Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Comics idea to stop Cyprus rebels

The National Archives have released previously secret Government files

Colonial officials in Cyprus considered producing adventure comic books and running an essay competition in a propaganda bid to stop young people rebelling against British rule, previously secret Government files have revealed.

Schoolchildren threw petrol bombs, caused disturbances and regularly went on strike from school during the mid-1950s as they sided with the nationalist EOKA movement for "Enosis" - union with Greece - the Foreign Office files revealed.

In 1956, Colonial Secretary Alan Lennox-Boyd damned a record of 18 months of disturbance from secondary school pupils.

In a previously secret document, released by the National Archives, he said: "The picture presented by the record is one of indiscipline and defiance of authority on a scale which is not readily comprehensible to those accustomed to the decorum of educational establishments in the United Kingdom."

The violence prompted the commissioner of Cyprus to ask if it was possible to produce adventure comics to try to sway opinion.

The secret files contained an extract from one of the unnamed commissioner's letters, which read: "Schoolchildren have been used as a weapon in the nationalist campaign and it is therefore at them that Government propaganda should particularly be aimed.

"Here again, crude propaganda against Greece is useless. The aim should be again to shift the focus off Greece - not necessarily on to Britain but to a broader, more international, outlook. This might be done by commissioning a firm in England, if necessary, to print weekly comics with Greek and English captions using adventure stories and the exploits of explorers etc as material."

But the director of information services, LG Durrell, said the idea would not appeal commercially to publishers and that the real problem was that Cyprus is "dreadfully boring". He wrote: "Nicosia (the capital) is a dreadfully boring town to live in with its glaring lack of amenities."

Mr Durrell said the lack of a good library, a public swimming pool or a polytechnic college where young people could take courses left children bored and so driven to disturbance.

He went on: "Apart from stadium football matches there seemed to be nothing to do and nothing to look forward to. To sum up: as a short-term propaganda device such an idea might prove effective. But it will not touch the heart of the unrest which is routed in boredom and for which Enosis provides something exciting to think about."

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