February 6, 2023

Cyprus – Army Friends


By Margaret Sheard….

Back in April 2014 I was asked by Chris Veness to try and help him to find a friend from his army days in Cyprus in 1958/59 so I wrote an article which was published on our website entitled “Cyprus – Finding Friends, which can be seen by clicking here

This is quite an involved story which started in 2012 with a request to cyprusscene.com  made by Derek Chilvers, who had attended the Kyrenia 2012 Remembrance Service and Lunch, and was anxious to try and obtain some photographs taken at both events.  This contact led to a friendship which is still on-going and during our email contact I asked Derek to write down some of his memories of his time in Cyprus, which resulted in my writing a very long article with many of his reminiscences and many photographs from which we compiled 2 videos.  NS SIX 1959 UK BAR NICOSIA CYPRUS JPEGThis can be seen by clicking here.

Chris Veness was also one of the lads of the Suffolk Regiment who did his National Service in Cyprus in 1958/59, at the same time as Derek.   Chris was, and still is, a keen musician and he formed a rock group at their camp, one of the pursuits which I would think kept the lads in good spirits, bearing in mind a lot of those young national servicemen had never been out of Britain before.

So, via Derek, I was contacted by Chris to try and help him to find a member of the rock group who was a guitarist and who he had lost touch with since their army days some 55 years ago.  This was Russie and even his surname had been forgotten over the years.   This is the information Chris sent to me at the time and it was included in the Finding Friends article.

“Russie was Lt Orr’s batman in C Company and his tent was the last one in the line set back near the camp Shop. He lived in Ipswich and must have come in around October 1957 at Gibraltar Barracks, Bury St Edmonds. He was working in the stores in Bury and was giving out all our stuff when I first met him in December 1957”

On leaving the army, Chris went on to be a very popular musician and was known as Chris Fender Black, he appeared with many celebrities during the 1960’s and 1970’s as well as making TV appearances and he is still a rocker even now and still performing (see below for some information about Chris)   As with many of the lads who served together during their national service days, he remembers those times with a lot of fondness and affection and still attends the various reunions, including the Minden Day celebrations of the Suffolk Regiment.

About Chris

Well, I am so delighted to say that I have now heard again from Chris and he has found Russell so this is the second time that cyprusscene.com has been successful in reuniting old friends.  I give below the lovely emails which Chris sent to me with the brilliant good news.

Email from Chris Veness to Margaret Sheard

Hi Margaret, I hope this finds you well, I got this amazing email tonight from my oldest Army friend Russ Hamlet, and it’s all down to you, I can’t thank you enough.  I will forward you his email and my email back to him.  I have just spent the last two hours on this but it’s all worth it

What a brilliant result, this would make a really good article for Cyprusscene, about how many people it gets to in the UK.  Thanks a million

Following is the email which brought the whole reunion together.  Ivan saw our article and contacted both Chris and Russell, and then Russell contacted Chris and the circle was complete.

Email from ex-serviceman in Cyprus – Ivan Bendon – to Chris Veness

Hi Chris.   I joined the Suffolk Regiment March 24 1958 started training at Gibraltar Barracks an intake after Russell, about seven weeks I think . It was the time when all us young kids wanted to buy a guitar and play like Lonnie Donegan and Tommy Steel. Then I bought my first guitar, second hand.  I arrived in Cyprus and into B Company. After a while I met Russell Hamlet for the first time.  I could hear you and Russell playing your guitars in your tent In C  Company tent lines I came across and met you both.  I think the tune you were playing was something called Sweet Sue.  Russell introduced me to the bar chords on the guitar to help me move on with my playing.  After finishing with the army and got back to home life I met Russell  again stayed friends and kept In touch to this day. I’ve sent him your e-mail address and I’m sure he will contact you.  Regards  Ivan .

Email from Russell Hamlet to Chris Veness

Hello Chris,  Good to hear from a friend, who had seen the notice in ‘Cyprus History – Finding Friends’,  that I was the missing link!  I remember that you left a message in a music shop in Ipswich, probably in the 60’s, but when I saw it much later, the trail had gone cold so I could not get in touch.Band and Russell

After NS I played in a couple of groups for a while then became bass player for the Trev Stannard Five for 5/6 years – still working full time in printing.  In 1971 I became self-employed running my own lithographic business.  I had to give up band work at this time what with working long hours building up the business and the birth of our first daughter (I was married in 1963 and had 2 daughters in 71 & 72).

Sad to say that in 1978 I had a stroke that stopped me in my tracks.  Being young (40) and fit and healthy, I made a good recovery but it left me unable to play the guitar.  My left side was affected and I have lost agility in the left hand.  I now have a sailing dinghy that I sail of the Orwell as often as I can.

Good to hear from you and I hope it won’t be another 50 years before I get a message!!   I still get nightmares over the Wallbash Cannonball and the Kyyko Kats!!

Regards – Russell (Hamlet)

Email from Chris Veness to Russell Hamlet

Hi Russ what a turn up hearing from you after all this time trying to contact you. It’s brilliant that you are still alive and kicking !!!!  What a relief, I was very worried that I might never see you again Minden Day - 2011and I have constantly asked my army friends if they recognized you from my NS Six pix.  You MUST come to Gibraltar Barracks Bury for next year’s reunion July / August on a Sunday, so many old friends there who would be over the moon to meet you again, It’s all a bit overwhelming…. I’ve  had to take a deep breath to calm down…. and I’m still pinching myself looking at your email to me !!!!!! UNBELIEVABLE we’re back together and in touch at last.

I’m trying to arrange a Xmas get together on Sunday 7th December, and Derek Chilvers 7 platoon C Coy (he lives in Ipswich ) is sorting a suitable pub out.  Please let me know if you can make it as Big Digger Ward from the Armoury is coming and it’s his first time meeting up with everybody as well !!!   A lot of the lads think that once a year is not enough for a meet up as it is getting more special keeping in touch with everyone now as we are all getting on, and sadly no one knows who’s going to fall over next!!!!!!

If you have any old army pix of Kyyko PLEASE 7 Platoon C Company - Derek's companionsemail them to me as I can enhance them and clean them up and let you have them back.

Russ,   WOW  can we possibly arrange to meet up ASAP?  I’ll come down to Ipswich if you can let me know when you are available.  You were my first and oldest Amy mate and we had that amazing musical buzz together and I can’t wait to give you a BIG hug !!!

I have attached an Army letter I sent home in December 1958 with this chords to “Who’s Sorry Now” on it, we were learning at the time using BAR Chords!!!!

I have so much to tell you so we need a good catch up. I’ll send you some photo’s and if you recognize anyone and can put a name to them that would be great. Please let me know if you are in any of them.  What was your Call Up date and intake into Bury N/S, and what date were you demobbed ????  Who gave you my email ?   I couldn’t remember your surname so nobody could help me to find you, and I wasn’t sure if Russle was your first name as it’s been such a long gap in time. At least I remembered the “Russ” bit OK so I got something right!!!

It really is so great to receive your email and we must try our best to make up for those lost years. Please send me a pix of you now so I know who to say hello to when I see you!!!!!

I had a bad stroke in May 2009, but I went to Hypnosis Therapy off my own back and it worked for me and I’m OK now, so it could help you if you give it a go.

If you know anyone who was in the Suffolk’s please see if you can bring them to the reunion and we can form another BAND.  Ginger Robby Farance  7 Platoon lives in Ipswich and we are great mates now and I only met him 3 years ago at the reunion.  I was trying to contact Lt Orr to find out what your name was but I have not had any luck yet, perhaps he will show up sometime you Posternever know what’s around the corner in this life do you!!!

I’m known around the UK as Chris Fender Black, but I still use Chris Veness for official stuff, “The Munchers” was my first rock & roll Band in 1960!!!!

I’m just going back on the road again as a Duo called THE BLACKKATZ Chris Fender Black & Rosie B (buttocks to her friends)  YOU MUST SEE US SOMETIME I’LL SEND YOU SOME PIX AND SONGS to get on with.  Big shame you are not playing, I’m doing a Skiffle set in my show which goes down a storm, could you manage the Tea Chest Bass or the Washboard ?????

Absolutely BRILLIANT to hear from you, thanks so much for contacting me, and hopefully we’ll happily go on from here!!!! 

Kindest Rocking Regards – SEE YOU SOON

Chris ( The Muncher )  Ha  Ha Ha Harrrrr.

Email from Chris Veness to Margaret Sheard

Hi Margaret.  Thanks so much for your reply re – you finding Russell for me.  I‘ll get a photo of us playing guitars together again when I see him…..a proper Now & Then pix for your Cyprusscene website!!!!  Well done you are priceless to us xxxx   Kindest regards Chris xx.

I have a very warm feeling about all of this, what a happy ending and I am sure when Chris and Russell get together they will have so much to talk about and if Russell can get to the reunions that will be even better.  I would like to be a fly on the wall when the lads all get together at these events.

Summary by Chris Veness

Finding my oldest Army pal

This is an old Army photo of my band in Cyprus 1958-1959.  The guy in the photo is Russ Hamlet who I first met on Thurs 5th Dec 1957 when I was first called up in the Suffolk Regiment and had NS SIX 1959 UK BAR NICOSIA CYPRUS JPEGto report to Gibraltar Barracks, Bury St Edmonds Suffolk. He played guitar and we had an immediate connection through music and stayed friends till we were demobbed in 1959.

We were last together in Germany at Isalon SS Barracks in September 1959 (Still Playing) and he was sent home to be demobbed and we lost contact with each other. 

As time went by I tried several times to find him in the 60’s 70’s 80’s 90’s and 2000 onwards and at last he has turned up. I thought he must have fallen over as nobody knew his whereabouts. Imagine my surprise when he emailed me out of the blue two weeks ago. I was completely gobsmacked and totally over the moon to hear from him after NS Six55 years of trying to find him !!!!

Margaret Sheard put this picture of us playing together in Nicosia Cyprus into the Cyprusscene website  to see if anybody out there could put us in touch, it was a real shot in the dark

Margaret and her partner run the Cyprusscene.com  website – link http://www.cyprusscene.com and through her kind help I have at last contacted Russell my OLDEST Army friend!!!

If you have any old buddies you want to contact ask Margaret to put an article in for you I’m sure she would be only too pleased to help.

Chris with Russ and his wife Margaret

I met Russell and his lovely wife Margaret on Monday 13th October and what a great day we all had together. We caught up on places and dates and cups of tea and Russell and I played guitars again together after a small gap of 55 years !!!!

I have attached some photo’s what a remarkable rewarding day we had together.  I hope we have many more to come.

Rocking regards Chris

So, at last Chris and Russell met up on Monday 13th October and I have since received some photographs of Chris and Russell taken at the time of their first meeting in Ipswich after 55 years, and I am so pleased that cyprusscene were able to help make this happen.

Chris has put together a collage of pictures taken at their reunion.

So, another success story and it is this type of thing which makes all the hard work of running the website so very satisfying.

I am still in contact with Derek Chilvers who in effect started all of this off with his initial contact with us, the article he and I wrote together has been very popular and is still being read on our website.  We are looking forward to meeting up with Derek again when he and some of his army pals come to Cyprus for the Remembrance Service in November.   There will be much to talk about and we are hoping, as last year, we will be able to take them to Wayne’s Keep and the surrounding area for a touch of nostalgia.   This is a never-ending story, it just keeps continuing.

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6 thoughts on “Cyprus – Army Friends Reunited

  1. What a great story , what a reunion ,simply amazing ! Thanks Margaret Sheard for bringing this story to us the readers of Cyprus Scene. It brought tears in my eyes reading it . Army and music both bind people together and results in great friendships that do not get forgotten forever.

    1. Thanks Sermen. It has been a pleasure writing these types of articles, which are now being shared on http://www.cyprusobserver.net and also the Cyprus Observer newspaper this week. We are also publishing on cyprusobserver.net the original story I wrote about Derek Chilvers which contains 2 videos with many photographs from that time and soundtracks which I am sure you will enjoy.

  2. Wonderful results from me being given a little business card by a gentleman taking photographs at the Ship Hotel where those who had attended the Remembrance Service at the Old British Cemetery in Kyrenia Nov 2012 were enjoying a meal together and exchanging old memories. This was my first visit back to Cyprus since I left in 1959 when my regiment , The Suffolk Regiment, finished their tour there and wanting a record of my visit I asked about getting copies of the photographs and was given the card that introduced me to Cyprus Scene and getting in contact with Margaret Sheard and Chris Elliott who wrote an article about my army memories and from that I am now in touch with a lot of the lads, that’s what we were in those days, I served with and as time passes we are finding more of them as you can appreciate if you have read the above article.

    1. Thanks Derek, it is all down to you and our initial contact. You will be pleased to know that your article is being published on another website – http://www.cyprusobserver.net and also in the local Cyprus Observer newspaper this week. We feel it is very apt with the lead up to the Remembrance Day event. See you soon.

  3. My husbands late father served in Cyprus at Episkopi Base with the RASC during the late 1950/60s. He was a Staff Sergeant and ran the Base buses. He was also responsible for the stores and dealing with local suppliers. When he finished his posting here along with his wife, and and 3,of his 4 children, some of the suppliers he worked with presented him with a lovely watch. The watch is still,working and his Gt.Grandson Julian wears it every day. I am trying to put a family tree together around his Gt.Grather and the history of the watch. His full name was CYRIL FREDERICK WESTACOTT, he is now passed away. Its a very long shot I know, but thought I’d take a chance. I am married to Cyrils son and live here in Paphos. Maybe some pictures around of the base,,or olf friends of his still around and remember him. Regards. Barbara Westacott

    1. This sounds like a nice story. We will set something up on our website and contact you by email.

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