Unit History: RAF Akrotiri
The history of RAF Akrotiri began on 1 July 1 1955 when the first 30 personnel posted to the ’Unit’ established themselves in the flat, dry, rocky scrubland on the windswept Akrotiri Peninsula. Nicosia Airport was temporarily closed as a result of terrorist activity and the handling of the island’s civil aviation was diverted to Akrotiri - with a tented ’civil airport reception centre to match. An RAF Regiment Light Anti-Aircraft Wing was also brought in. By the end of August 1956 Station strength had reached 260 officers and 2864 other ranks: a massive increase in 12 months. It brought with it 1430 personnel on the daily sick-parade, mainly a result of the over crowding and unsanitary conditions, as construction lagged behind the unforeseen demand for accommodation. From its rough beginnings with caravans and mud tracks, the Station was laid out, roads made, hangars and some permanent buildings constructed. Three new barrack blocks were opened allowing another 32 families onto the Station into formerly misappropriated married quarters.
Other intended married quarters were still in use as billets, Station Sick Quarters, the Education Centre, the Hospital and the NAAFI. A bank had opened for business and 4 wooden shacks served as shops.
A small theatre club was in existence and out along Ladies’ Mile, the Sailing Club had been formed. In its first 12 months as a functioning operational airfield, RAF Akrotiri had not only survived but had expanded and flourished. Although continuously affected by the EOKA troubles in one way or another and with more than a quarter of the year spent on a full war footing for the Suez Crisis, morale was high and the pioneer spirit was still strong.
Not much has changed operationally at RAF Akrotiri in recent years, but the only operational flying squadron which is permanently based at Akrotiri today is No 84 Squadron. No 34 Squadron RAF Regiment continued to serve on-island until 1996 when they moved back to the UK. Their place was taken by personnel from the resident Army infantry battalion (RIB). In 1986 one event dominated - on Sunday, 3 August , RAF Akrotiri suffered an attack by mortar and automatic fire. The Station responded by raising its security awareness to the high levels which are still obvious today. The Operations Centres (Ground and Air) maintain a constant watch in conjunction with the SBA Police - just in case. In 1988 a new command structure in Cyprus resulted in the closure of Air Headquarters and Headquarters Land Forces Cyprus, both based at Episkopi and instead the formation of a Joint Headquarters - British Forces Cyprus. Shortly afterwards, in 1989 Joint Units were also formed at Akrotiri, replacing single service Units such as 17 Ordnance Battalion (RAOC), 58 Squadron (RCT), 48 Cyprus.