Ripley Soldier on UN peace mission

2 Mercian Regiment train at the Nescliffe Army training area for their deployment on Operation TOSCA with the United Nations in Cyprus.
2 Mercian Regiment train at the Nescliffe Army training area for their deployment on Operation TOSCA with the United Nations in Cyprus.

This month sees Ripley soldier Private Sam Beardsley deploy to Cyprus for a six-month tour of duty as a UN peace-keeper.

Sam, 22, a former student at John Flanstead School is a member of the 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment which is heading to Cyprus to patrol the ‘Green Line’, the buffer zone dividing the Turkish-held north and the Greek south.

The peacekeeping mission is one of the longest ever running United Nations missions. The British contribution to the United Nations Forces in Cyprus is known as Op TOSCA.

Sam is one of 275 soldiers who are deploying including 62 soldiers from the Regiment’s reserve unit the 4th Battalion The Mercian Regiment.

The soldiers will patrol by vehicle, foot or by mountain bike depending on the nature and type of patrol.

When on patrol the soldiers will be 
talking to the local people of the island and helping to ensure that the UN mandate is maintained.

One of the areas the troops will be based is in a UN base in the centre of the Cypriot 
capital Nicosia as well as a 
disused international airport between the opposing sides.

Speaking on his deployment Sam said: “I’m looking forward to going.

“The training has been good, I’ve really enjoyed it. It will be my first visit to Cyprus so I’m hoping I’ll get some time to look around as well.”

“It’s going to be a different tour to Op Herrick. I spent four-months in Afghanistan last year. Based in Camp Bastion as part of the Reception Staging and Onward Integration team.”

Leaving behind his mum Suzanne, twin sister Katie and his dog Lucy he said: “I’m proud to be going and doing the role.

“Of course I’ll miss my family but I’m looking forward to it.”

Sam received his United Nations blue beret recently having finished a three-month training programme to prepare him for his mission.

The training under the watchful eye of UN assessors included public order training for the worst-case scenario should they need to 
de-escalate tensions but that is unlikely.

While deployed Sam will also have the opportunity to take part in adventure training, he added: “I’m hoping to have a go at sailing.”

Lieutenant Colonel Paul Gilby the Commanding Officer of 2 MERCIAN said: “Peace-keeping duties require very different skills to those some of the soldiers have already put to use in tours of combat zones, such as Afghanistan.

“Our aim over the six months will be to make sure the situation between the Greeks and the Turks remains stable.

“This is very much a thinking tour; the ability to understand the situation and the issues involved then absorb and assimilate the information before acting upon it will be key and I know they will 
deliver in spades.

“There is not likely to be any combat but the troops will be out on foot patrol in a sensitive area so they will face situations where they need to use diplomacy and negotiation. It will be a more subtle operation under UN command.”