Former British TV Reporter Returns to Lead Cyprus War Tourism

FILE - In this Saturday, June 14, 2014 file photo, a woman sit on the sand as other people enjoy the sea at "Nissi Beach" in the famous southeastern coastal resort of Ayia Napa, Cyprus. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias, File)

A former British television reporter who served on Cyprus when it was a United Kingdom colony and fighting for independence will lead a group of history buffs on a journey around the island to explain what happened and point out the hot spots of confrontation.

During the tour A Soldier’s Tale of Cyprus, Martin Bell,  79,  will share his personal recollections of the island and its turbulent struggle for independence, the Cyprus Mail said in a feature on the plans.

“The tour is based on the model of another tour that I have been leading, or at least accompanying, in the former Balkan war zones,” Bell explained in an interview with the Sunday Mail. “The Cyprus conflict, of course, was much longer ago, and my role was very different,” he said.

As a young conscript, Bell served with the Suffolk Regiment during the campaign against EOKA, the Greek-Cypriot nationalist guerilla group, which ended with the Zurich and London agreements and independence.

When Bell, 79, returns next year for the eight-day trip, he will be armed with little more than a travel guidebook and memories.

Many of the places he will visit – including the ruins at Salamis and Kourion – still remain instantly recognizable decades after the conflict, the paper said. “As far as I know it is the first tour of its kind, but I wish to emphasise that it is totally non-political,” he said.

“It makes no judgements – except on the British Army’s failures at the time, especially Operation Matchbox in July 1958. It is just an old soldier revisiting his past and trying to explain it.”

His experiences as a young conscript between 1957 and 1959 were recently documented in his book, The End of Empire, a memoir recounting his national service.

“I spent much of the time as a humble corporal, armed but in an unarmoured Land Rover, patrolling potential flash points between Greek and Turkish communities south of Nicosia,” he told the paper.

“Our Second-in-Command had assured us that the EOKA rebels attacked only when they had the advantages of greater firepower and numbers.”

When Bell left the army, he joined the BBC as a reporter and embarked on a career which took him from Vietnam, Nigeria, Angola, the Middle East and Northern Ireland.

Those taking Bell’s tour, which is organised by Prestige Holidays, will stop off at the Archaeological Museum, St John’s Cathedral, Wayne’s Keep Memorial, Paphos and Kyrenia Castle.

“I expect the people travelling with me to be predominantly British, elderly, open minded and well informed,” said Bell.