NEWS
27/07/2012 04:02 BST

British Governor 'Slept On Time Bomb Planted By Terrorist'

A British colonial governor showed even more coolness than the role traditionally called for after he and his wife slept on a time bomb planted in their bed which fortunately failed to go off, according to files released today.

Sir John Harding was Governor of Cyprus in March 1956 when a terrorist tried to bring an early end to his time in the post by placing the device between mattresses on his bed at Government House.

The incident was publicised at the time but a previously secret file shows the extent of the highly-decorated former soldier's reaction to it.

He received a letter from Brigadier David Forster congratulating him on his escape from the time bomb. The Brigadier added: "I can't help feeling you have been spared for a purpose. May you fulfil it."

Sir John wrote back: "My wife has been marvellously brave and calm about it, and it was certainly providential for us both that the plot failed.

"If only I can put an end to terrorism and intimidation here and set these people on a peaceful and prosperous course for the future, the risks to which we are exposed will have been worthwhile."

The bomb was discovered on the morning of March 21 during a search through the rooms of Government House.

It was removed to a safe place where it exploded harmlessly later in the morning.

A young Greek Cypriot servant, who joined the staff six months before, did not report for duty that morning and was regarded as "missing".

A press release at the time said: "The bomb was found between mattresses on the Governor's bed, and in all probability he slept on it last night. Sir John remarked this evening, "I slept better than usual last night."

In a message to the Secretary of State contained in the file, Sir John said: "It was a lucky escape for us both. Missing member of household staff was liked and trusted by us all so his defection is very disappointing."

The file is released at the National Archives in Kew in the second batch of thousands of "lost" colonial era documents which had been believed to have been destroyed.

Thousands of documents were secretly sent back to the UK when former colonies became independent.

The Foreign Office only admitted last year that it held some 8,800 files at Hanslope Park in Buckinghamshire which were "migrated" to Britain from colonies at the time of independence because of their sensitivity.

Cyprus became an independent republic on August 16 1960 and a member of the Commonwealth on March 13 1961.