By Derek Chilvers …..
In the month of June 2012 my late wife Shirley was diagnosed as beginning to suffer from cancer problems so to give me a break from looking after her my family arranged for me to go Cyprus with the first army friend I had contact with since 1959. This coincided with Remembrance Sunday where I met up with many ex-veterans of the Cyprus Emergency from different military units who were there for the Remembrance Day Service at the British Forces Memorial in the Old British Cemetery in Kyrenia.
There was a tremendous feeling between us as we all met up and, as I realised it was going to be a very trying experience with Shirley’s illness, I decided to make it my quest to try to find more of the lads I served with in Cyprus from the Suffolk Regiment 7 PLT “C” Company 1958/59.
I made enquiries with different groups, one of which was Forces Reunited, and as the years passed I was having quite a lot of success. The lads I had traced joined me for many happy meetings where at each get-together it seemed that every one of them had a name for someone they would like to meet up with again – Frosty, Kershaw, Jim Allum and Ken Braybrook, but one name cropped up many times and that was Jim Coe who I always wanted to meet up with again myself as on many patrols in Nicosia, and there were a lot of them, he was always across the road from me.
I called him my right hand man and as he was left handed if we had been in any trouble I think we could have given a good account of ourselves. After returning to England the Suffolk Regiment Battalion went off to Germany and that was the last I saw of Jim and the other lads.
With my quest still going strong, I had a photo of 7 PLT placed in a local monthly magazine with a short story that found two more lads and I recently went onto our local radio station BBC Radio Suffolk and spoke about my quest with Richard Spendlove, who was doing the late show, we had a short conversation about it and I mentioned that I was trying to find old comrades and after the programme finished I did have phone calls from two ex Suffolk Regiment lads who will be joining us at a reunion later in the year.
A month ago I was sitting at my computer reading all the articles about the Suffolk’s (something I do on my down days!) when the phone rang, and when I picked it up a voice I seemed to know said “is that Derek Chilvers who was in the Suffolk’s many years ago” and as soon as I said yes the voice at the other end said “wonderful, this is Jim Coe” and for the next thirty minutes two very happy men held a wonderful conversation during which Jim told me he had been given an Ipad/ tablet by one of his family and one evening while he was fiddling with it he found things about Cyprus and after more investigation he came across cyprusscene.com and found some articles mentioning the Suffolk’s, as he searched further he found my name and phone number and taking a chance he phoned me, and now the rest is history.
So on the 2nd April Jim turned up at our reunion at the Rushbrooke Arms in Sicklesmere, Bury St Edmunds, where he was happily greeted by the lads who like me had been hoping to meet him again. Years ago as pictures tell he was tall and skinny and spoke with a country drawl, he is now a lot bigger but hasn’t changed a bit and as he joined together with the lads happily talking of old times you would not have guessed that it was over fifty years since they were last together.
As well as a first time welcome to Jim Coe, there were two other newcomers – Peter Cherry who is the Chairman of Baldock Royal British Legion and Leigh Hayes who came on behalf of his late father Gerry Hayes as, having heard so much about the lads his father served with, he wanted to meet them.
We are always so pleased to see Rosie who always makes the long journey to be with us to remember our sadly departed comrade, Chris Veness Black. Rosie had this time travelled from London after doing a gig the night before.
As usual, we all had a great time at the Reunion which is always a time for reminiscing and we still enjoy each other’s company after all these years.