Can you help us find the families of these Sunderland heroes

The memorial at The Arboretum which honours those who fell in the Cyprus Emergency.
The memorial at The Arboretum which honours those who fell in the Cyprus Emergency.
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Much-deserved medals could be on the way to six former servicemen – if an appeal to find them pays dividends through the Sunderland Echo.

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, which were specially created as a result of the conflict, can be presented to them.

Les Smith in his service days.

Les Smith in his service days.

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.

He’s hoping an appeal might help him “be lucky” in his search for relatives.

Les got in touch after reading about the experiences of local Cyprus veteran Arthur Meeks in the Echo’s sister paper the Shields Gazette.

Les wrote: “Apart from the 22,000 plus British service-men 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.

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.

Les Smith

“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.

The British Cemetery in Nicosia.

The British Cemetery in Nicosia.

He said: “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 the paper were details of six North East men who died during the conflict, and whose families have yet to be contacted.

They are:

l WO2 James Forster, aged 35, who hailed from Sunderland, and who was serving with the 1st Battalion, Parachute Regiment.

l Pte Robert Henry Liddle, aged 23, also from Sunderland, and who was serving with the RAOC.

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

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, from Spennymoor, 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 will be held on August 19 of this year.

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 who spoke to the Gazette 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 troops he served with in that conflict have been “forgotten” with the passing years.

He 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.”