Richard's Home and School Experiences: Cyprus (1970-72)

Figure 1.--

You might wonder what a British boy was doing on Cyprus so a little basic history may be in order. Cyprus was a British colony at the time World War II broke out and provided useful bases during the fighting in the Mediterranean. The British remained in Cyprus after the War as part of its overseas defense and peace keeping commitments. We were strationed there for a few years. My memmories are a little hazzy, but by all accounts I thrived there as a very young boy and had many local friends. I even learned some Greek, but unfortunately forgot it quickly after returning to Britain. As it was very warm, I wore as little clothing as possible. I wish I could remember more as Cyprus was such a fascinating place. Turkey seized northern Cyprus a few years after we keft.

Britain and Cyprus

You might wonder what a British boy was doing on Cyprus so a little basic history may be in order. Britain actually has a very long connection with the island going back to beyond medieval times. Richard the Lion Heart actually married Queen Berengaria. Britain had a long time presence on the island. The Cypriot Government invited and encouraged British military protection during World War II. The German managed to seize Crete in a daring, but costly parachute assault, but the British managed to hold onto Cyprus which being located further east was not as threatened by the Luftwaffe. The Royal Navy's victories in a serios of ferocious sea battles (1940-41), left Cypruus relatively secure. In the late 60s there were political problems with the Communists as well as some problenms beteen Greeks and Turks on Cyprus. A large United Nations force was deployed to augment the British presence. There were small bases in several parts of the island with one larger area defined as a British territory in the South West. Shortly after our posting ended and we moved back to England in the early 70s there was a Turkish invasion which left the country divided into North and South. There are ongoing talks about resolving this but Northern Cyprus is not recognised by any nations other than Turkey. Prior to the invasion it was common for both Greek and Turkish Cypriots to live peacefully together even though there were debates going back hundreds and even thousands of years as to who had the greater claim on the island. Britain and the United Nations both have strong presences on the island to the South and along the divide, especially in Nicosia, to this day. (2007).

First School

I can’t recall a great deal about my first school experiences other than a few hazy half remembered snapshots held together by recollections of later conversations with family members. I initially attended Berengaria School in Limassol, Cyprus. It was not a Cypriot school but a Primary operated by the British Forces for Services children. Other than its location and locally adjusted customs the education was exactly the same as you would expect from a similar school back in the UK. The buildings from what I can just about remember were little more than basic blocks around a quad which was used as the playground. My brother, being older was in another part of the school. I am sure he had a proper school uniform with khaki/sand colured shorts and white short sleeved shirt. If he wore socks with his sandals I don’t know what colour they were. I can’t remember him wearing a tie or a cap. Other BaseBrats (an almost affectionate term used to describe Services children; amongst others) may have better or more recent memories although the place was closed down in 1999. I don’t recall having a uniform but standard school clothes would have been an open collared short-sleeved shirt, a pair of shorts and probably a pair of sandals.


During my entire time in Cyprus I don’t think I ever saw a boy in trousers whether they be Service Brats or locals. I can only remember wearing socks for very special occasions such as weddings when white was the only colour and spent most of my time in barefeet, a pair of shorts and possibly a short sleeved shirt or t-shirt.

Living Off Base

As a family we did not live on base as my parents held the view it was too insular, despite the fantastic friends, camaraderie and social life and wanted to experience more of the Cypriot lifestyle. So we had a large rented bungalow in Limmasol with our Landlord and family living directly behind us in what was little more than a four roomed building at the back of the plot. Many Cypriots built homes which they paid for by renting out; the lucky ones to military families from whom a good and reliable rent was likely to come from and the strong possibility that another family would move in almost as soon as one had completed their detachment. Another quirk was that hardly any houses were completed. They all had wire spikes protruding from their roofs; the reason being that tax was only payable when a building was finished reather than when it was inhabited. Funny how so many Cypriots had plans for two storey bungalows.

Play Time

I spent nearly all of my time out of school playing on the bondoo (scrub land) opposite with the Landlords children. In fact I usually ate and slept with them too. Before returning to the UK I was fluent but that faded very quickly when it was no longer needed. I had a charmed life and if you have read any of Gerald Durrell's books you will get an idea of my existence chasing lizards, hunting snakes and collecting insects to take home. Only my family were far less ‘interesting’ than his. School started very early but was all over by lunchtime due to the heat and on Fridays my Parents would collect us from school and we’d head off for a weekend camping on the beach with friends before returning to school on Monday morning, sometimes directly from the beach. Flip Flops and swimming trunks, maybe a shirt was all we’d wear for the duration. I had a cotton peacked cap with a flat top (more like a sailors/boating cap than a baseball cap) and a scrap ex-forces bush hat to keep the sun off my head – if I remembered either of them. No tourists or mile after mile of big hotels back then. When we returned to the UK my Mother used to tell me that I’d be a nightmare to keep dressed as I refused to wear shoes, socks or shirts let alone jumpers or coats. I have no recollection of this but I dare say my stubborn streak was already ripening at that young age.


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Created: 6:50 PM 3/28/2007
Last updated: 6:50 PM 3/28/2007