Cyprus heroes could be given honours – with readers’ help

Les Smith in his service days.
Les Smith in his service days.

Much-deserved medals could be on the way to six former servicemen – if an appeal to find them pays dividends through the Hartlepool Mail.

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

The memorial at The Arboretum which honours those who died in Cyprus.

The memorial at The Arboretum which honours those who died in Cyprus.

The call comes from Les Smith who got in touch after reading about the experiences of local Cyprus veteran Arthur Meeks in the Mail’s sister paper the Shields Gazette.

Les, a veteran himself, 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.”

Les’s campaign is already proving effective. He has made contact with “the families of 164 of our deceased comrades. Most have now received or are awaiting The Elizabeth Cross presented to them.”

But now he has detailed six North East men who died during the conflict, and whose families have yet to be contacted.

They are:

l Gunner Adrian Robert Johnson, aged 20, from Hartlepool, who served with the Royal Artillery. He died on November 5, 1956;

l WO2 James Forster, aged 35, from Sunderland, with the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment.

l Pte Robert Henry Liddle, aged 23, from Sunderland, with the RAOC.

l Sapper Edward Fisher Hodgson, aged 20, from Blaydon, who was serving with 3 Field Squadron Royal Engineers, and who died in Nicosia on May 11, 1957;

l L/PM Leonard Clark, aged 36, who was from Spennymoor, and who was serving with the Royal Navy, and who died on July 25, 1958;

l Leading Aircraftman Thomas Boaden, aged 19, who was from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and was serving with RAF.

Les said: “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, and a service of remembrance is on August 19 of this year.

Les added: “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.”