A Cyprus Journey: Memoirs of National Service

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9781847483355: A Cyprus Journey: Memoirs of National Service
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Albert Balmer was just one of the thousands upon thousands of men to be sent abroad on national service. But few if any of those 'peacetime conscripts' can have been blessed with his pin-sharp memory for detail. This memoir of two short but eventful years in the late 1950s is therefore one of the most vivid accounts yet published of the time when ordinary men stood alongside regular soldiers, facing the same dangers. It is also an important record of the British forces' role in Cyprus, an often-ignored and frequently misunderstood chapter of military history. Called up in 1957, Albert soon finds himself being sent from training camp to training camp within Britain, learning artillery skills and the craft of wireless operation, as well as the discipline of army life and how to work the system to ensure he is never taken advantage of. Then, after being transferred to 25 Field Regiment, he is shipped to Cyprus, and narrowly escapes being blown up on the first patrol. What follows is a rich tapestry of incident and anecdote, all keenly observed from the point of view of a humble but never downtrodden soldier. Proud of his achievement and that of his fellows, but never remotely pretentious, the author invites us to share the humour of the barrack room, the tensions of peacekeeping in a foreign land, the subtleties of byplay between ranks and the mixture of the routine and the unexpected that makes up life in a combat zone. Anyone who served in Cyprus will find those days brought back to life with crystal clarity, while all readers will gain valuable insight into the experiences that shaped a generation.

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