Call to find families of fallen Cyprus veterans

British troops in Cyprus during the 'emergency'.
British troops in Cyprus during the 'emergency'.

A former Royal Horse Guardsman is seeking readers’ help in trying to track down the families of servicemen who lost their lives in the Cyprus ‘emergency’ – so that medals, specially created as a result of the conflict, can be presented to them.

The call comes from Cyprus veteran Les Smith, who is particularly keen to find relatives of six North East lads who died in the conflict. Although they were not from South Tyneside, Les realises that families “move around” and an appeal in the Gazette might help him “be lucky” in his search for relatives.

Les got in touch with me after reading about the experiences of local Cyprus veteran Arthur Meeks in Time Of Our Lives.

Les wrote: “Apart from the 22,000-plus British servicemen who served in Cyprus, between 1955 to 1959, very few people know that in that time we lost a total of 371 young soldiers, mostly national servicemen and 21 British policemen.

“I started a project about two years ago, searching for their relatives.

“My reason is to let them know that their loved ones have not been forgotten by their comrades and that a memorial has now been placed in The National Memorial Arboretum, in Staffordshire.

“I also want to let them know that since 2009, the next of kin of the deceased are entitled to receive The Elizabeth Cross.

“To date, I have managed to make contact with the families of 164 of our deceased comrades. Most have now received or are awaiting to have The Elizabeth Cross presented to them.”

Included in his email to me are details of six North East men who died during the conflict, and whose families have yet to be contacted.

They are: Sapper Edward Fisher Hodgson, aged 20, from Blaydon, serving with 3 Field Squadron Royal Engineers, who died in Nicosia on May 11, 1957; Gunner Adrian Robert Johnson, aged 20, from Hartlepool, serving with the Royal Artillery.

He died on November 5, 1956; L/PM Leonard Clark, aged 36, from Spennymoor, serving with the Royal Navy, who died on July 25, 1958; Leading Aircraftman Thomas Boaden, aged 19, from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, serving with RAF; WO2 James Forster, aged 35, from Sunderland, who was serving with the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment and Pte Robert Henry Liddle, aged 23, from Sunderland, who was serving with the RAOC.

“I know that those mentioned will be out of the area that your newspaper covers, but as families move around I could be lucky and someone may be able to help me contact them.

“If any of your readers can help they can contact me at cyprusveterans@gmail.com

“I would also like to hear from anyone who served in Cyprus between 1955 to 1959. They can contact me at the same address.”

The memorial at The Arboretum was dedicated on August 21, 2016. A service of remembrance will be held on August 19 of this year.

You may recall that former councillor, Mr Meeks, saw action in Cyprus, after serving in the Suez crisis for five weeks.

Historians report that during the Cyprus “emergency”, Greek Cypriot fighters, belonging to an organisation called Eoka, planted bombs and attacked British servicemen on and off duty. Several civilians were also killed.

“It was similar to what was happening in Northern Ireland,” recalled Mr Meeks, when we spoke in 2016.

“In Nicosia, there was a street called Murder Alley, and if you went there on patrol, you were frightened. Lots of lads got killed there.

“We did our share of patrols, when we got sniped on, but there was no face-to-face confrontation. That can be more frightening because you don’t know where the shots are coming from.

“Cyprus could have been a good place to be based, but you couldn’t relax and socialise.

“A couple of the lads socialised with the locals and were shot and killed. You were terrified; it wasn’t a good feeling.”

Even now, Mr Meeks feels that the troops he served with in that conflict have been “forgotten” with the passing years.

“I think we need to do more to remember the people who fought in Cyprus.

“People should not forget what happened, and why it happened.”