Royal Horse Guards Cyprus Veterans

1955 – 1959

 

By Les Smith – Royal Horse Guards Veteran….

In November 2014 it was suggested by a fellow veteran that as I am the only one with the contact details of about 160 Cyprus Veterans, would I consider asking the Cyprus Veterans for donations to buy poppy wreaths to be placed in 2015 in memory of our eight fallen comrades. When he asked again in August this year I reluctantly agreed, thinking that If we received about £100 we would place wreaths at the Blues and Royals plot in Staffordshire, at the memorial in Combermere Barracks in Windsor and I would try to have a wreath placed at the memorial for the 371 servicemen who died 1955 to 1959 in Cyprus at the memorial in Kyrenia.

To my amazement, by the generosity of the Cyprus Veterans and the North Staffs, the Dorset and the REME Associations I received a total of £990.00. This allowed me to order, through the Kyrenia branch of The Royal British Legion, 6 poppy wreaths, 5 RHG and 1 REME plus a wooden bench to be placed in the cemetery near the memorial in Kyrenia. At the time of writing no decision has been made what to do with the balance left over.

Warm memories of Remembrance

The warm Cyprus sun provided the backdrop for a service of remembrance in The Old British Cemetery Kyrenia Cyprus on 8 November 2015 – when I was proud and privileged to lay a wreath on behalf of the RHG Cyprus Veterans.

Les Smith lays a wreath

Brian Worthy, also a Cyprus Veteran, delivered the exhortation as part of an event attended by more than 300 people and one saw 39 other wreaths laid on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen, other services and regiments.

Poppy wreaths

After the wreaths had been laid, I was called upon to step forward and alongside the Bishop of Cyprus and the Gulf, to cut the ribbon on our new Cyprus Veterans bench – made to match the police bench on the opposite side of the paved area.

Meanwhile, back in the UK, poppy wreaths were being laid on the graves of our three former comrades –  Stephen Fox-Strangways (by John Senior), John Proctor’s grave (by David Baxter), and Larry Birch’s grave (by Ken Molyneux). also a wreath was being laid at the memorial in Combermere Barracks in Windsor by Maurice Lane.

Following the service a coach took the veterans and members of the Kyrenia Royal British Leigon to the Ship Inn , Karaoglanoglu, to enjoy lunch, followed by a communal sing along featuring many of our old favourites.

Two days later (on Tuesday the 10th of  November) I, along with my wife Shena, Brian Worthy and 4 veterans from other regiments, travelled to Wayne’s Keep, Nicosia where five of our comrades are buried – three having been repatriated to the U.K.

Wsayne's Keep Cemetery

However this wasn’t as straightforward as you might imagine. Wayne’s Keep is in the buffer zone between the Turkish and Greek parts of Nicosia – and we had to make prior arrangements with The United Nations and have our passports checked before leaving the Turkish part of Nicosia before walking about 100 yards to the Ledra Palace Hotel.

At the gate we had to ring a bell for it to be opened by an armed soldier and to be met by the Provo sergeant who is from Fiji. We then met our United Nations sergeant and the padre who took us by mini bus about a mile to the cemetery where we were told that we were being watched by both Turkish and Greek soldiers from vantage points and that we must not use cameras, but if we gave them to the sergeant or the padre they would be happy to take as many photos as we wanted.

As Brian and I had 7 wreaths to lay, 5 RHG, 1 REME and 1 12th Lancers the padre came with us to take photos.

After we had laid the wreaths we met up with the other group of Cyprus Veterans by the large stone cross in the middle of Wayne’s Keep where the padre held a short but poignant service. We then boarded the mini bus to drive a short distance to the now derelict RAF Nicosia, we then called in a small British Church and then on to Ledra Palace where we again we had to show our passports to leave the buffer zone.

If any others are thinking of going next year I can’t recommend it highly enough. Remember Time is Not On Our Side.