1 Surreys Cyprus And Benghazi 1958
In 1958 the Middle East was in turmoil. The Government of Lebanon, the Kingdom of Jordan and King Idris of Libya were threatened by rebellion.
The Governments of the UK and USA decided to intervene: the Americans moved into Lebanon; the Parachute Brigade (stationed in Cyprus as Strategic Reserve) flew into Jordan; and 1 R Sussex in Gibraltar, went to Benghazi from where it could protect King Idris in his palace in Tobruk. It was considered necessary to replace the parachute Brigade in Cyprus, and so 19 Infantry Brigade based in Colchester, was flown to Cyprus to act as Strategic Reserve. 1 Surreys, stationed in Bury St Edmonds, and part of 19 Brigade, flew to Cyprus in July 1958 and occupied a tented camp at Kermia just outside Nicosia.
1 Surreys was not at full strength, and it was decided to reinforce it with a company from 1 Queens stationed in Iserlohn in BAOR. Apart from the operational need, it was thought an excellent idea to let the two Regiments get to know each other, for their amalgamation had been announced in 1957, to take place in October 1959.
1 Surreys was commanded by Lt Col Clive Wallis; the Adjutant was Capt Strong, and the Company Commanders were Maj SCAN Bishop, Bt Lt Col White (later to command 1 Queens Surreys) and Capt Froud, Support Company and MMG PI Commander. A Company 1 Queens was commanded by Maj Donaldson.
Although 1 Surreys was part of the Strategic Reserve, prepared to go anywhere at the drop of a hat, it was soon deployed on anti-EOKA operations, the two major ones being at Morpheu in the NW of the island; and on a cordon and search operation around Lysi in the SE. This latter operation was particularly boring (and probably pointless) as the soldiers just stood around the town under a very hot sun by day and an unpleasantly humid night. The operation was eventually called off when someone was caught trying to get IN to the town. We were never told what, if any, intelligence was gathered.
Meanwhile a certain amount of normal training continued; and the tented camp at Kermia was made a little more comfortable.
After three months the emergency was declared over and the Parachute Brigade and 19 Brigade returned to UK. However, it was decided to retain a guard for King Ldris, and as 1 R Sussex was required in Gibraltar to carry out daily ceremonial (a tourist attraction?) 1 Surreys was ordered to Libya to take over from 1 R Sussex. As 1 Surreys had been in Cyprus for less than the qualifying period, we missed out on the award of the General Service Medal.
1 Surreys sailed in Landing Ship Tanks (LSTs) to Benghazi in November 1958 and was stationed in the British Military Hospital which had been about to be handed over to the Libyan Government when 1 R Sussex arrived.
1 Surreys spent almost the whole time in Benghazi building a tented camp for its successor unit. Training did however continue and patrols into the Jebel were a good break from building a camp. It seemed incredible to take greatcoats on patrol in such hot weather by day because the temperature dropped nearly to freezing at night.
In December 1958 1 Surreys returned to UK on the Empire Fowey and was able to spend Christmas and New Year on leave.