HC Deb 10 July 1958 vol 591 c566
24. Mr. Donnelly

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a statement regarding the incident at Avgorou, near Famagusta, on 5th July.

27. Mr. K. Robinson

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he will make a statement on the incident at Avgorou in which two Greek Cypriots were killed and 22 British soldiers wounded.

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I have received a full report from the Governor, which, with permission, I will circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Mr. Donnelly

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what instructions are being given to British troops in view of the reports that have appeared in The Times about the origin of that incident?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will read the very full answer I am circulating. I am convinced that in this case the patrol commander took the only possible action. The Governor fully realises the importance of balancing the need to maintain order in the face of terrorist slogans inciting the public to disorder and the need to avoid unnecessarily strict action by security forces. But I hope the hon. Member will read my answer.

Mr. Robinson

Does the Colonial Secretary really suggest that the word "Eoka" painted on a wall incites people to disorder? Is he aware that the whole story of this incident suggests that the tragic consequences and the reprisals which followed were wholly unnecessary?

Mr. Lennox-Boyd

I wish the hon. Gentleman not to think me offensive if suggest that he should read the answer before he makes up his mind. It has been failure to do that which has led to so many tragic misrepresentations before.

Following is the Report: At 12.30 p.m. on 5th July a security forces patrol, commanded by a lieutenant and consisting of four armoured cars, each with a crew of two men, entered the village of Avgorou. It was a routine patrol covering the rural areas but, in addition, the patrol commander had orders to look out for a certain wanted man who was believed to be in the area. On reaching the local coffee shop, a slogan 4 ft. by 4 ft. and signed "EOKA" in large letters was observed. Underneath this slogan stood a youth who, by his manner, plainly intended to be insubordinate to the patrol. The patrol commander indicated to the youth that the slogan was to be removed. This he refused to do, and the patrol commander then gave orders for him to be arrested with a view to handing him over to the police. While the struggling youth was being arrested the villagers came to his assistance, and by weight of numbers forcibly rescued the youth and took him into a neighbouring house. The patrol commander then withdrew his seven men, cordoned the house and called for reinforcements. A further three armoured cars and armourd personnel carriers containing a dismounted section of 24 men with riot equipmetn arrived shortly afterwards. As this party attempted to enter the house to effect the arrest the scene changed abruptly and the troops were attacked with rocks, bottles and stones (some of the latter were later found to weigh up to 6 lb.). The patrol commander then gave orders for the arrest of another man, who, in his opinion, was the ringleader, and abandoned the search for the youth. By this time the whole village had turned out, and as four soldiers tried to arrest the ringleader the party was charged by an estimated 250 people and driven back past their vehicles. The patrol commander then ran for ward to the leading car which was by now surrounded by villagers who were climbing over it. He managed to get into the turret when a villager standing on the front of the car threw a brick through the driver's windscreen which struck him on the side of the face. The patrol commander then took the only course left open to him and elevated the car's machine gun to high angle where he could deal with his assailant but at the same time avoid hitting the crowd. He fired one burst of approximately 15 rounds. The assailant was killed, but the remainder of the bullets hit a wall at a height of 14 feet, and there are no known cases of other persons being hit by the burst. A Greek Cypriot woman was killed in the disorders, but a pathologist's report has confirmed that she was not killed by gunfire. She was probably hit on the head by a stone, but may have fallen. The troops returned to their vehicles and the patrol commander gave the order for them to withdraw one by one. He then deployed his cars around the village in the form of a cordon and reported to his H.Q. A mixed force the equivalent of two companies was sent to the village and imposed a curfew. As a result of this incident, in addition to the man and woman who had been killed, 13 other Greek Cypriots were reported to have been taken to hospital and local clinics. Police sent to the village to ascertain details of the injuries got a hostile reception and the villagers refused to make any statements. Twenty-two members of the security forces were injured, four of whom were evacuated for immediate treatment and two of whom were taken to the British Military hospital with suspected fractures. The village of Avgorou has a bad reputation and a long history of E.O.K.A. associations. The patrol commander was plainly carrying out his duties, first, in ordering the E.O.K.A. slogan to be removed, and later, in endeavouring to arrest the man whom he considered to be the ringleader of the attacks being made against his troops. Throughout the incident he acted with great calmness and restraint and the moment of opening fire was delayed as long as possible, and was then only done by himself personally to save the lives of his men and to protect his vehicles. The officer concerned has been in Cyprus for two and a quarter years and is very experienced in internal security duties.