Junior Ranks’ Mess) showcasing his work. A photo of the artwork on display was published in The Blue Beret Volume 8, No. 27 on 30 September, and this painting can be seen in the image. The painting is hanging in the middle of the wall under the outstretched arm of Corporal Bill Rice.

Date: 1970
Donated by: The Royal Canadian Regiment Collection
Object ID: RCRM2019.001.018

Change of Command Certificate, 10 October 1970

 

In early October, 1RCR began to rotate home to Canada. During their time in Cyprus, 1RCR was responsible for overseeing the creation of a new headquarters for the Canadian Contingent in Nicosia after the UN restructured some of the peacekeeping districts in the beginning of the year. Part of this included the establishment of a Joint Operations Centre with the Danish Contingent that remained active many years later.

The official change of command ceremony occurred on 10 October 1970, and involved the signing of a similar certificate. This time, the certificate featured coloured font, regimental symbols, and a drawing of the island of Cyprus. The certificate was signed by Lieutenant-Colonel D.G. Loomis, handing over responsibility of the Nicosia District to Lieutenant-Colonel T.M. Marsaw, Commanding Officer of the incoming 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. 1RCR returned home to Canada where they received a few days of rest before being recalled on 17 October to Ottawa to assist in the FLQ Crisis.

 

 

Date: 1970
Donated by: the Major-General Dan Gordon Loomis Collection (Estate of Lorna Loomis)
Object ID: RCRM2015.033.005

Photo Reproductions

Unless otherwise indicated, all B&W photographs are reproduced from 1RCR in Cyprus, compiled by Warrant Officer DJ Lacroix, Zavallis Press, Nicosia, Cyprus 1970. The photographs are by Corporal RB Pollock.