A SOLDIER from Otley is preparing to undertake an overseas tour of duty as a UN peacekeeper.

James Farrington is a member of The Royal Lancers who will head to Cyprus in April to patrol the 'Green Line'.

The 180 kilometre - 112 miles - United Nations Buffer Zone has divided the Turkish north and Greek south of the Mediterranean island for more than 40 years.

The peacekeeping operation in Cyprus is one of the longest-running United Nations missions and the British contribution is known as Operation TOSCA.

Twenty six year old James is one of 285 members of The Royal Lancers who are flying out to the island and will patrol the sector by vehicle, foot or mountain bike.

They have all completed special training for the task and recently swapped their regimental berets for the distinctive blue berets of the UN.

James, a former pupil at Prince Henry's Grammar School who joined the Army four years ago, said: "It is going to be good - I’m looking forward to it.

"I have been on exercises, including to Canada for a few weeks, but this will be my first operational tour."

While deployed the soldiers will be working to maintain peace and stability while also performing an important liaison role with local people and the authorities.

Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Searby, said: "For some of the 285 soldiers deploying this will be their first operational tour, while others have previously deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

"The training has included developing skills in negotiation and mediation, observing and reporting, and recognising what constitutes a violation of the existing agreements.

"The role will require tact and professionalism and it will be a unique challenge for all involved."

The buffer zone is divided into three sectors and the British soldiers will be responsible for the central part, known as Sector 2, which covers the city of Nicosia. They have all received a cultural briefing to ensure they are fully aware of the history of the tension between the north and south of Cyprus.

But there will also be a chance, when not on patrol duty, for more relaxed pursuits in the form of adventure training - with James hoping to be able to fit in some scuba diving.

The Royal Lancers' training has been overseen by members of The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, who are currently on the island.

*UN peacekeepers, which can include police officers and civilians as well as soldiers, are often referred to as Blue Berets or Blue Helmets.