By Margaret Sheard…….
Chris and I had intended to visit the National Memorial Arboretum to see the Cyprus Rock Memorial in November when we have a planned visit to the UK, however it was necessary to visit in August due to a family issue and as we would be in the Crewe area and only a drive of an hour or so to Alrewas, we were able to actually attend the unveiling on the 21st August.
On our way north to Crewe we stopped off at the Arboretum on Friday 19th August and were delighted to see Keith Rackham, the stonemason, who was carrying out the finishing touches to the Rock and Keith took our photo by the side of the Rock and then Chris was able to help him cover it with tarpaulin for the night. It was lovely to actually see the Cyprus Rock at last in place.
On Sunday we made our way down from Crewe and arrived at the Arboretum to find hordes of people who had arrived to attend the unveiling, we later learned that there were some 500 people who had come to witness this momentous occasion. Among the many people attending we were able to see some of the veterans we have previously met in North Cyprus – Derek Chilvers, Terry Covell, together with Rosie the partner of the late Chris Veness (veteran of the Suffolk Regiment), Henry Wyn Jones, Mick Burland and John Douglas, Les Smith and his wife Shena. We also were pleased to see Lord Ken Maginnis, Kim and Jenny Tyler who were representing the Royal British Legion – Kyrenia Branch, Stephen Day who represented The British Residents Society of North Cyprus, Chief Superintendent Sidney Mackay of the Police Roll of Honour Trust, and Cyprus veteran Major James Gibbs who read the Exhortation and Kohima Prayer. James spent 3 years in Cyprus during the Emergency and was one of the lucky ones who returned home so he feels very close to the Cyprus Rock Memorial, he was celebrating his 80th birthday that day, accompanied by his wife Carol Blackwell-Gibbs.
At last I was able to say hello to David Littlemore who I have been in correspondence with for many months by email to promote this wonderful project on our website. He has done such an incredible job of ensuring this memorial was put in place to honour those who lost their lives during the Cyprus Emergency, both military and police.
My task of promoting this memorial started with what I think is a wonderful picture of a huge piece of Cyprus Rock ready for transportation to the UK. This was carried out by the RAF who transported the Rock by sea and then to Norwich to Keith Rackham, the Stonemason and then the Rock was transported to its final resting place at the National Memorial Arboretum, Alrewas in Staffordshire. Grateful thanks are given to the RAF for their support.
The service commenced firstly with an introduction by David Littlemore who told the people gathered his reason for taking on this task which was the fact that he discovered a few years ago there was no monument at the National Memorial Arboretum, or indeed anywhere in the UK, in respect of British personnel who died during the Cyprus Emergency between the years 1955-1959. In the late 1950’s he had been stationed at a post alongside Wayne’s Keep Cemetery, and he remembered that almost every day there would be the sound of the bugle playing the last post and a rifle volley which meant yet another serviceman had lost his life for his country. He was horrified to find that there was no recognition of this loss of life at the National Memorial Arboretum and felt compelled to do something about it, and the ceremony on the 21 August was the result of David’s mammoth undertaking.
Present were the Rev. Canon David Wilbraham, National Police Chaplain and Chaplain: Rev. Alan Bowley who led the service which started with the hymn I Vow to Thee My Country followed by The Lord’s Prayer and then a short sermon – Lord we meet today to dedicate this memorial to all British servicemen and Police Officers, who took part in the Cyprus campaign. Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man, than that he should lay down his own life for another”. Enfold them in your loving arms dear Lord. Grant them your Peace and eternal rest in your Heavenly Kingdom. Let us commemorate and commend to the loving mercy of our Heavenly Father, all those who made the supreme sacrifice while serving Crown and Country, during the time of conflict on the island of Cyprus.
The dedication and unveiling was conducted by Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Graydon. GCB. CBE. RAF (Ret) and the Roll of Honour was inserted into the Rock where it will remain within the Rock as a time capsule in memory of the 371 military personnel and 21 policemen who lost their lives during the Cyprus Emergency between the years 1955 and 1959.
The Exhortation was read by Major James Gibbs followed by the Last Post and 2 minutes silence. The Bugler then played the Reveille
The Kohima Prayer was read by Major James Gibbs.
Formal wreaths were then laid.
Royal Navy and Royal Marines: Lieutenant General Sir Henry Beverley KCB, OBE.
British Army: Lord Maginnis of Drumglass.
RAF: Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Graydon GCB, CBE.
Royal British Legion Kyrenia: Jenny Tyler.
Police Roll of Honour Trust: Chief Superintendent Sidney Mackay.
The British Police Service: Chief Constable Sara Thornton CBE. QPM.
North Cyprus British Residents Society: Stephen Day.
Regimental and County Police Wreaths.
The Parade Marshal then invited those attending with private tributes to come forward to pay their respects.
A Piper played a lament and this was followed by the final prayer and blessing.
The whole event was very poignant and also emotional for a lot of the people who were attending but I am sure everyone felt some emotion even if they did not lose family members. The day was overcast but apart from a brief shower of rain during the service, it remained dry.
When the service ended people made their way to the marquee or stood around chatting near the memorial. This was when I was able to introduce myself to David, having only had contact by email etc. previously, I was so pleased to meet him and have so much respect for what he has achieved in gaining recognition for those who lost their lives in Cyprus all those years ago.
I asked David how the funds were going in respect of the work involved in setting up the memorial and he said it was fairly close to the target so he was not concerned. However, I feel there are probably still those who would like to make a donation to the costs and future maintenance of the memorial and this can be done by clicking here to access the GoFundMe account which was set up for this purpose.
No-one seemed to be in a hurry to leave but as we had a further long drive ahead of us we said our farewells and made our way south.
In closing I am showing below a message from our friend and Cyprus veteran James Gibbs:
Dear Chris & Margaret,
Great to see you both “on parade” on Sunday — but only sorry that in the tea-tent crush and subsequent hurried departures, we hardly had a chance to speak.
I believe that I am asked to summarize my links with The Cyprus Rock.
Between 1955 and 1958 I served in The Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment (the county regiment of North-West Kent) as a 2nd Lieutenant and later a full Lieutenant. For my first 6 months or so, we were stationed in Luneburg (Germany). Very cold in winter!
We were then posted back to Dover. But, in the summer of 1956 the Suez Canal drama exploded and we became the first infantry battalion into Port Said (Egypt), immediately after the Paras and Marine Commandos. However, following the arrival of the UN forces, my battalion was withdrawn, as a “token” gesture, and transferred to Cyprus where we stayed for the next 3 years whilst all the other units were returned to the UK.
Our first year (1957) in Cyprus was spent “policing” the Karpaz. Our battalion headquarters was located at Kaplica (then called Davlos), the other side of the headland to the present hotel. We also had companies at Kantara and Yenierenkoy (then called Yialousa) with a detachment at Dipkarpaz (or Rizokarpasso). My company was located in the pass between Tatlisu and Gecitkale (it was called Mersiniki) and is now the Mayor of Gecitkale’s “picnic site”.
In those days, the Karpaz was fairly peaceful because the roads were pretty awful and few people had cars, so any over-excited terrorist would find it difficult to get very far.
In 1958 and 1959 the battalion was stationed in Nicosia — with a “mobile” role — that is, expected to “cordon and search” any areas where the presence of EOKA terrorists might be suspected. Trying to locate our old camp, somewhere on the Nicosia/Larnaca Road, is now quite impossible.
What a wonderful event this was with so many people attending and the chance to catch up with some old friends. We were also pleased to meet Roger and Val Harvey who live in Tatlisu, North Cyprus and were on holiday in the UK so were also able to attend the unveiling. Both Chris and I were so pleased to have had the opportunity of seeing the Cyprus Memorial Rock unveiled, it was a very significant occasion and one we will remember for a long time to come, especially back in Cyprus where we will be at the Remembrance Service in Kyrenia in November, when I am sure my mind will drift back to the National Memorial Arboretum and the Cyprus Memorial Rock.