14 May 2014 16:45

One of the most usual books to be published in and released in Cyprus must be this surprisingly fascinating look at military graves in Cyprus.
The book focuses largely on British military burials in Cyprus.
The author Colonel David Vassallo of the Royal Army Medical Corps was inspired during a visit to the Nicosia War Cemetery and in particular Wayne's' Keep Military Cemetery in the United Nation's Buffer Zone.
One particular headstone caught his eye and imagination, Sapper J Brown of the Royal Engineers died on February 2, 1879 aged 29.
He was the sole burial in Wayne's Keep from the earliest days of the British presence in Cyprus. But who was he and why was he alone buried alongside those from World War ll?
The question set David Vassallo on a quest that revealed the arduous and fever-ridden conditions of military life in Cyprus at the start of the British presence.
It reveals it was the Royal Navy's Vice-Admiral Lord John Hay who took control of Cyprus from the Ottoman Empire's Pessim Pasha, the Turkish Governor without a shot being fired, thanks to bags full of new sixpences, on July 12, 1878, just eight days after the Royal Navy arrived.
31 Fortress Company, following in the Indian engineers of the Queens Own Sappers and Miners and the Bombay Sappers Royal Engineers who constructed the disembarkation piers and the camp at Chiflik Pash for the main force, arrived  on July 28 1878 in Larnaca Bay.
By mid-August fever struck the fleet and the Army, two Sappers from the 31st Fortress died soon after on August 24 and 26.
Temperatures in tents reached 113 Fahrenheit, as was the case in Lt General Wolseley's own mess tent as his diary entry in August 1878 noted.
But this is a book that ranges from the past to the present; it reveals conditions that Servicemen of the Army, Royal Navy, and later the RAF, endured.
It covers the Eoka campaign as it explored and reveals the secrets of over a dozen military cemeteries and some that are now lost. The author's painstaking detective work reveals horror and sadness.
Colonel Vassallo's efforts reveal the stories of not just soldiers from the UK. Maltese, Cypriot, the Commonwealth at large and even WW ll German airmen are all there.
Even female nurses and babies feature. Next to Sapper Brown is buried  Catherine Cutliffe; shot by an Eoka gunman while buying a wedding dress for her daughter in 1958.
There is the story of the Victoria Cross grave in Kyrenia and 'The Loneliest Grave of All'.
This book throws out links to almost forgotten campaigns such as that of Sudan 1884-86, as well as a 15-year-old Midshipman buried in Larnaca off the first warship to carry guns in turrets, HMS Monarch.
Even the most famous Squadron in the RAF, 'The Dambusters' of 617 Squadron; and one of 11 Distinguished Flying Medals awarded to surviving members of that Squadron and their link to Cyprus, is explained.
Every cemetery from Famagusta to the lone field of Mathiatis, the sadness of the cemetery in Dhekelia with its rows of young children, has its story told. Everyone has been thoroughly and sympathetically researched.
This is the beautifully illustrated story of the British in Cyprus, thus far.
'Who is Sapper Brown?"  (Remembering British Military Cemeteries in Cyprus) written by Colonel David Vassallo costs €20 and is available  in limited edition, soft back covers from CESSAC, Dhekelia Officers' and Sergeants' Messand HIVES at Akrotiri, Episkopi and Dhekelia.
Copies can also be obtained by emailing djvassallo@aol.com
Profits go to the maintenance of cemeteries where British and Commonwealth sailors, soldiers and air force personnel are buried or commemorated in Cyprus.
 
 


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