THE British flag lowered in Cyprus to mark the end of colonial rule was yesterday donated to the EOKA Struggle Museum in Nicosia by the British soldier who took it in 1960.
John Miller, who as a 21-year-old was stationed with the Royal Signals Regiment in Cyprus 46 years ago, handed the flag to museum director Thasos Sophocleous saying: “I believe the flag belongs here as it’s a part of the island’s history and I feel very proud and happy today in returning it.
“I’m sure it will have a good home here at the museum.”
Now 67, Miller explained that, “on August 15, 1960, at the flag changeover ceremony, I asked Governor Sir Hugh Foot for permission to keep it and he agreed. It remained in my wardrobe in Lowestoft in Suffolk until I returned to Cyprus in 1999.
“I love Cyprus and have made Finikaria village in Limassol my home,” he said. “Even though the flag is valuable, I was never been tempted to sell it and always wanted to bring it back.”
Sophocleous described it as a very emotional and historic day. “For 82 years, the flag represented the British occupation of Cyprus and it is a symbol of the end of colonisation. When it was lowered from Governor’s House (now the Presidential Palace) at 7.18pm that August 15, Cyprus at last breathed free air and the Republic was created.
“Following the museum’s recent acquisition of a letter written by Albert Camus asking for clemency for a Cypriot EOKA member sentenced to death for murder, the museum is slowly gathering important historical artefacts from the period so that they can be seen by the public.”
Turning to Miller, the museum director thanked him for the flag, praising the fact that he never asked for any money for it, and wished him a happy and healthy life in Cyprus.
Speaking from York, Micheal Faul editor of Flagmaster Magazine, a publication of the Flag Institute, explained that: “In 1905, the two lion badge was approved by King Edward VII. It was derived from the design of the shield of Richard I (Coeur de Lion) who married Spanish Princess Berengaria in Cyprus in 1191, after being shipwrecked on the island, while on his way to join the Third Crusade.”
He went on to say that the flag donated to the museum was, “the Cyprus Governor’s flag, with the two lions being the colonial badge of Cyprus.
“When Cyprus gained independence in 1960, the two lion badge was replaced by the Coat of Arms of the Republic of Cyprus (a white shield with a dove carrying a sprig of olive in its beak.)”
The EOKA Struggle Museum opened in Nicosia in 1960 and displays clothing, photographs, guns and other memorabilia from the Greek Cypriot organisation that fought for the end of British colonial rule and for union with Greece in the mid to late 1950s.