PRIVATE BRIAN ROBERTSON
1st BATTALION GORDON HIGHLANDERS
JOURNEY TO KYKKO MONASTREY
My name is Brian Robertson born and bred in Scotland. During my two years’ national service as private, I was a truck driver serving with the 1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders. The regiment
were stationed in Cyprus during the height of the troubles from October 1955 to January 1957.
One of my most vivid memories of my time with B Company was driving a one-ton truck trailing a water cart over the mountain tracks from Plateres to Kykko Monastery in the dark. We were going in to search the Greek Orthodox monastery at first light for terrorist activity.
All I had to follow was one very small white light on the tail of the vehicle in front of me This light as you could imagine kept disappearing for minutes at a time, as we were separated from the truck in front at each bend. When this happened I just tried as hard as possible to keep the truck on the road. Being the slowest I was the last vehicle in the convoy because I had to stop and reverse the truck and cart to negotiate many of the tight bends. There was a sheer cliff up the left side and a drop down into a ravine on the right almost all the way through the mountains to the monastery. I could hear the lads in the back of the truck swearing at me with colourful words every time I went near the edge.
Sgt. Gammy was standing on the passenger seat with his head out of the roof turret, continually urging me to go faster to catch up with the rest of the convoy. Occasionally he would bend his knees and duck down into the cab to encourage me a little more forcefully.
“Put your foot down Robertson,” he would bellow over the noise of the engine at me “we’re bloody losing them”! Then he would resume his position with his head and upper body above the turret peering into the darkness
Had the journey been in the daylight, or had I been allowed to use headlights, I might have seen enough and been confident enough to take the bends in one without reversing, but in the dark I assure you it would be very dodgy. Not to be beat at the next bend I thought okay, here we go! I swung the front of the truck right out to where I thought the edge of the road should be and at the appropriate moment swung the wheel all the way to the left. I just hoped that the water cart would not bounce off the cliff wall on the way round.
About one second into this manoeuvre, I could hear the lads literally screaming in the back of the truck and out of the corner of my eye I saw Sgt. Grammy’s right leg lift off the passenger’s seat and hover.
The action completed satisfactorily, Sgt. Grammy’s leg resumed its place on the seat and his frame again appeared in the cab.
“By the hell that was more by God’s grace than good judgment laddy. Just bloody reverse at the next one will ye?”
Which I did. We arrived at the “walk in” site a mile or so before the monastery about 10 minutes behind the rest of the convoy. I must say a very relieved driver indeed.
Brian Robertson will soon be publishing his book on his national service days, when he served with the 1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders. There is no doubt it will be a good read and I am sure you the reader, will enjoy it.