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Fields of the fallen
THEY have just weeks to go before they come home.
By the start of next month the men and women of 17 Port and Maritime Regiment will be back in their Marchwood base, each carrying a medal that signals another successful operational tour under their belt.
For the past five months they have led an extraordinary existence thousands of miles from home, in the heart of a country torn in two some 40 years ago.
Afforded the privilege of working for the United Nations as a peacekeeping force, their job has been to maintain civil order and the status quo in Cyprus between the Turkish communities of the north and the Greek residents of the south.
And it’s been a job well done by the boys and girls who have spent the duration living in a hot, dusty, run down hotel that has, for four decades, been a barracks for foreign troops.
The once imposing Ledra Palace, in its heyday a five-star hotel visited by famous faces including Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, sits just inside the central buffer zone in Nicosia and still bears the scars of fierce gunfire and shelling as troubles raged in the summer of 1974.
Inside, attention has already turned to vacating it and over coming days the many pictures and memorabilia that was brought over by the regiment to help make it feel more like home will be taken off the walls and packed away again as they prepare to hand over control to their British Army counterparts, 28 Engineer Regiment.
Upon their return, the specialised sea port operating regiment will take some well deserved leave before they regroup and start a period of training, embracing new tasks given to them by the Ministry of Defence.
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