This year marks the centenary of the Royal British Legion, a charity providing financial, social and emotional support to members and veterans of the British Armed Forces, their families and dependants.
It is fitting therefore that on Remembrance Sunday, 14 November 2021, the Royal British Legion is reaching out to a group little recognised for its role in World War 2 – the Turkish Cypriots.
For the first time, representatives from this nation will be participating in remembrance services in Britain and North Cyprus to commemorate the contribution of Turkish Cypriot military and civilian servicemen and women.
The latest research suggests that up to 200 members of this small island community died for freedom, and their graves are strewn across Europe, from Poland to Italy and Egypt.
Up to 5,000 Turkish Cypriots are believed to have enlisted in the Cyprus Regiment, in addition to the many women who joined the Women’s Royal Army Corps, or became nurses.
On a brief visit to Cyprus in 1943, Winston Churchill praised the “soldiers of the Cyprus Regiment who have served honourably on many fields from Libya to Dunkirk.”
Hastily assembled in 1940, the Cyprus Regiment was initially led by British Army Officers; but as the conflict wore on, Turkish Cypriots – together with their more numerous Greek Cypriot brothers-in-arms – were promoted as Officers and NCOs, until finally the Regiment got it first non-British Commanding Officer, Lt/Col Ömer Faik Müftüzade OBE, QGM.
Simultaneous services to remember Turkish Cypriots who served Britain
In 2021, for the first time, Turkish Cypriots will be laying wreaths simultaneously in London and Girne / Kyrenia for Remembrance Sunday services organised by the Royal British Legion, to honour all those who served in World War 2 and other conflicts.
On Sunday, 14th November, the President of the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus, Ersin Tatar, will lay a wreath in Girne, side by side with Hakkı Müftüzade, the son of Faik Müftüzade.
This tribute will be echoed by a wreath laid in Haringey, North London, by Ayşe Osman, Chair of the Council of Turkish Cypriot Associations (UK).
Ms Osman and the British Turkish Cypriot community will also honour the memory of Sapper Patrick Cengiz Azimkar. Of mixed Turkish Cypriot heritage and from Wood Green, Patrick was shot dead by the Real IRA along with his close friend Sapper Mark Quinsey while on duty in Northern Ireland in 2009.
Five years ago T-VINE Magazine set about trying to learn more about the role of Turkish Cypriots in World War 2, prompting many relatives of those who fought to come forward with their own tales.
For this Remembrance Sunday, T-VINE is publishing a series of specially-commissioned articles, including the incredible story of Cemal Mustafa – ‘The Soldier Who Never Died’, as well as a profile of Lt/Col Müftüzade, and another on the volunteer recruits from Ergazi village, which included the father of former TRNC President Derviş Eroğlu, Izzet Dervish, who died as a prisoner of war in Germany.
Wood Green Remembrance Sunday service
Haringey, North London, starts at 10.30 with a multi-faith service at the Church Hall of St. Michael’s Church, Bounds Green Road, London N22 8HE.
This will be followed by a short walk to the Wood Green War Memorial on 242 High Road, London N22 8JX, opposite the Haringey Civic Centre, for the commemoration service.
Many roads in the vicinity will be closed from 10am onwards, so those attending are advised to get to Wood Green early.
The CTCA will be represented by Ayşe Osman and İsmail Şahinoğlu will lay a wreath for the TRNC.
Girne Remembrance Sunday service
A parallel service will be held at the Old British Cemetery, Bedrettin Demirel Caddesi, Girne 99300, where there are two memorials for the 371 British servicemen and 62 police officers killed during the Cyprus Emergency (1955-59).
The main road, Bedrettin Demirel Caddesi, will be closed and the service will commence at 12.30pm local time. A 2-minute silence will be observed at 1pm.
The TRNC President Ersin Tatar and Hakkı Müftüzade will be in attendance, and will lay wreaths to The Fallen. The Union flag, and the Royal British Legion and Police Standards will be paraded at the event.
A 2 minute silence will be simultaneously observed at 1pm in Girne, and 11am in London and all across Britain.
Turkish Cypriots are welcome to attend these services, and indeed any local Remembrance Sunday event. All local authorities in Britain will hold at least one service with details available online.
The national ceremony is held at The Cenotaph in Whitehall, London SW1A 2ET. The Queen, other members of the Royal Family, the Prime Minister, leaders of the major political parties, and Commonwealth High Commissioners and representatives from the armed forces will all lay wreaths after the 2 minute silence.
Main photo, top (L-R), Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Graydon, GCB, CBE, and TRNC Prime Minister Ersin Tatar, Remembrance Sunday service in Girne, 10 Nov. 2019. Photo © Ertuğrul Çavuşoğlu.