Former Canadian peacekeeper shares his story with ECHRS

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by Sylene Argent

Carrying on with the Remembrance Day theme, the Essex and Community Historical Research Society (ECHRS) invited historical author and Canadian Armed Forces veteran Frank Reid to speak at the club’s November meeting last Thursday evening at the Essex Carnegie Library.

Reid spent 8 1/2 years in the Canadian Army, four years of which was in a commando unit that was deployed to Cyprus on a peacekeeping mission in 1974. The mission was brought about after the Turkish invasion of the island.

During the Cold War, Reid was posted in Germany for a period of four years in a rapid action mechanized commando unit. During his time of service, Reid was as a mortarman, Armoured Personnel Carrier driver, and communications specialist.

Having many years of experience and being a part of peacekeeping missions, Reid used his military insight to write his book, “1972-1979 – A Canadian Soldier at Peace,” a military historical novel.

Reid explained that Greek and Turkish Cypriotes occupy Cyrpus, with the majority of inhabitants being Greek Cypriotes. In 1974, there were two Turkish invasions on the island, one in July and the second in August, Reid said.

The Island at one time belonged to Britain, Reid noted. Both the Turkish and Greek Cypriotes were fighting to get away from British Rule. In 1960, the British gave the island back to the Cypriotes, which lead to Turkey and Greece fighting over Cyprus. Britain still has two bases on the Island.

Reid was 19 when he landed in Cyprus in December of that year. At first, he lived in the Ledra Palace Hotel, which was home to Canadian Troops. “It was a beautiful, beautiful hotel, it had been one of the best hotels in Cyprus,” Reid said, noting it had marble décor. The room rates were about $250 per night, which was almost a month’s pay for him at the time.

The hotel was situated right in the middle of the green line, which is where the Canadian Troops could get in between the two parties. The green line split the island into two parts. The peacekeepers ensured the Greeks and Turkish stayed to their own side. As peacekeepers, the Canadians had to be impartial, and in order to do that, they had to treat both sides the same way, Reid said.

The Turkish and the Greeks both wanted the hotel because it was situated on high ground, so the UN took it over. It was also one of the tallest hotels away from the shoreline where there were many taller buildings, Reid said. The UN still has the hotel.

Staying in the hotel at night, the soldiers could hear both sides shooting at each other.

The Canadian were undermanned, Reid explained. When the war started, there were around 500 soldiers, when 750 soldiers were needed. Reid would work 12-hour shifts for nine days and then get one day off.

Reid also spent time in Louroujina, which was a small village during his stay in Cyprus.

Reid was stationed in Germany during the Cold War in the 1970s, “when we were always waiting for a bomb to go off,” he said.

There were about 350,000 troops in West Germany just waiting for the war to happen, he said. His unit’s reason for being in Germany was to look after the airbase. Planes were constantly in the air in anticipation of the war. After a while, he grew accustomed to the sounds of the planes constantly taking off and landing.

While in Germany, he and his fellow soldiers would head into the woods for three weeks at a time for duty. When they returned, they would then be given six or seven days off. Reid would use his off time to travel all over Europe.

After being in Germany for around a year, Reid volunteered to take part in a French commando course, which he said, was designed to help soldiers conquer their fears. Reid admitted he had a profound fear of heights. During the course Reid had to spend a lot of time repelling from heights of up to 70’.

As part of his training, he also had to learn to not be afraid of tanks. All of the soldiers had to lie down and let a tank run overtop them, with the tracks running parallel to their bodies.

For his efforts, Reid received a medal for his contributions to Cyprus, a medal for his efforts in Germany, and he was awarded a third medal was part of the Nobel Peace Prize given to everyone that served in peacekeeping during the year of the peacekeeper.

One Response to Former Canadian peacekeeper shares his story with ECHRS

  1. Congratulatios on all you’ve done! You are a great inspiration and have accomplished a lot.
    I had to research on a Canadian Peacekeeper and came across this blog. In my point of view i think that war is pointless.
    What does it do, other than seperate families and bring tears the eyes of so many people?
    What touched me most about your story was the desicion you made to bring peace with knowing what you had to go through.
    I am grateful for what you’ve done and I am proud to present this to my class.

    December 8, 2012 at 4:03 pm