My first dive abroad was 27/06/1992 in Croatia, from Punta Verudella, a small promontory of the Istrian peninsula on the coast of what was until a couple of months beforehand known as Yugoslavia. For those of you old enough to remember Yugoslavia the country had only opened itself up to tourism over perhaps Two decades or so, it had quickly become a favourite amongst UK holidaymakers being as beautiful as Italy and the Amalfi coast but, being less developed and far less known, it was far and away cheaper and much less crowded but just as engaging! I found myself serving in what was known at the time as “former Yugoslavia” by the ministry of defence and her employees, I had been “invited” to tour with the United Nations on a little jaunt known as “UNPROFOR”, or to us Op Hanwood, an intervention if you like, between the warring factions of Serbia and Croatia, the purpose of which seemed to be to become a pain in the ass of local combatants, “observing” their atrocities but failing to be allowed to do anything about them…… A piss poor state of affairs we all hated in equal measure!
So why did it all go Pete Tong then? It’s a long story, the short version goes something like this: Round the late 1800’s the Serbs and the Croats and Slovenians were fed up with being eyed up by the Austro-Hungarians, they wanted independence and “nationhood”, Around 1914 Archduke Franz Ferdinand is visiting the area, Sarajevo in what was Bosnia, and a Serbian separatist dissident, Gavrilo Princip shot Franz and his wife Sophie, severely pissing off the Austro Hungarians who decide invasion is a good idea….Cue the alignment of most of Europe, the Ottomans of Turkey and Russia and the onset of the “war to end all wars” otherwise known as WWI….Things don’t go well for the Austro-Hungarians, now more popularly known as the “Hun” ….or “Germans” if you prefer, and after Woodrow Wilson and the Americans step in to make a point (14 of them to be exact) they surrender and the world forgets what had become the “Versailles State” ….. After various political meanderings, step-up Crown Prince Alexander of Serbia, who, in 1929 decided to suspend parliament and declare the Kingdom of Yugoslavia with himself as regent (in brief, and yes….this is the short version!),
all goes swimmingly until Alexander’s assassination in 1934 and then the inevitable World War 2 point 0 (WWII)….when Germany invades Yugoslavia, easily toppling the status Quo, the inevitable resistance arises, centring around a certain Communist rebel, Josip Broz Tito who’s HQ was on the island of Vis, about which, far more later in various posts on here, and, following the inevitable collapse of the Axis forces and the sound beating of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, once again after the belated entry of the USA into the conflict after having left Britain to stand alone for almost 4 years (there’s a pattern in here somewhere….) ….where were we, oh yes Tito…….
raised to leader of the nation of Yugoslavia, by popular demand, and ratified by the 3 winning allies, Britain, Russia and the USA (a bit prematurely, at a bit of a “do” at Yalta) we now have the “Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia” a quasi communist blending of Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia, all happily ruled over by Tito, a half Croat, Half Serb and genuinely loved by all to the extent a dictator can be (Perhaps the best form of rule possible really, a benign dictator who loves their country and people)…….Until of course, Tito steps into the beyond, leaving no logical successor, and then it all goes seriously Pete Tong.
Croatia decide they can be a lot wealthier with the upsurge of tourist revenue they are seeing following Tito’s opening up of the country to Filthy Western Capitalist Bourgeoisie……..and declare themselves separate from Serbia and the remaining countries of the old alliance……you know the rest of the story…..and after a couple of months of atrocious fighting between Croatia and Serbia in steps the United Nations…….and 3 Field Workshops…..including me…… off to call “time” on Vlado and Slavko who are still very keen on kicking the living shit out of each other….with heavy weaponry……… well at least that was the “plan”!