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Wednesday, 17 May 2017


Soldiers from Blackpool were among those returning from a peacekeeping mission in Cyprus following a six month tour overseas. The squaddies, from the 4th Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, patrolled the country’s United Nations (UN) buffer zone along with local police and military.

It comes ahead of the regiment being given the freedom of Blackpool on July 19, which it is expected will see around 120 soldiers march through the resort’s streets in full uniform after decades of service.  Capt Mark Lydiate said: “The tour was deemed a great success by the UN, especially as the mission was conducted over a particularly sensitive period as both sides try to reach a political solution.”

The battalion, which has nine locations across the North West and is headquartered in Preston, is part of the 42nd Infantry Brigade and is a light role infantry reserve battalion. Specialising in close combat operations, soldiers have been deployed to Italy, Australia, America, Latvia, and the Falklands in recent years.

They were sent to Cyprus last October as part of Operation Tosca, the name given to the British aid to the UN Peacekeeping Force there. The country has been split into two since a Greek-inspired coup failed and Turkish forces invaded more than 40 years ago. The buffer zone a strip of lane more than 120 miles long — was set up to divide the country into the Turkish Cypriot north and Greek Cypriot south, and has been patrolled by peacekeepers since.

Decades of talks have so far failed to reunify the island, a former British colony, but leaders from both sides met earlier this year in the hope of reaching a settlement that would see power shared. Army reservist, Pvt Belinda Houghton, 26, from Blackpool, said: “The international dimension of the United Nations is clearly its strength and I had not necessarily understood that before I arrived.

“I am sure I’ll keep in touch with many of the international soldiers that I have met here, if not go and visit them. “One of the last things we have participated in here was our United Nations Medal Parade. A ceremony filled with music, commendation and of course medals. Recognition of service in the pursuit of peace: not bad for a 26 year-old girl from Blackpool. “It is my first medal but it definitely will not be my last.”

While in Cyprus, the troops took part in Exercise Pandoras Box, a simulated exercise in the buffer zone to test leadership and military skills, and to test the unit’s reaction time. They also hosted several VIPs in the buffer zone, which was patrolled on a daily basis for the entire six months.

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