Great Britain found itself occupying Cyprus in the summer of 1878 after a political deal that saw the Mediterranean Island traded for British support against an increasingly aggressive Russian expansion across Europe. Fraught with nuance from the outset, Britain had already refused the offer of Cyprus three times previously and seemed reluctant to agree to the terms of what was known as the Cyprus (or Anglo-Turkish) Convention, signed on 4 June 1878. Thus began a rocky relationship between the British and the island of Cyprus. At the time there even appeared internal conflict within the British Government as to the merits of Britain’s acceptance of the Cyprus Convention. In this article, I will examine one specific aspect of this occupation – the British footprint on Troödos (Troodos) Mountain in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
What we’ll learn is that the Army did not move to Troodos for any strategic reason, nor to avail of the natural resources that may have occurred on the mountain. In fact, the British Government thought Cyprus was unwholly suitable as a military base.1Maintaining Britishness in a Setting of their Own Design: The Troodos Hill Station in Cyprus during the Early British Occupation, Andrekos Varnava They did so for the preservation of the health of the British subjects stationed in Cyprus; civilian and military. Mountain hill resorts had been a feature of India for decades, and in Cyprus, the tradition of escaping to the cooler hills between May and September would continue for nearly a century.
I will not provide any associated commentary on the socio-political events in Cyprus throughout the timeline of the article, and I am conscious that there is much bias in the articles and sources I have used. My aim is to chart this physical history of Britain in the Troodos mountains; the debate as to the legitimacy of that claim or otherwise is covered elsewhere in many academic dissertations.
Table of Contents
Part I: The British in Cyprus
With much might and pomp, the British forces landed 10,000 troops at Larnaca. In a lengthy article published in the Illustrated London News,2The British Occupation of Cyprus, Illustrated London News, 17 August 1878, volume 73, issue 2042 great detail is given about the ships engaged and the troops involved. This was very much an expeditionary force, with the intent and gusto required to establish a governing and military presence on what was gambled by those in Westminster as a valuable and strategic foothold in the Meditteranean. A headquarters was quickly and efficiently established at Chevlik Pasha (the correct village name is Pasha Chiftlik, four miles southwest of Larnaca).
Under the blaze of the noonday sun, during the Cyprus dog-days, with all the glare, dust, and heat, the fatigue endured by our sailors and their Captain, the Duke (of Edinburgh) has been excellent; but, of course, there has not yet been time to judge of the effect of the heat and exposure on the European troops.A modest understatement of the effect the environment of Cyprus would soon have on the British troops now landed there. The British Occupation of Cyprus, Illustrated London News, 17 August 1878.
Chaos soon ensued; at one stage large numbers of troops were embarked back onto their ships, contradicting orders issued, ultimately resulting in all of the Indian troops were ordered to return to India by Autumn. Three English regiments would remain for a short time; the 42nd Highlanders, the 71st Highlanders and the 101st Fusiliers, along with the 31st Company Royal Engineers, Royal Marines and elements of the Royal Artillery. However, the heat of the Cypriot summer was soon to become a real issue, with footnotes in the following week’s edition of the I.L.N.3The British Occupation of Cyprus, Illustrated London News, 24 August 1878, volume 73, issue 2043 already indicating plans to decamp during the hottest months of the year offering some respite to the struggling troops.
We are glad also to learn that a plateau upon Mount Olympus, four thousand feet above the sea, and at an easy distance from the capital, has been selected as the site of a cantonment for ths soldiers. It is very salubrious, abundantly supplied with water, and favoured with the aromatic fragrance of the pine woods.The British Occupation of Cyprus, Illustrated London News, 24 August 1878.
Subsequent articles in the Illustrated London News continued to convey the deterioration of conditions. A malarious fever swept through the soldiers, with one formation of Royal Engineers struck down in entirety with the fever. By the end of August 1878, proposals were in hand for the construction of a camp on the western slopes of Mount Troodos. It was proposed that the majority of the unacclimatised European troops would be stationed in the cooler mountain range to avoid the insufferable heat and escape the fever season on the plains outside Larnaca. Wooden huts were promptly ordered from England, although I have no images or evidence they arrived or were constructed.4The British Occupation of Cyprus, Illustrated London News, 31 August 1878, volume 73, issue 2044 By October 1878 no mountain sites had been confirmed, and it would be May 1879 before the British, of which there were around 400 remaining on Cyprus (the military contingent being mostly Royal Engineers), were able to withdraw to their summer camp in the Troodos mountains.
A British mountain retreat is born
The concept of withdrawing to the cooler hills to escape the summer heat was not a new concept but certainly became more popular at the end of the nineteenth century. Popularised in India during the rule of the British Raj, ranking British civilians opted to withdraw to mountain towns, unwittingly creating a seasonal tourist trade. They coined the term Hill Station to describe these settlements, often furnishing them with better transport links, sanitation and lavish public buildings.
Remarkably after over 140 years, a description of this first encampment on Troodos was published in the Graphic newspaper on 15 November 1879. It reads:
The ground is a mass of rough rocks and stones covered with stunted pines, and among these tents were pitched for the High Commissioner of the Island and his personal staff (…). Even at this altitude the heat of the sun at midday was excessive, and the thermometer in the tents frequently reached 90 deg., but sitting outside in the shade was pelasant enough, and the evenings were almost too chilly after the sun had set. Within 100 yards of this camp the officers and men of the 20th Foot stretched their canvas on a plateau, from which magnificent views were obtained looking northwards, whilst on the other side of the General in command the Royal Engineers set up their tents on a ridge overlooking a deep ravine which runs away eastwards.
A further letter from a reader in the same newspaper reads:
A friend of mine has received letter from an officer who has been spending the summer Mount Troodos, the new hill-station in Cyprus. It is full of praise of the climate, which he describes as glorious from May until the beginning of October. The spurs of the hills, covered with luxuriant arbutus, ilex, cypress, and pines, offer tempting sites for the vlllas of the future; and in spring the hill-sides form a glowing carpet of flowers, amongst which the cistus is the most beautiful. Early October the weather became wet and stormy, and every one was glad to get back again to the plains. The health of the troops during the summer, my informant tells me, was excellent.
Much of my information so far has come directly from the British Newspaper Archive, but I also paid a visit to the National Archives at Kew where there remained a few select documents from this period at Troodos to discover. The maps later on in this article have come from the archives, but in the meantime, we are able to get much of this information from British reporters on the Island and from published letters.
No public work of any importance has yet been undertaken, if we except a road which is being constructed to a sanitorium on Mount Troodos. The cost of that road is said to be estimated at £20,000; but it is of no value to the island, and ought properly to come under the heading of expenditure for Imperial purposes.Mr. R Hamilton Lang, late Her Majesty’s Consol for the Island of Cyprus. Published in the Daily Review (Edinburgh) Friday 05 September 1879
The series of eight engravings below show scenes from the first Summer encampment of the British Government of Cyprus on Mount Troodos (Olympus) from a supplement to the Illustrated London News, published on 18 October 1879. Here we see canvas tents among the trees, some landscaping has been undertaken to create paths through the forest, and many of the rocks that litter the plateau of Troodos have been cleared and are stacked around the trees. We can also see, in image 4 (Priest’s Tent) that a stone-walled platform has been constructed.
Four years after the British occupied Cyprus, in 1882, the British entered Egypt as a result of the Anglo-Egyptian War. Much like the difficulties faced in India as a result of the climate, Egypt took its toll on the Europeans unaccustomed to the extremes of temperature. However, by 1887 the virtues of the cool and pure mountain air upon Troodos were well known. Convalescing soldiers from Egypt had been sent to Cyprus for rest and recuperation the previous year. This scheme proved so beneficial that a portion of land was requested for the “establishment of an intermediate camp at less altitude (…) about Platres or elsewhere (…) capable of encamping about 300 men.”6Letter dated 9 March 1887 from the Under Secretary of State for War to the Secretary of State of the Colonial Office. National Archives CO 67/50
In these early years, the use of Troodos appears to have been ad-hoc. Individual units seemed at liberty to select their campsite for the year and the contemporary images reflect this transience as no permanent structures are visible. Canvas was the order of the day. The wooden huts ordered in 1878 do not appear in any of the contemporary plates or images, but when we come to examine the map evidence there may be evidence for these buildings.
At first it was proposed to place this hospital at Troodos on Mount Olympus; but owing to the near approach of the cool season (when the troops would have to come down to the plains), and to the distance by road to Troodos, it was decided not to establish a hospital at that place for the few remaining weeks of the hot season, and a site in the neighbourhood of the camp at Polymedia was chosen instead, which it was intended to make use of at the beginning of October.Egypt (Military Expedition)—Military Hospitals In Cyprus, Volume 279: debated on Thursday 7 June 1883
The War Departments’ presence on Troodos was cemented into history when in 1887 they were granted permission to occupy 609 acres on the mountains for “military purposes” from the Colonial Government. The dubious definition of “military purposes” seems to have historically come to be for the health of troops serving in the Middle and Far East regions. It was during the Egyptian Campaign that soldiers travelled to Troodos for weeks or months at a time to recuperate. Even as long as 60 years later, during the Second World War, it was estimated that 40,000 people were issued visas to visit Cyprus on leave, with many of them travelling to Troodos to seek respite in the cool mountain climate.7Letter to Lieutenant Colonel Russel Edmunds from Juxton Barton dated 25 February 1947. National Archives CO 67/330/18 Seeing the potential of tourism in the region, the (British) civilian Government of Cyprus was increasingly keen to capitalise on the prime resort land on Troodos. This started what became a push for increasing amounts of this military land to be handed back so the Troodos Hill Resort could be developed. A body called Troodos Summer Resort Development Board had been set up in 1938 as a result of the passing of the Summer Resort (Development) Law, 1938 to pursue the goal of increasing tourism in the region.
The Second World War and beyond
There is a single line in a 1933 agreement8Contained in file CO 67/330/18 written by the Land Registration and Survey Department that agrees to the War Department carrying out “occasional tactical exercises (…) by troops on uninhabited forest land outside the War Department area.” However, in a later clarification, this agreement would only be granted if no blank ammunition or fireworks (sic) were used. This is the only reference in the historical record that I have found to uniformed military training being undertaken on Troodos.
The Second World War saw the War Department continue to utilise its extensive on Troodos. In two brief documents held in the National Archives, we can ascertain that at least two major formations were here; 22 Rest and Leave Camp9National Archives AIR 29/506/13 (RLC) and 259 Wing, Air Stores Park10National Archives AIR 29/784/3 (ASP) Cyprus.
In the shadow of the Second World War the Secretary of State for the Colonies, George Henry Hall, made known his view was there was “little hope of Troodos developing into an attractive, up-to-date resort” so long as “a number of unsightly sheds and stores belonging to the War Department” remained.
The plans outlined in a series of letters sent in 1945 between the Colonial Secretary and the War Department11National Archives CO 67/330/18 Reoccupation of War Department land at Troodos proposed a merger of all military camps into one large site, encompassing; DID (Detail Issue Depot), ATS (Auxillary Territorial Service) Leave Camp, Convalescent Section, RAF (Royal Air Force) Leave Camp, and Indian Leave Camp. The records detail other WD sites Troodos, namely Royal Engineer Stores and Ordnance Stores that would be relocated to opposite the site of the Olympus Camp Hotel.
The 1950s were a turbulent time for Cyprus. Stemming from a desire by Greek Cypriots for the country to form a union with mainland Greece, ending British Colonial hold on the Island, the political revolt quickly turned into an armed uprising. Attacks by EOKA, the National Organization of Cypriot Struggle, on the British in Cyprus began in 1955 and continued until 1959, with the deaths of 457 people. Much of the EOKA insurgency was focused around the Troodos mountains, with fighters taking advantage of the rugged terrain and vulnerability of the British operating around the mountains. One emergency measure that was implemented was the establishment of Troodos as a separate administrative district in march 1957.12National Archives FCO 141/3961 Confidential memo, unsigned. File page 155 It was abolished on 1 May 1959. Added to the pressure on the Troodos camps brought by the presence of troops surged to the mountains in the fight against the EOKA, the RAF planned to construct a radar station on Mount Olympus; requesting accommodation in the Troodos Leave Camp for 6 officers and 120 airmen. This request was denied. In a letter from the Director of Operations, Cyprus to the British General Headquarters (GHQ) the future of the mountain camp seemed to have been secure:
It is understood that the Leave Camp in Troodos will be remaining in the long term garrison, however there appears to be a need for co-ordination of the Military, RAF and Troodos Improvement Board requirements for accommodation in the Troodos area.
In 1960 a treaty (No. 5476) was signed between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Cyprus to establish the Republic of Cyprus. This treaty essentially laid out the return of lands and handed over the right to govern to the Cypriot people. Within this, the British would retain a number of Sovereign Base Areas (SBA) with additional rights to other lands “necessary for the efficient use of its Sovereign Base Areas and installations in the Island of Cyprus.” This wording is very similar to the “military purposes” clause of the 1878 agreement. Within this treaty, both Troodos and now Olympus is specified.
An isolated note in the National Archives exists13WO 37/152910 seeming to agree that the leave camp area can be reduced by 13 acres to a total of 107 acres. I have no further information on this proposal, nor any map attached to it. From my understanding of the historic land agreements between the government and the military it’s possible that in order to construct the radar station on Olympus, the military would be required to hand over land elsewhere. This like-for-like transfer would have appeased both sides.
By 1962 an operational unit of the Royal Air Force (280 Signals Unit, Troodos Detachment14Formed at Akrotiri on 25 June 1956 closed on 31 March 1994 at Troodos by being subsumed into the Joint Services Signals Unit (JSSU)) was stationed on the mountain, deployed here from RAF Akrotiri in 195915From an information board in the modern day RAF Troodos Camp, author 2022. The unit was stationed behind the Pinetrees (Pine Tree) Leave Camp. In a brochure16Hosted on a website dedicated to the history of RAF Akrotiri to new RAF families arriving in Cyprus the leave camp is described as boasting the “finest living conditions on the Island.” It appears as if the reputation of Troodos providing welcome respite from the Meditteranean summers continued.
The last reference to the Troodos camp I will include in this article is from a parliamentary question asked in 2005 regarding the extent of British property in Cyprus, and it refers to both RAF Troodos and Troodos Leave Camp. The answer confirms that both the RAF signal station at Troodos and the leave camp were co-located on the same site. There are three lines in the response, I have replicated these below.
This image shows the radome ‘golf balls’ at RAF Troodos station. Dated 1975 copyright Roy Lambeth, submitted to RAF Akrotiri Revisited website. Accessed January 2023.
|A2||Troodos||RAF Troodos signal station|
|A3||Olympus||Mount Olympus radar station|
|C1||Troodos||Troodos Leave Camp. Contiguous to Serial 1. The accommodation is used by BFC (British Forces Cyprus), visiting troops and youth services in support of adventurous training. The site also contains married quarters, NAAFI and Works Unit|
In the early days of Troodos encampments, there seemed to be a casual approach to the naming conventions of these hill sites. Names such as Dr Wills’ Camp or the Berkshire Camp are very descriptive of the occupants of those areas. One notable name that did appear in a 1945 letter was Biddulph Barracks. Sir Robert Biddulph (b.26/08/1835, d.18/11/1918), the second administrator, succeeding Sir Garnet Wolseley as High Commissioner and Commander-in-Chief of Cyprus, was appointed in June 1879 and served in Cyprus until 1886. Biddulph was responsible for constructing the three-storey Governors Cottage on Troodos in 1880. Biddulph gave his name to a stone gate in Famagusta that he saved from demolition, and it’s likely that through his development work on Troodos, his name was given to one of the first permanent camps. I have no confirmed location for Biddulph Barracks.
Another name for a Troodos camp that appears later is that of Pinetrees or Pine Tree Holiday Camp. In a postcard discovered for sale on an online auction platform (image assumed out of copyright), we can see a row of stone build chalets. I have identified this row as being within the remaining camp on Troodos, one of the last remaining parcels of land from the 1887 agreement.
The sea journey to Cyprus was only about 70 miles and “the leave ship, Tripolitania left the heavily guarded quayside at Haifa two or even three times a week. (…) A popular place in Cyprus was the Pine Tree Holiday Camp at Troodos, 5,500 ft above sea level. Accommodation was in tents but there were good facilities.A brief note about the leave camp at Troodos from a British soldier stationed in Palestine just after the Second World War.
Part II: Map evidence
I believe this is the most comprehensive map study of the Troodos hill station carried out. I have taken maps from various sources. They are of great assistance in piecing together the complicated history of the ownership of Troodos.
Cartographic surveys for the first map series of Cyprus were started in 1878 and were completed 4 years later in 1882. By the time Troodos was surveyed it appears that a camp on Troodos was well established. It’s hard to ascertain exactly what is represented on this map, but my assumption based on standard map conventions is that the blocks represent buildings. These could be the wooden huts that had been ordered in 1878 shortly after the need for a summer camp had been identified.
The next historic map I uncovered was dating from 1886 when a formal request was made by the War Office to reserve camping grounds on Troodos for military use. There is also an associated map with this letter, from which I have extracted a small section and annotated it with information from the correspondence.
The ground desired covers and includes, loosely speaking, all that tract or plateau of land, along the high ridge of Troodos, which extends from the rear of what is known as the “Hogs Back” to the top of the ravine which touches the road to Olympus not far from the point where the path to Kykks leaves that road.
Taking the head of that ravine as the starting point the boundary line would, as I understand, follow the bed of the ravine until it reached the tennis ground and the road from Troodos to Platris.
It could there follow the line of that road downwards, towards Government Cottage, for some hundreds of yards until it reached the spot where the dry water course descending from the hill where Dr. Wills’ camp was this year enters the road. Mounting the hill at this spot and following the line of the dry watercourse, the proposed boundary line would pass directly across the ground where Dr. Wills’ tents were and would descend on the other side until it reached the head of a ravine near where the first tents of the convalescent camp were this year. Descending this ravine the boundary line would follow it to a point where the ground becomes very abruptly broken and where a water course bed coming down the hill on the left or Easter side meets it.
Turning up this dry water course and leaving gradually to the left the boundary line would thus return back in the direction of the Convalescent Camp but would mount the high ground above the camp and make for a point where the path to the “Hogs Back” begins.
At this point the line would strike the edge of the plateau where it looks down upon the basin below, and at this point therefore the line would turn in the direction of the ground where the Berkshire Camp was.
Here it would be more difficult to trace or define a boundary line; but generally it may be described as running below and parallel to the line of the plateau ridge, and enclosing thereby the whole plateau and ground on which the convalescent camp, the Commissariat Camp, the Brigade Office, the Camp of the Royal Berkshire Regiment, and Colonel Hackett’s tents were situated this year and as including also all the ground, below the high ridge on which the slaughterhouse, the kennels, the cemetery, and the two camping grounds known as the “guards camp” are.
The line having included all these would turn sharply to the South West and mounting the hill lying behind the camp occupied by Colonel Hackett would reach again the point at the head of the ravine from which it first started.A description of the ground desired to be reserved for the use of the War Department in Cyprus, 1886. From original correspondance recorded in the National Archives CO 67/50. Text remains copyright the National Archives. Document reproduced under the ‘fair dealing’ clause for the purpose of research.
The next map is a real gem. It is a fine annotated map of the Troodos area showing all of the permanent buildings around the mountain. But not only this but in a related file held in the National Archives is a record plan of these buildings and a description sheet detailing construction dates, costs and materials used. The map is copyrighted by the National Archives. Document reproduced as a low-resolution image under the ‘fair dealing’ clause for the purpose of research.
|Name of building||Authorised accommodation||Commenced||Completed||Estimated cost||Actual cost||Occupation||Construction|
|Engine House||Nil||June 88||August 88||Engine and pump||Stone walls with corrugated iron roof|
|Officers Mess (South Camp)||Nil||June 88||August 88||£130.0d.0s||£137.0d.0s||Officers Mess||Wood with corrugated iron roof|
|Canteen (South Camp)||Nil||August 88||October 88||£82.0d.0s||£67.0d.0s||Canteen||Wood with corrugated iron roof|
|Bakehouse||Nil||July 85||October 88||£47.0d.0s||Bakery||Ordinary wooden hut with corrugated iron roof|
|Hospital Kitchen||Nil||June 87||June 87||£5.0d.0s||Hospital kitchen||Stone walls with corrugated iron roof|
|Surgery||Nil||No record||No record||No record||Ordinary wooden hut|
|Tanks||Nil||June 88||September 88||Water supply||Cast iron 10,000 gallons each|
|Provost Cells||3 prisoners||July 88||October 85||£28.0d.0s||£22.0d.0s||Prisoners||Ordinary wooden hut 24′ x 18’6″ with corrugated iron roof|
|Married Quarters Huts||Nil||Married soldiers||Ordinary wooden hut 33’6″ x 16’0″|
|Officers’ Mess Kitchen||Nil||June 87||June 87||£5.0d.0s||£5.0d.0s||Officers’ Mess kitchen||Stone walls with corrugated iron roof|
|Royal Engineer Store||Nil||Royal Engineers stores||Ordinary wooden hut 33’6″ x 17’0″|
|Officers’ Mess (North Camp)||Nil||Officers’ Mess||Ordinary wooden hut 33’4″ x 24’3″|
|Ordnance Store||Nil||July 89||September 89||£255.0d.0s||£190.0d.0s||Ordnance stores||Corrugated iron walls and roof 90′ x 30’2″|
|Barrack Store No.1||Nil||June 88||September 88||£17.0d.0s||£17.0d.0s||Barracks stores||Corrugated iron walls and roof 11′ x 11′|
|Barrack Store No.2||Nil||July 89||September 88||£267.0d.0s||£210.0d.0s||Barracks stores||Corrugated iron walls and roof 90′ x 30’2″|
|Ovens||Nil||May 82||June 82||£28.0d.0s||£28.0d.0s||Bakery||Stone with firebrick arches and floors|
|Canteen (North Camp)||Nil||Temporary married quarters||Ordinary wooden hut 33’6″ x 17’0″|
It would be another 44 years before the next map would appear in the archives. In a file17National Archives CO 67/330/18 which is an aggregation of communications between the War Department and the Civil Government, we are able to get an insight into the transfer of lands at Troodos between both departments over the years. This is summarised in a map key compiled in 1933 which is read in conjunction with the map from the same year.
|Plot||Description||Plot Size (A.R.P.)18Acres, Roods and Perches. You can find a useful explanation on Lochista. Conversion to square km here.||Acquisition Date||Return Date|
|Plot A||Demarcated by 11 boundary stones and originally taken over by registration 3/13/3/1880. Plot A has been subdivided into a number of sub-plots, below.||609.0.34 (2.5 km2)||1880|
|Sub-plot 1||Coloured BLUE. Acquired in letter C.R./Egypt/A/19005, W.O. Letter Cyprus 8/79. Handed over to Civil Government in a letter dated 26/08/1920.||4.2.5 (0.018 km2)||1879||1920|
|Sub-plot 2||Coloured BLUE. Acquired in letter C.R./Egypt/A/19005, W.O. Letter Cyprus 8/79. Handed over to Civil Government in a letter dated 26/08/1920.||4.1.10 (0.017 km2)||1879||1920|
|Sub-plot 3||Coloured BLUE. Acquired in letter C.R./Egypt/A/19005, W.O. Letter Cyprus 8/79. Handed over to Civil Government in a letter dated 26/08/1920.||28.1.0 (0.114 km2)||1879||1920|
|Sub-plot 4||4.1.17 (0.018 km2)||1879||1920|
|Sub-plot 5||Coloured GREEN was proposed for transfer to the Civil Government in 1933||379.1.27 (1.5 km2)||1880||1932|
|Sub-plot 6||Coloured GREEN, the cricket ground.||Not recorded||Not recorded||1920|
|Sub-plot 7||Coloured RED. It is proposed that the War Department retain this land (as of 1933)||188.0.6 (760,961 m2)||1880|
|Sub-plot 8||Coloured RED. It is proposed that the War Department retain this land (as of 1933)||0.1.9 (0.0012 km2)||1880|
|Plot 9||Coloured YELLOW. Handed over to the Civil Government in 1930 by agreement C.S.M.P.1285/26||0.1.20 (0.0015 km2)||1904||1930|
|Plot C||Demarcated by 4 boundary stones and originally taken over by registration on 3/3.3.1890. Proposed for transfer to the Civil Government in 1933||3.1.19 (0.013 km2)||1890||193319Earliest date this would have occurred|
|Plot B||Demarcated by 4 boundary stones and originally taken over by registration on 3/3.3.1890. Handed back to Civil Government by agreement dated 3.8.1905||8.3.16 (0.035 km2)||1890||1905|
The following annotated map dates from 1946. It accompanies the correspondence in relation to the return of further land to the Government. As well as gaining more land, the Government is keen to have the military buildings on that land removed; at their own cost. It is difficult to make out from the faded map, but once the War Department returns the land shaded green, they will own two discreet parcels of land, bounded in blue. The top parcel houses what is marked as a military hospital, and the lower parcel the main military camp. The brown lines represent the main asphalted roads.
|Building||Nature of Construction|
|Royal Engineer (RE) Office||Corrugated Iron (CGI) sides and roof, plastered inside|
|Royal Army Service Corps (RASC) Office||Corrugated Iron (CGI) sides and roof, plastered inside|
|Detail Issue Depot (DID) and Barrack Store||Store and CGI roof|
|RE Carpenters’ Shop||Wood, CGI roof, plastered inside|
|RE Workment’s Hut||Wood, CGI roof|
|RE Workment’s Hut (5 of)||Wood, CGI roof, plastered inside|
|RE Workmen’s Latrines||Stone, CGI roof|
|Ordnance Shed||CGI building|
|RASC Garages and Workshop||CGI and stone, CGI roof|
|ESA’s Quarter||Wood, CGI roof, stone kitchen, CGI roof|
|ASREWS’s Quarter||Wood, CGI roof|
|RASC Petrol Store||CGI, plastered inside|
One more map to share is the Troodos and Hill Resorts 1:25,000 map published by the Department of Lands and Surveys, Cyprus in 1969 (third revised edition). It’s the simplest of the maps I have found, primarily designed for tourists visiting and hiking in the area. A lot of attention has been paid to the contours of the mountains, and less to the features of buildings. We can see how the hilltop has developed into a tourist area; skiing, camping, and recreational areas now dominate. The military leave camp remains, with 280 Signal Unit not located in the area at the time the map was drawn. The Government huts are still marked, as is the 1928 English (Anglican) church outside the gates of the leave camp. This is much the same layout of Troodos as it is today.
Remapping the Hill Station
My work below has pulled together as much of the known information from the historic maps and placed it onto a modern map. You should be able to open this map in Google Maps and store it locally on your phone if you wish to explore the area for yourself.
Part III: Uncovering 140 years of occupation
What turned into a bit of an obsession started out with a hike along one of the many mountain trails on Troodos in the winter of 2022. At the side of the trail was unmistakably a War Department boundary stone (No. 15 in fact). For the rest of that weekend, I stumbled over the rocks and valleys of Troodos to see what I could uncover. Knowing that it would all be evidence when I returned to the UK and started to investigate why a WD stone had been planted in the middle of Cyprus. It led to the discovery of more boundary stones, collections of often ruinous buildings, a cemetery and most intriguingly an assemblage of domestic waste from the very early days of Troodos’ occupation.
Often the first or only clues left to the history or significance of a site; boundary stones have been laid around the perimeter of military sites (although the criteria stipulating when this was done is unknown) since the nineteenth century. They were also used in other areas, such as parliamentary and parish boundaries. They are sometimes confused with survey benchmarks, but you can read more about boundary stones in general in another one of my articles.
I discovered two types of boundary stones on Troodos, both of which can be traced to and located on early maps. The aerial images below have been plotted from the old map sources. I have no definitive construction dates for the boundary stones and while the Camping Ground (CG) dates from some of the first years spent on Troodos (circa 1880-1890) the stones probably date to the time when land parcels were returned to the Government. The later War Department stones, as they trace the reduced military boundary as agreed in 1933, are likely to come from this period.
Camping Ground (GC)
References to Camping Grounds on Troodos date back to 1886 when the first formal requests were made for land to be set aside, but they aren’t represented on maps until 1933. The stones uncovered are heavily weathered and of crude construction in comparison to the fine stone WD stones also found on Troodos. Using the 1933 map in this article, and the associated table of land ownership that was associated with it, I have concluded that these CG stones date from 1920 when the portions of land demarcated by them were returned to the civil government from the War Department. The stones below are marked CG 2 and CG 3 respectively. They come from an area names Maklouf’s Camp, the northernmost camping ground.
The CG stones are made from concrete (a cement and pebble mix), and from one badly damaged stone nearby I could ascertain there was internal reinforcing in the form of a broad metal (presumed steel) banded frame.
These may not be strictly military stones and may have been placed by the civil Government when they took ownership of the land. I am making this conclusion based on their construction and the lack of WD markings; they are bounding an enclave within overall WD land.
War Department (WD)
Unhelpfully the WD stones are first marked on the 1933 map, although their origin likely dates back over a decade. Having read all available literature on the development of the Troodos lands, it’s my impression that boundary stones were only required once the land started to be shared with the civil Government and the development of the Troodos Resort Area began. That places them in a similar timescale to the CG stones above, the 1920s.
The stones are carved from Bath Stone in a style seen throughout WD boundary stones across Great Britain. It’s unlikely this stone was quarried locally in Cyprus and was probably imported from England.
From the four images below, there is one stone carved in a different style from the others. The distinctive text on WD No. 11 is indicative of being carved in a different period than the remainder. While I can only speculate this is of an earlier date, I have no source to confirm this.
Roads and tracks
A road to Troodos was one of the first major infrastructure projects completed, at an estimated cost of £20,000 in 1879. With the absence of heavy machinery, work would have been hard and likely consisted of pick axes and possibly explosives to blast through the rock. The modern road layout on Troodos is very different to what it would have looked like in the nineteenth century, but remnants of the old winding tracks and roads can still be seen.
The early images of encampments show large numbers of canvas tents settled inside the forests of Troodos. The mountain terrain by its nature is naturally rocky and undulating. For the most part, little landscaping seems to have been done in the early days, but from the images, right at the start of this article you may notice some platforms have been levelled on the hillside, and stones have been cleared and stacked around tree bases.
Corrugated Iron (CI) buildings
Characteristic of British expeditionary campaigns, corrugated iron (abbreviated to CI) was the wonder construction material of the early twentieth century. Primarily used to clad and roof timber-framed buildings, it was also used as revetment in defences or during landscaping efforts, and as a formwork for concrete structures. Early CI cladding was zinc plated or galvanised and remained raw, but later CI was painted (often a very distinctive green, but I have also seen black and red huts, albeit not on Troodos). Anecdotally, raw galvanised CI appears to have occurred pre-1914, with painted CI being prevalent during both WW1 and WW2, as well as the inter-war period, and post-WW2 timber framed rectangular hitting appeared to have gone out of fashion, replaced by the ubiquitous Nissen hut (which also appeared during both world wars).
Field walking, small finds
It often takes me a few times to walk around a site ensuring I spot everything there is to spot. On my final walk out of the site of the oldest campsite on the mountain, I spotted a broken piece of pottery. Standing still for a moment and looking around me, I soon realised that I was in the midst of a rubbish tip. I was surrounded by metal tins, broken crockery and glass. I stumbled upon one of the earliest occupation layers.
The extent of the metal waste, camouflaged in the rusty rock landscape, can be seen in the image here.
Key to image
A. The end of a tin can, dating from 188x or 1881, depends on which direction the date is read.
B. A bottle manufactured by the Barnett and Foster Niagara Bottle Works. The company was a maker of bottling machinery and of essences for soft drinks. The Niagara Works factories were located on Eagle Wharf Road, North London, and Queensbridge Road, London. Founded 1850.
C. A plate made by Ditmar Urbach, Czechoslovakia.
D. A pair of rolled Brass Foil .577/450 Martini-Henry cartridges.
E. Clay pipe bowl with the number 1412 scratched into it. This is likely to be a soldier’s regimental number.
F. A clay pipe stem manufactured in Cork, Ireland.
G. An unknown thin tin plate with a stamped number and letters; 1.R.B. and D.
H. The brass base from a shotgun cartridge. Eley London No .12 Gastight, manufactured between 1885 and 1914.
I. A button manufactured by W. Aston, Birmingham.
J. A pewter spoon handle manufactured by Moreton and Foster C&M, dated 1878 and stamped War Department. I believe the numbers to be unique to the soldier who was issued the spoon. Possible meaning 97 being the year of enlistment (1897) and the regimental number of 1425.
Little did I know that stumbling across a solitary but instantly recognisable boundary stone on holiday would lead to weeks of research into British use of the Troodos Mountains. There is far more history than I could cram into this article, but hope it has pulled together some of the primary sources with what remains on the mountainside today. While the military footprint may have reduced in the latter part of the twentieth century, the British legacy remains and you don’t need to scratch too deep to discover it.
- 1Maintaining Britishness in a Setting of their Own Design: The Troodos Hill Station in Cyprus during the Early British Occupation, Andrekos Varnava
- 2The British Occupation of Cyprus, Illustrated London News, 17 August 1878, volume 73, issue 2042
- 3The British Occupation of Cyprus, Illustrated London News, 24 August 1878, volume 73, issue 2043
- 4The British Occupation of Cyprus, Illustrated London News, 31 August 1878, volume 73, issue 2044
- 5Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205298252
- 6Letter dated 9 March 1887 from the Under Secretary of State for War to the Secretary of State of the Colonial Office. National Archives CO 67/50
- 7Letter to Lieutenant Colonel Russel Edmunds from Juxton Barton dated 25 February 1947. National Archives CO 67/330/18
- 8Contained in file CO 67/330/18
- 9National Archives AIR 29/506/13
- 10National Archives AIR 29/784/3
- 11National Archives CO 67/330/18 Reoccupation of War Department land at Troodos
- 12National Archives FCO 141/3961 Confidential memo, unsigned. File page 155
- 13WO 37/152910
- 14Formed at Akrotiri on 25 June 1956 closed on 31 March 1994 at Troodos by being subsumed into the Joint Services Signals Unit (JSSU)
- 15From an information board in the modern day RAF Troodos Camp, author 2022
- 16Hosted on a website dedicated to the history of RAF Akrotiri
- 17National Archives CO 67/330/18
- 19Earliest date this would have occurred