Cyprus defense 1941

Discussion in 'North Africa & the Med' started by Dan Owen, Jun 1, 2018.

  1. Dan Owen

    Dan Owen Member

    Hi All,

    I am researching the defense plans for Cyprus in 1941. Specifically I looking at the period post Crete.

    Can anyone help regarding:

    1. Force dispositions.
    2. General plans (I am aware that Churchill said, aftre Crete that Cyprus was not worth defending), however later in 1941 the Cyprus garrison was reinforced to Divisional strength....
    3. What were the specifically; AA, Port and airfield defense dispositions and strengths?
    4. Does anyone know about the Port's capacities in the period.
    5. I have seen mention of a Cypriot home defense force outside the Cypriot Regt - any information on strengths and dispositions on these would be great also.
    6. Another great help would be Maps for island in this period.

    Any help would be much appreciated. I know I'm being demanding with the above!

    Kind regards

  2. bitoque

    bitoque Junior Member

  3. Dan Owen

    Dan Owen Member

    Thanks Nuno,

    I was aware these except the detais of the deception plan, which it's nice to flesh out. Thank you.

    If I could expand on what I am doing:

    "Cyprus 1941: Thoughts and Considerations

    The original concept was for me to occupy my time writing a feasibility study on the success or failure of an Axis operation against Cyprus after Crete. General Student had suggested that Crete be the first of a series of operations to include Cyprus, then Suez. Even whilst an airborne operation was being discussed Malta and Crete were the options placed on the table. Most of the senior planning staff favoured Malta as the most necessary option. Hitler, having made the mistake to focus on Crete he compounded the mistake by not following this up success with an operation to seize Cyprus.

    In the context of the strategic situation in the Levant, the intrigues in Iraq and Iran further afield; and the potential effects on Barbarossa, the exploitation of the Cretan success could have stretched Wavell’s Middle East command beyond breaking point. Imagine the effect of Axis bomber support for the Vichy defence of Lebanon and Syria. Imagine the potential of the effect of Axis boots on the ground there. Extend that potential for greater support for the Iraq revolt and the access to its oil fields. What about the extending this logic into the Caucasus in support of Barbarossa?

    One principle I wanted to keep to in my evaluation was minimising the changes to history to facilitate my evaluation. For example, the biggest assumption is that Barbarossa starts as history in June 1941 with all the consequent demand on resources.

    The obvious, and fun, way to test out an evaluation would be to play it through.

    How much deviation from history is an interesting element to discuss. I have an inkling that not much needs to change for the Aix to launch – which actually shows how perilous the Allied position was in the Eastern Mediterranean post Crete. Nothing is certain even given the slight changes that could allow a Cypriot operation to go ahead which makes the campaign worth playing."

    I hope this helps with context.

    Kind regards,

  4. Richelieu

    Richelieu Well-Known Member

    In your counterfactual musing Dan you may be interested to learn that the Chiefs of Staff (CoS) were briefly concerned that Crete was not the target for the German airborne build-up and had the following telegram drafted for General Wavell:

    We assume that amidst your many cares you are keeping your eye on Cyprus. Reports of preparations for attack on Crete may be cover for a descent on Cyprus. Annex I, COS (41) 143rd Meeting, 22/4/1941.​

    You have to feel for Wavell - he advised the CoS that he was sending a Special Service Battalion with some carriers. In the meantime the Joint Planning Staff addressed the CoS concerns in JP (41) 311 [attached] which you should find useful.

    As you would expect, a great deal of information is available at The National Archives – given your wide-ranging theme, more information will doubtless be found using other search terms. Much of the high-level material is available to download for free: CAB 65 & 66 are the Cabinet’s minutes and memoranda and CAB 79 & 80 are the Chiefs of Staff minutes and memoranda. The detailed, lower level that you are after will take a visit to TNA which has, among other things, the war diaries of some of the Cypriot units.

    Attached Files:

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  5. Dan Owen

    Dan Owen Member

    This is great! Thank you Richelieu!
  6. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    I have at least one (possibly more) defence scheme and location statement (units and grid references) for NW Cyprus in 1941.

    1/4th Essex were there with 161st Infantry Brigade and I have War Diaries for the unit and the formation.

    If this is of help, say so and I'll dig it out.

    Edit: I think there are also signals/wireless schemes and a list of demolitions to be done if it all went pear shaped.
  7. Dan Owen

    Dan Owen Member

    That would be really interesting. Please do!
  8. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    If you happen to have/come across the 1/50,000 scale map that these grid references refer to, I'd be grateful of a copy.

    Extracted from:
    WO 169/1312 161 Infantry Brigade HQ 1941 Jun-Dec

    P6960810.JPG P6960811.JPG P6960812.JPG P6960813.JPG P6960814.JPG P6960815.JPG P6960816.JPG P6960817.JPG P6960818.JPG P6960819.JPG P6960820.JPG P6960821.JPG P6960822.JPG P6960823.JPG P6960824.JPG P6960825.JPG P6960826.JPG

    I believe the CYPRUS DEFENCE SCHEME, of which these files are constituents, was in force until 1/3/42. I'm afraid my interest in Cyprus is decidedly local, but if I were you I would track down the diaries for the formations in charge of the other areas of the island or just the XXV Corps HQ diaries.
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2018
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  9. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Or perhaps not!

    In his plan, Clarke set out to represent to the Axis powers that the British garrison of Cyprus was not the actual 4,000 British troops but rather something in the order of 20,000 men, representing one full division as well as local forces. On 13 June orders went issued for the redesignation of the command on Cyprus as the fictitious 7th Division, and for the brigadier commanding on the island to assume the rank of major general. A false headquarters establishment was created on the island, buildings were requisitioned, and misleading signs were placed. At the same time, rumours were started in both Egypt and Palestine, faked orders were circulated, and similarly fake military and civil telegrams simulated a high flow of orders and requests between Cyprus and the mainland. One squadron of dummy tanks was despatched to Cyprus, and a false defence plan of Cyprus, complete with maps and order of battle, was planted, in a ‘haversack ruse’, on an Egyptian woman known to be in touch with Japanese intelligence and a German female agent.


    By the middle of July, Cyprus had been reinforced by a real formation, namely Major General W. H. C. Ramsden’s 50th Division. However, as it had already gained something of a life of its own in the ‘Cyprus Defence Plan’, the fictitious 7th Division was allowed to remain in existence, and to ‘normalise’ the presence of two divisions a fictitious headquarters on Cyprus was added as the fictitious XVIII (later XXV) Corps. This fake order of battle was continued, under several names, over the next three years. Captured documents and later ‘Ultra’ decrypts of Axis signals combined to reveal that throughout the period the Axis powers accepted the false order of battle without question.

    Cyprus Defence Plan | Operations & Codenames of WWII

    50th Division Diaries might be more helpful then.
  10. Dan Owen

    Dan Owen Member

    Thank you! this is exactly what I was hoping for - Agree - I'll check out the unit Diaries.
  11. RobG64

    RobG64 Well-Known Member

  12. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    The 50th (Northumbrian) Division embarked on destroyers at Port Said on the night of 7 August 1941 landing at Famagusta, Cyprus, the following day. They were sent there to build defences and train, and to defend the Island if necessary. The 150th Infantry Brigade were detached from 50 Div and up in the Western Desert for some of this time.

    Their work in Cyprus completed in 3 months rather than the anticipated 6 months, the 50 Div was withdrawn from Cyprus on the night of 5 November 1941, leaving Famagusta in destroyers once again and being replaced by 5th Indian Division.

    I could probably research and provide details of where exactly 50 Div were disposed and doing, whilst in Cyprus, but I don’t believe I have any plans, etc.

    Two things to note:

    1. Famagusta was the Port used by most British shipping, and
    2. You are more likely to obtain plans of works done by obtaining the War Diaries of the Royal Engineer unit’s in 50 Div (or otherwise sent to Cyprus to manage the construction/defences project) at that time. It is they that would likely supervise all works. I can provide units details if required.


    Dan Owen likes this.
  13. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Fast-forwarding, although I don't have it to hand, but the 7th Indian Infantry Brigade HQ Diary has quite a lot of stuff in the appendices about defence plans for 1942 on the 'reduced garrison' scale.

    Off the top of my head, there were more details of unit locations and equipment and Ammo stores.
  14. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    I was reading the following document and this thread came to mind.

    JP (41) 311

    23/4/41: The Defence of Cyprus by the Joint Planning Staff for the War Cabinet.

    Attached Files:

  15. Richelieu

    Richelieu Well-Known Member

    There could be a reason for that Charley... see post #4.;)
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2018
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  16. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

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  17. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    Special Operations Executive had a stay behind plan in place with several teams trained and weapons caches put in place. Later Famagusta and Kyrenia were used as caique ports for movements to the Greek islands
  18. Dan Owen

    Dan Owen Member

    Regarding the maps - this is a US source bunt wondered if the map numbers would be the same for us brits?
  19. idler

    idler GeneralList

    We would have referred to them as the GSGS 4242 series (Geographical Section, General Staff). In broad terms, we divided the world up between us and shared the resultant maps to avoid duplication of effort but we each had our own numbering system.
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