How fortified was Cyprus during WW2? By that I mean how many Allied naval ships were defending it, how many aircraft and airbases, and how many troops with what equipment?

The period I'm most interested in is summer 1940 to the end of 1941.

So far I've found very little. Wikipedia does not have an article about Cyprus during WW2, and I could not confirm which port the British were stationed in. This article was interesting, but it only explained that the Battle of Crete was bloody enough to dissuade Hitler from hopping to Cyprus next. He probably didn't wanna delay Barbarossa any further anyway.

Nevertheless, I would like to know how fortified the island was.

  • Looking at present day Cyprus the answer would appear to be "not very." The only major fortification in all of the Middle East during World War 2 that I am aware of was Tobruk which Field Marshal Rommel famously took unlike what happened at Stalingrad, – Doctor Zhivago Nov 16 '16 at 2:54
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    I believe the OP asks for garrison strengths rather than bunkers. – o.m. Nov 16 '16 at 7:10
  • @DoctorZhivago: Rommel took Tobruk easily in May, 1942, after its defensive weapons had been stripped for use in the Gazala line. He was completely unsuccessful several months earlier while its defenses remained intact. – Pieter Geerkens Jun 24 '19 at 9:07

According to The Deceivers: Allied Military Deception in the Second World War, in June 1941 Cyprus contained about 4,000 troops which I think were elements of the 50th Infantry Division, the rest of the division was at El Alamein, plus local troops. They were designated as the fictitious 7th Division. These and other ruses, part of the "Cyprus Defense Plan", convinced the Axis they were facing up to 30,000 troops.

In mid-July 1941 the rest of the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division arrived. To keep up the deception, the genuine 50th Division and the fake 7th Division made up the XVIII Corps (later XXV Corps).

In November 1941 the 50th was relieved by the 5th Infantry Division (India) which remained until April 1942. See Ball Of Fire, Chapter XII: Cyprus Interlude.

I had to piece this together from individual division information. I'm not sure if this was the totality of troops on the island.

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    It should also be noted that its location near neutral Turkey was not nearly as strategic as Malta (which saw lots of action). – T.E.D. Nov 16 '16 at 14:25
  • @T.E.D. Right. I may ask about Malta later, but one thing at a time. I'm still hoping someone will know how many aircraft and ships, if any, were defending the island. – DrZ214 Nov 16 '16 at 15:19
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    @DrZ214 - If nobody comes up with numbers for aircraft, I'd assume that's because the answer is likely 0. Malta (as I mentioned much more strategic) for a while only had about 6 biplanes, 4 of which started out the war in crates. So it seems pretty clear the British didn't have a lot of spare planes to spread around to island possessions. – T.E.D. Nov 17 '16 at 16:55
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    @DrZ214: For practical purposes, the entire Eastern Med. Fleet at Alexandria was defending Cyprus. Read Mahan. (Well commanded) fleets don't disperse as garrisons. – Pieter Geerkens Jun 24 '19 at 9:09

My uncle, Lt Col John Ross Kennedy, OBE, DOS, of the Royal Engineers was attached to the 50th (Northumbrian) Division and in 1941 was in Cyprus charged with building the defences of Nikosia. He received his OBE for his successful completion of this task. You may find the information you require by following up his details.

He was killed near Tobruk in 1942, during the retreat after the battle of Galazia.

I hope this helpful.


There was also the Cyprus Regiment, mostly recruited locally, and whilst quite a large part fought well across the Med Theatre, there must have been an element that was involved in the defence of Cyprus. This might be a further area for your research.

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