British Forces Cyprus

British Forces Cyprus (BFC) is the name given to the British Armed Forces stationed in the UK Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia on the island of Cyprus and at a number of related 'retained sites' in the Republic of Cyprus. The United Kingdom retains a military presence on the island in order to keep a strategic location at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, for use as a staging point for forces sent to locations in the Middle East and Asia. BFC is a tri-service command, with all three services based on the island reporting to it. At present, there are approximately 3,500 personnel serving in Cyprus.

British Forces Cyprus
The British Tri-Service badge
Allegiance United Kingdom
Branch Royal Navy
British Army
Royal Air Force
Part ofUK Ministry of Defence
CBF (Commander British Forces Cyprus)Major-General Robert J. Thomson CBE DSO


Following the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus in 1960, the UK retained two Sovereign Base Areas in Akrotiri and Dhekelia and an RAF air marshal was appointed as the Administrator of the Sovereign Base Areas.[1] The Treaty of Establishment also provided British access to 40 'retained sites' in the republic of Cyprus; these included numerous radar stations, several ports, a range of accommodation and support facilities and a firing range.[2] The following year the British Forces Near East organization was created, the command of which was then held concurrently with that of the post of Administrator.[3] On 1 March 1961 the Southern Group of Middle East Air Force became Near East Air Force and was based in Cyprus. By 1962 the title British Forces in Cyprus was in official use.[4] British Forces Cyprus retains the right to use 13 retained sites with the remaining 27 having been returned to Cyprus after the Ministry of Defence no longer required them. The most recent sites to be returned were the Berengaria Married Quarters in 2011 because they had become obsolete and the firing range on the Akamas peninsula in 1999-2001 because the areas' training value was deemed less important than the environmental damage inflicted on an ecologically important area and the consequent political liability to British Forces Cyprus.[5][6][7][8]


Episkopi is the current command centre of British Forces Cyprus. The commander of the Sovereign Base Areas/British Forces Cyprus (CBF) is a two-star appointment, alternating every three years between the Army and the RAF. Consequently, the Chief of Staff British Forces Cyprus (COS) is a one-star appointment from the opposite service of the commander. Episkopi Cantonment is home to the Sovereign Base Areas Administration, the civilian authority in the territory.[2]

Force structure

Within British Forces Cyprus are a number of permanently based units; however, the large proportion of British forces in Cyprus are rotated between Cyprus and the UK:

The Queen’s and King’s Divisions continue to rotate battalions through Cyprus every three years.[11]


The following officers have been in command of British Forces Cyprus:[12]

General Officer Commanding Cyprus District

Commander, British Forces Cyprus

Operation TOSCA

Operation TOSCA is the name given to the British contribution to the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP). The British Contingent (BRITCON) numbers 278, and consists of three distinct parts:

  • HQ BRITCON — responsible for the administration and support of the British Contingent.
  • Force Military Police Unit — the FMPU is commanded by a major of the Royal Military Police, with seven other members of the RMP as part of the multi-national unit.
  • UN Roulement Regiment — the URR has responsibility for patrolling Sector 2 of the Green Line in Nicosia. Between October 2008 and April 2009, this role was filled by 32 Signal Regiment Group, a composite TA unit. This was the first time a TA unit had been deployed on a UN Peacekeeping mission[35]

One of the roles of the support units of BFC is to assist as needed the British units deployed with UNFICYP, which are not part of BFC, but are instead under the direct command of the United Nations.

British Forces Cyprus Installations

The Republic of Cyprus

In addition to the Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia, 1960 Treaty of Establishment between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Cyprus granted the UK the right to permanently make use of 40 further sites on the Island for Military Purposes.[36][37]

Name Part of Country County Opened Units
Berengaria Village Married QuartersBritish Forces CyprusCyprusLimassolThe Harakis Borehole and the Berengaria village pipeline are also retained to supply water.[36]
British East Mediterranean Relay StationBritish Forces CyprusCyprusZygiUsed the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to broadcast BBC World Service programming to Israel and the Arab world.[38]
Troodos Leave CampBritish Forces CyprusCyprusTroodos1878The accommodation is used by BFC, visiting troops and youth services in support of adventurous training. Site also contains married-quarters, NAAFI and Works Unit.[36] Contiguous with RAF Troodos.
RAF Nicosia and CampsBritish Forces CyprusCyprusNicosiaNot currently in use because it lies in the UN Buffer Zone between Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus and the Republic of Cyprus.
RAF Mt Olympus Radar StationBritish Forces CyprusCyprusTroodosA British Longrange Radar Station operating on Mt Olympus' Peak.
RAF TroodosBritish Forces CyprusCyprusNicosia1878A remote Signals Station.
Kissousa Headwaters, Reservoir and Pumping StationBritish Forces CyprusCyprusLimassolA secure water supply for the Akrioti Sovereign Base Area[39][40]

Northern Cyprus

Three retained Military facilities are located within the territory of Northern Cyprus. They are not currently in use by British Forces Cyprus because the UK does not acknowledge the Government of Northern Cyprus.[36]

Name Part of Country County Opened Units
Famagusta Joint Services Port UtilityBritish Forces CyprusNorthern CyprusFamagustaLies in Northern Cyprus and therefore not currently in use.
Famagusta Family Shop and NAAFI HQBritish Forces CyprusNorthern CyprusFamagustaLies in Northern Cyprus and therefore not currently in use.
Famagusta NAAFI Transport YardBritish Forces CyprusNorthern CyprusFamagustaLies in Northern Cyprus and therefore not currently in use.

Sovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and Dhekelia

The two British enclaves in the Republic of Cyprus, act as platforms for the projection of British military assets in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East.[41] The enclaves serve as centres for regional communications monitoring from the eastern Mediterranean through the Middle East to Iran.[42][43] Facilities within the retained areas also support British military activities on retained sites in the Republic of Cyprus and provide unique training opportunities.[44]

Western Sovereign Base Area

Name Part of Country Region Opened Units
Episkopi CantonmentBritish Forces CyprusSovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and DhekeliaWestern Sovereign Base Area1960Home to HQ British Forces Cyprus[45]
Paramali North and South QuartersBritish Forces CyprusSovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and DhekeliaWestern Sovereign Base Area1960
RAF AkrotiriBritish Forces CyprusSovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and DhekeliaWestern Sovereign Base Area1960The Largest Royal Airforce Station outside the UK.

Eastern Sovereign Base Area

Name Part of Country Region Opened Units
Alexander BarracksBritish Forces CyprusSovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and DhekeliaEastern Sovereign Base Area1960
Ayios Nikolaos StationBritish Forces CyprusSovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and DhekeliaEastern Sovereign Base Area1960The Joint Service Signal Unit (JSSU). JSSU is a static communications organisation maintaining secure links from Cyprus to the rest of the world.[46] The station is a significant centre for GCHQ collection of signals data and intelligence from the Eastern Mediterranean Region and Middle East.[47][48]
Dhekelia AirfieldBritish Forces CyprusSovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and DhekeliaEastern Sovereign Base Area

A small airfield whose primary employment is as a British Army Helicopter Base.[49]

Dhekelia CantonmentBritish Forces CyprusSovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and DhekeliaEastern Sovereign Base Area1960

Headquarters of the Eastern Sovereign Base Area, a resident infantry battalion, an engineer squadron, and various logistic units, as well as UK-based civilians and dependents.[50]

Nightingale BarracksBritish Forces CyprusSovereign Base Areas of Akrotiri and DhekeliaEastern Sovereign Base Area

See also


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