Episkopi is on the south-western shore of the island of Cyprus, located between the cities of Paphos and Limassol in the Limassol District. The UK Sovereign Base Area of Akrotiri borders the bay.
12 Jul 2003 - Episkopi, CyprusUnlike most of my trips to the Greek islands, this trip was not with Pat Taylor et al for a boozy week. No, it was in fact with my TA Regiment for annual camp. Whilst there was plenty of opportunity for recreation, it was a great experience to train in a totally different climate where the temperature was often over 40 degrees Celsius.
The adventure training/social side involved water skiing and plenty of trips down to the beach and the bar although don't go thinking that it was madness in Ayia Napa every night. Although I'm sure that Ayia Napa was indeed mad, army rules dictate a midnight curfew for all military personnel and in Ayia Napa itself, the centre is off limits to the military. Alcohol and squaddies are quite correctly deemed to be a recipe for disaster.
Our military training was infantry based rather than our role which is air defence. We had a couple of days on the ranges to pass our annual personal weapons test. It involved firing at a number of targets at ranges of 100, 200 and 300 meters. This was done in a number of positions with and without respirators that often steamed up making accurate firing difficult. After this was firing and manoeuvring in pairs with live ammunition on a range with pop up targets. When you handle weapons and in particular live rounds, safety is paramount. Each firer had a safety observer immediately behind to prevent the firing pairs from getting in each others' line of fire.
The other skills we learned prepared us for the end of camp exercise. This began with a helicopter insertion, an amphibious assault and fight through enemy depth positions for about 1-2 miles. Storming the beach with full battle kit (day sacks, webbing and weapon) drenched me in sweat within a few minutes and by the end of the assault everyone was dripping. Personal administration is vital in a hostile climate and you should always take on plenty of fluids. Despite this, one person went down with heat exhaustion and dehydration.
The next part of the exercise involved a helicopter insertion followed by a trek in the mountains to a point above an 'enemy' held village. We had to observe enemy traffic in preparation for a dawn ambush followed by OBUA (Operations in a Built Up Area). Prior to first light we moved down to the road and prepared an ambush for the next enemy convoy. We waited for an hour for the convoy and when it had reached the centre of our killing ground we gave it full automatic, 'destroyed' the convoy and then went on to the village assault.
Fighting in a built up area is confusing at the best of times and this proved no different. The situation can very quickly get out of hand and commanders need to be firmly in control. This was the final part of the exercise and we were also fighting against time but it gave us all a taste of the problems of fighting in such an environment.
This marked the end of the exercise and we celebrated with beers and a barbecue. As so often happens, the alcohol led to some people getting their clothes off under the pretence of skinny dipping. Hoorah for the modern, mixed sex army...of which I can tell a few tales of what happened in the guard house one early morning. Never let a squaddie tell you that stag is always a pain.
Episkopi - Episkopi beach
Part of the military area and therefore restricted, the beach was often deserted which for Cyrpus is a very rare thing indeed - one of the advantages of being on a military beach.
Episkopi - Camp Bloodhound
This was home for two weeks. The big barrack blocks which can be seen held about 15-20 men and were pretty basic. A door on either end of the blocks and small windows provided the only air flow but the weather was so hot and the air so still that the blocks became swelteringly hot but they were the only refuges during the day.
Episkopi - Water skiing on Episkopi beach
This was the first time I water skied and think I need more practice. I could never quite stand upright and could only crouch before letting go because of the spray been forced up my nose and into my nasal cavities! The sea water stung for some time after.
Limassol - Time out in the resort
Limassol is one of the main resorts and attracts a wide range of tourists mostly during the summer season. We were given a day off so some of us came here but only for the day as we had to be back on base in the evening.
Episkopi - Endex barbecue
Its been a hard two weeks - just look at the tans. On a wam night, the drinks flowed and plenty of barbecued food was had. At this point the smoke from the barbecue can be seen.