Prince Harry’s former regiment gave The Sun a rare tour of the Cyprus buffer zone – a bullet-riddled no man’s land where time had frozen for half a century.
Thousands of families were suddenly forced to flee after Turkish forces carried out an invasion in 1974 that led to the partition of the island.
From new cars to dishes in the sink, everything lies deserted in an eerie 118 miles of land that separates north and south Cyprus.
We joined the blues and royals as they patrolled part of the Nicosia buffer zone last week as part of their role as United Nations (UN) peacekeepers.
In scenes more reminiscent of Chernobyl than a sweltering British holiday destination, we were taken through homes and businesses that had remained nearly untouched for decades.
Rusted children’s tricycles sat on a dusty ramp that led to a remarkable dealership full of unused Toyota Corollas.
There were hundreds of bullet holes in hotels and private schools – a harrowing reminder of the hundreds who died in the conflict.
Lieutenant Charlie Wallace led us down a street – called Spear Alley – where the no-man’s-land passage is only ten feet wide.
Here, in 1989, a Turkish soldier was stabbed to death by a Greek force who tied a bayonet to a long piece of bamboo.
That same year, an agreement called for troops to be pushed back from the buffer zone to prevent war from breaking out.
Now both sides are watching from a series of surveillance cameras spread along the DMZ or from several checkpoints at the border.
In a cat-and-mouse game, sometimes each side will try their luck and conquer several inches of land by moving bricks or barrels.
We toured a number of apartments overlooking the border – and saw panicked books and clothes hanging out of washing machines.
Dishes lay in the sink and were left behind when gunshots rang out, and televisions, toys, and movies remained exactly where they were once used.
12th-century churches – with Crusader coats of arms – could be seen along some sections of the trail.
Our trip ended at the Ledra Palace Hotel – a former five star hotel frequented by the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and now a base for British troops.
Videos on YouTube show a heavy firefight right on the ground we were standing on, with the same interior decor and the plant pots that once served as a cover that are still on display.
And while the buildings remain the same throughout the zone, flowers grow through the barbed wire separating both sides.
The commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Roland Spiller, is stationed in Cyprus after attending the procession for the king’s coronation last month.
He said: “The UN buffer zone is there to prevent a repeat of fighting like everything we saw in 1974.”
“The British Army provides everything from permanent patrols to crisis search capabilities.
“We’re asserting ourselves as Sector Two, providing an ops company to patrol the buffer zone, ensuring that both sides can have confidence that the other side is not committing any violations.”
“In particular, large parts of the center are subject to a 1989 agreement to withdraw soldiers from the area to defuse tensions, as checkpoints are often only meters apart.”
“And when soldiers stood side by side and were deeply angry, that was just a recipe for trouble.”
“So what the UN could do is encourage both sides to demilitarize those areas, and we then patrol there constantly to make sure neither side builds fortifications or pushes people back into areas they agreed to emasculate.”
The buffer zone is divided into three zones, with half of the 240 British Army soldiers in the area stationed in the second sector.
The other areas are occupied by Argentinian and Slovak soldiers as part of their contribution to the UN peacekeeping mission.
For the past five decades, Cyprus has been divided between the Southern Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, recognized only by Turkey.
Previous attempts to unite the sides have failed, but conflict appears to have subsided, with the last shooting in the area in 1994.
One of the main issues that remains to be resolved between the sides is security, as there are still more than 30,000 Turkish troops in the north.