Today we attended the Remembrance Sunday ceremony at the Old British Cemetery in Kyrenia and afterwards went to the RBL lunch at the Ship Inn. We have been to the ceremony quite a few times. We always go if we are in Cyprus for the occasion. The Old British Cemetery was originally a field set aside on the outskirts of Kyrenia, following the landing of British troops in 1878. It was first used around the turn of the century when members of the 42nd Highlanders, the Black Watch were buried following their deaths from Malaria. It is now maintained by the Royal British Legion and contains the graves of those who lost their lives in service through 1966.
We drove down, taking our neighbours, Alan and Lesley at around 1115. The ceremony was to start at 1230 but the President of Northern Cyprus. Ersin Tatar, was attending and so we thought we would get there early. It was a lovely day again – sunny with a small breeze. Nice to be out in weather.
The Old British Cemetery is on the outskirts of Kyrenia, on the main road. They put rows of seats out across the pavement and one carriageway and then the police close off the entire road to allow for extra seating. People come from all over to attend, although this year, because of covid again, not so many people came from the UK. Normally top military and diplomatic figures come out to lay wreaths on behalf of all the regiments, and organisations who have lost people in the Cyprus troubles over the decades. There were nonetheless representatives from the Commonwealth forces, UK police. Cyprus Police. all wings of the UK armed forces and intelligence communities, male and female, the British Residents, the Freemasons. the British Legion…. The ceremony was conducted by the Rev. Michael Graham, and he gave an excellent, inclusive and reflective address which also paid homage to other religions in an act of community with the President and politicians of the TRNC.
I suppose there were a couple of hundred people in attendance. There was the Last Post and the Reveille played by a bugler and several hymns. It was moving and solemn without being jingoistic.
Afterwards we went for lunch to the Ship Inn. Nice 3 course lunch of soup. roast chicken and then apple pie with ice cream. We were on a table with Pamela, Eddie, Deborah. Alan, Lesley, Linda, Mike and two other couples. It was all most congenial.
The day was special for Bob because for the first time he wore his father’s Arctic Star Medal. Bob’s dad served in the Signals in ww2 and his first posting was on the Arctic convoys escorting them to Murmansk, around the top of Norway. This was a terrible time by his accounts, dreadful hardship of cold, enormous seas, fishing bodies out and stacking them like giant iceblocks on deck. Sights that we can only imagine in horror. Incredibly most of the young crews could not swim but this was considered a bonus because you had a survival time of about 2 minutes if you went into the sea. Many ships were sunk. For many years, there was no medal to reflect this area of service but about 5 years ago, the British Goverment, following the action of the Russian Government established the Arctic star medal. Bob’s dad passed away in 1996 but as his eldest son, he was allowed to apply for it posthumously. The process took 18 months but eventually the medal came in the post. Bob proudly wore it today to honour his dad’s service.