In a 1976 interview I conducted with my father (American Sergeant Armie Hill, see “Recollection of Camps 98 and 59“), he spoke briefly of Cypriots in Camp 59 during the time he was interned there:
“This was a camp of mostly British men. There were some Americans and some ‘Cyps’—guys from Cyprus.”
It was a rare referral in a first-person account to Cypriots in the camp.
Red Cross reports, written following visits to the camp by inspectors, contain information on the Cypriot prisoners. As the last report I have access to is June 12, 1943, I can’t speculate on how many Cypriots were still in the camp at the time of the breakout on September 14, 1943.
International Red Cross Reports
Report of March 20, 1942—Cypriots are listed as present in the camp, however this report contains no numerical breakdown of the prisoners according to nationality
May 1, 1942 — 43 Cypriots of a total prison population of 1,931
June 3, 1942 — 43 Cypriots (4 noncommissioned officers and 36 men) of a total prison population of 1,927
July 10, 1942 — 43 Cypriots (1 noncommissioned officer and 42 men) of a total prison population of 1,850
September 11, 1942 – 43 Cypriots (1 noncommissioned officer and 42 men) of a total prison population of 1,859
November 16, 1942 — 41 Cypriots of a total prison population of 1,872
December 16, 1942 — 41 Cypriots (1 noncommissioned officers and 40 men) of a total prison population of 1,999
June 12, 1943 — 46 Cypriots (1 noncommissioned officers and 45 men) of a total prison population of 1,328
The Red Cross report from the June 3, 1942 visit to the camp makes this mention of the Cypriots under “Religious Services”:
“Mass is celebrated by a catholic priest who speaks well English. A request was made to replace the chaplain of the Church of England who was transferred to another camp. A Greek Catholic priest is also required in order to take care of the orthodox Cypriotes. Pertinent requests have been made to the authorities.”
And the July 10, 1942 report contains this mention of the Cypriots:
“Mails reach the camp regularly. They take three weeks to one month to come from England, three months to come from South Africa. There are no mails from the U.S.A., Rhodesia, New Foundland, and Poland. The Cypriots, Maltese, Irish and Norwegians receive but little mail. Letters sent from England to the prisoners at the end of April and beginning of May appear not to have reached their addresses. Private parcels and Red Cross parcels reach the camp every day.”
In the November 1942 report, poor mail delivery from Cyrus is mentioned once more:
“Postal communications with England are regular in both directions (there was an interruption in May and June) but they are very bad with Egypt, India, Cyprus and South Africa.”
Organizationally, we know that the prisoners were divided into “sections” of 35 men who were overseen by a fellow prisoner who was assigned to maintain order and represent them to camp authorities. It’s reasonable to think most of the Cypriots would have been kept together in a unit, perhaps with the additional few being assigned to a British Army section nearby or housed in the same hut.
By June 1943, the number of British prisoners in Camp 59 had dropped (to 313), primarily due to transfers of British POWs to work camps in northern Italy, and the number of Americans had increased (to 913). The number of Cypriots had increased slightly from previous reports, so it would seem that Cypriots were, by and large, not being transferred from the camp.
Records in the British National Archives
WO 392/22 records at the British National Archives include a compilation of Imperial prisoners of war held in Italy or Italian-occupied territory. These POWs had been reported by Italian or Red Cross sources as being in Italian custody (minus those known officially to have died in Italian hands).
Sections of this record cover the British, Australian, Canadian, New Zealand, South African, and Indian Armies, as well as Naval Forces and Merchant Seamen, and Air Forces.
Additional files cover Palestinians, Cypriots, Mauritians, East Africans, and members of the Cyrenaica Defence Force and men from the Seychelles who were Italian-held POWs.
Researcher Brian Sims, who kindly provided access to these files (as well as the Red Cross reports), wrote, “Basically it is a list of those who were, or had been, prisoners of the Italians between 1941 and 1943. Unlike POW lists for Germany, this one has never been published. The camp given is the last camp where men were known or thought to have been.”
Most of the 25 Cypriots in the WO 392/22 record who are identified as having been in Camp 59 were from the Pioneer Companies of the Cypriot Regiment (PC CR). Five of the 25 were from the Royal Army Service Corps (RASC).
“There were several Cypriot Water Carrying Companies which would come under the umbrella of RASC,” Brian said.
The 25 with Camp 59 identification amount to scarcely half the count in the Red Cross reports.
Some of the WO 392/22 Cypriots may have been were identified with a camp where they were interned after Camp 59.
And a number of Cypriots in the records are identified simply as POWs “whose location is not known but who may be in Italy,” and others “recorded as being in Greece but, of whom, some may have been transferred to Italy.” Some of these may very well have been in Camp 59.
WO 392/22 List of Cypriot Prisoners of War in Camp 59, Servigliano
Nicolaos Alexandrou – Private – Army No. Cy./3488 – 1005 P.C. C.R. (Pioneer Company, Cypriot Regiment)
Irfan Ali – Private – Army No. Cy./15802 – 1009 P.C. C.R.
C. Alkiviadou– Private – Army No. Cy./2855 – R.A.S.C. (Royal Army Service Corps)
Ioannas Christodoulou – Private – Army No. Cy./4794 – 1007 P.C. C.R.
Haralambous Constandi – Private – Army No. Cy./2228 –1004 P.C. C.R.
Christodoulou Constantinou – Private – Army No. Cy./2286 – 1004 P.C. C.R.
Christos Constantinou – Private – Army No. Cy./3251 – 1004 P.C. C.R.
Savvas Demetriou – Private – Army No. Cy./1522 – 1004 P.C. C.R.
Inbrahim Halil – Private – Army No. Cy./2781 – 1002 P.C. C.R.
Panayiotis Haralambous – Sergeant – Army No. Cy./2636 – 1002 P.C. C.R.
Kemal Hassam Ucli – Private – Army No. Cy./1696 – 1001 P.C. C.R.
Petros Hji Avcousti – Private – Army No. Cy./1174 – 1004 P.C. C.R.
Michael Hji Neocleous – Private – Army No. Cy./3916 – 1004 P.C. C.R.
A. Houssein – Driver – Army No. Cy./122 – R.A.S.C.
Michael Nicola – Private – Army No. Cy./3617 – 1006 P.C. C.R.
Andreas Nicolaou – Private – Army No. Cy./4595 – 1007 P.C. C.R.
Vassilis Nicolaou – Private – Army No. Cy./2392 – 1002 P.C. C.R.
Husnou Omer – Private – Army No. Cy./15723 – 1009 P.C. C.R.
Hassan Salih – Private – Army No. Cy./2466 – 1002 P.C. C.R.
Kyriacos Sergides – Lance Corporal – Army No. Cy./4639 – 1007 P.C. C.R.
Spyros Savva Spyrides – Lance Corporal – Army No. Cy./2125 – 1002 P.C. C.R.
A. Tepe – Driver – Army No. Cy./1678 – R.A.S.C.
Kyriacos Y. Toumazou – Private – Army No. Cy./3528 – 1003 P.C. C.R.
A. Tsangari – Private – Army No. Cy./2463 – 1002 R.A.S.C.
Stavros Vassiliou – Private – Army No. Cy./2145 – 1005 R.A.S.C.
For more information, see a poster and information on “Cypriots Serving with the British Forces” in the Imperial War Museums collections.