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RAF man given medal for saving Cypriot families in 1963-64

By Annette Chrysostomou

After more than 50 years, an ex-RAF serviceman was awarded a medal for saving Cypriot families during the conflicts in the 1960s, according to the Nottingham Post.

Philip Backler
Philip Backler

Philip Backler, at the time a young RAF transport driver, was awarded the general service medal after the UK defence ministry asked veterans to come forward and tell their stories.

During the ‘bloody Christmas’ in 1963, when Turkish troops raided Greek villages and communities, the man from Basford helped save women and children, the article said.

“They were terrified. The Turks had broken into their houses and put machine guns in their living rooms. That happened in quite a few instances; a lot of the homes had children living in them,” Backler told the Nottingham Post.

After volunteering to help, the young man covered his truck in a white sheet to disguise himself as a member of the Red Cross and dressed as a volunteer of the international charity.

Backler, who was not usually armed in his role as a driver who loaded weapons onto RAF aircraft, was given a Sten gun for the mission.

“Because I drove all over, from our base in Akrotiri to Limassol, where this was happening, I knew my way around the area well,” he added. “So I was the right man for the job. I can’t say it wasn’t scary because gunfire was going off all over. The fighting was going on around me.”

Backler said he transported around two dozen women and children to safety, driving them 12 miles in a cramped seven-tonne truck back to the British bases in Akrotiri.

“It’s made me very proud to receive the medal, even if it is all these years later,” the pensioner, now 78-years old, reportedly said. He served in the armed forces from 1955 to 1967.

The medal is one of six he has received.

 

 

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