Cyprus Emergency

The Cyprus Emergency (Greek: Απελευθερωτικός Αγώνας της Κύπρου 1955–59), also known as the Greek Cypriot War of Independence or the Cypriot War of Independence, was a conflict fought in British Cyprus between November 1955 and March 1959.[4]

Cyprus Emergency
Part of the Decolonisation of Mediterranean Europe and the Cold War

A street riot in Nicosia during the Battle at Nicosia Hospital in 1956
Date26 November 1955 – 19 March 1959

London-Zurich Agreement


 British Empire

Supported by:
Commanders and leaders
John Harding
Hugh Foot
Georgios Grivas
Grigoris Afxentiou 
Evagoras Pallikarides 
Michalis Karaolis 
Andreas Dimitriou 
c.25,000[1]–40,000[2] 300 fighters[2]
1000 active underground[3]
Casualties and losses
457 dead[1] 90 EOKA confirmed dead

The National Organisation of Cypriot Fighters (EOKA), a Greek Cypriot right-wing nationalist guerrilla organisation, began an armed campaign in support of the end of British colonial rule and the unification of Cyprus and Greece (Enosis) in 1955. Opposition to Enosis from Turkish Cypriots led to the formation of the Turkish Resistance Organisation (TMT) in support of the partition of Cyprus. The Cyprus Emergency ended in 1959 with the signature of the London-Zürich Agreements, establishing the Republic of Cyprus as a non-partitioned independent state separate from Greece.


Cyprus was a territory of the Ottoman Empire from the late 16th century until it became a protectorate of the United Kingdom under nominal Ottoman suzerainty at the Cyprus Convention of 4 June 1878 after the Russo-Turkish War. In 1915, Cyprus was formally annexed into the British Empire after the Ottomans had entered World War I on the side of the Central Powers against the British, and it was initially governed by a military administration until 1925, when it was proclaimed the Crown Colony of Cyprus. From the 1910s to the 1950s, Greek Cypriots became increasingly dissatisfied with British rule and supportive of Enosis, the concept of political unification between Cyprus and Greece. Several unsuccessful offers made to Greece by the British to cede Cyprus in exchange for military concessions, as well as the noticeable lack of British investment on the island, caused a growing Cypriot nationalist movement.

In 1954, Britain announced its intention to transfer its Suez military headquarters (the office of the Commander-in-Chief, Middle East)[5] to Cyprus.


On 1 April 1955, the EOKA started its insurgency with the 1 April Attacks. After a series of other incidents, the Governor General Sir John Harding declared a state of emergency on 26 November 1955.[6] The British encountered great difficulty obtaining effective intelligence on EOKA, as it was supported by the majority of the Greek Cypriot population. They were also hampered by a drain on manpower, which was caused by the Suez Crisis and the Malayan Emergency, but towards the late 1950s, they enjoyed more success.

Cyprus became an independent republic in 1960 with Britain retaining control of two Sovereign Base Areas: at Akrotiri and Dhekelia.

In January 2019, the British government agreed to pay £1 million to a total of 33 Cypriots, who had been allegedly tortured by British forces during the uprising. They included a woman, aged 16 at the time, who said that she had been detained and repeatedly raped by soldiers, and a man who had lost a kidney as a result of his interrogation. The payout followed the declassification of government documents in 2012, but Foreign Minister Alan Duncan stated that "the settlement does not constitute any admission of liability" although "the government has settled the case in order to draw a line under this litigation and to avoid the further escalation of costs".[7]

See also


  1. "Cyprus Emergency Deaths 1955-1960 |".
  2. "Cyprus".
  3. Kraemer 1971, p. 146.
  4. Lim, Preston Jordan (2018). The Evolution of British Counter-Insurgency during the Cyprus Revolt, 1955–1959. Springer. p. 12. ISBN 978-3-319-91620-0. The term "Cyprus Emergency" more precisely refers to events occurring between November 26, 1955, when Governor John Harding declared an official state of emergency, and Grivas' departure in March 1959.
  5. Richard J. Aldrich, Ming-Yeh Rawnsley, The Clandestine Cold War in Asia, 1945–65: Western Intelligence, Propaganda and Special Operations, Routledge, 2013, 106.
  6. "State Of Emergency Declared In Cyprus". The Central Queensland Herald (Rockhampton, Qld. : 1930–1956). Rockhampton, Qld.: National Library of Australia. 1 December 1955. p. 13. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
  7. "UK government pays damages to 33 Cypriot pensioners". BBC News. 23 January 2019.


Further reading

  • French, David (2015). Fighting EOKA: The British Counter-Insurgency Campaign on Cyprus, 1955–1959. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0198729341.
  • Holland, Robert (1998). Britain and the Revolt in Cyprus, 1954–1959. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 9780198205388.
  • Novo, Andrew R. (2010). On all fronts: EOKA and the Cyprus insurgency, 1955-1959 (D.Phil Thesis). University of Oxford.
  • Durrell, Lawrence (1957), Bitter Lemons of Cyprus. London: Faber. ISBN 0571061869
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