In 1964, open hostilities broke out between the Turkish and Greek populations of the Mediterranean island of Cyprus. The Turkish government was threatening to invade the island, and the danger that war may break out between Greece and Turkey was very real.
On 4 March 1964, U Thant, the Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN), asked the governments of Canada, Ireland, Sweden, Brazil, and Finland to supply troops for a UN peacekeeping mission to Cyprus. General P.S. Gyani of India would command the force. The Canadian prime minister, Lester B. Pearson, committed Canadian troops to the United Nations Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) on 12 May 1964. Initially, Canada was the only nation to respond to U Thant’s request. By mid-April, however, the governments of Finland, Ireland, and Denmark had also agreed to send contingents to Cyprus.
The Canadian contingent was originally composed of the 1st Battalion of the Royal 22nd Regiment and the reconnaissance squadron of the Royal Canadian Dragoons (RCD) with Ferret Scout Cars. Royal Canadian Air Force Transport Command airlifted the troops, while the Royal Canadian Navy aircraft carrier HMCS Bonaventure carried vehicles, supplies, and Ferrets of the RCD. The first Canadian troops arrived in Cyprus on 15 March 1964. The Bonaventure reached Cyprus on 30 March 1964. On 14 April, the Canadian government dispatched a brigade headquarters of 150 officers and men. By the end of April, the Canadian contingent numbered 1,150 officers and men.During the Cyprus peacekeeping mission, virtually every Canadian infantry battalion served in UNFICYP. They included battalions of the Royal 22nd Regiment, Canadian Guards, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, Royal Canadian Regiment, Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada, Queen’s Own Rifles and the Canadian Airborne Regiment. The armoured regiments reorganized for infantry duties included the Lord Strathcona’s Horse and the12th Canadian Armoured Regiment. The last Canadian peacekeeping troops left Cyprus on 15 June 1993.