By Colin Hewgill …
Cyprus Veteran – ex-Wiltshire Regiment …
On a rather grey and overcast morning my wife and I arrived at the Arboretum to attend the annual service at the Cyprus Emergency Memorial.
This was our first time, we had not been able to attend for the last two years, and not only would this be an opportunity to pay our respects, but also the anticipation of meeting up with old friends.
We were a little early, but as we are not too good on our legs we made our way down to the ‘Rock’ placed in a quiet corner not too far from the Centre. I had only ever seen it on photographs but for real, and up close, it was so impressive. Standing, deep in thought, I was back there, with the lads, going on patrol up the mountains, remembering telling the cooks how rotten their food was and the dreadful evening my friend Colin Read died on the Kyrenia Pass while escorting WVRS Mrs Horton back to Kyrenia, who was also killed in the ambush. Sad memories and good memories.
We managed to get a seat, and this gave us the chance to ‘people watch’ as the congregation began to gather. In one’s and two’s the crowd swelled until there was well over a hundred of us. Mostly Veterans, some families of the fallen, all here for the same reason, to remember loved ones and friends who rest in a foreign field, far away but never forgotten.
The service began at 11.0 a.m. prompt, as one would expect being a services affair. The Padre was the Rev Jason Clarke, himself a veteran of two tours of Afghanistan and his words resonated with all of us. The last post and reveille echoed across the Arboretum and again it took me back to the ramparts of Kyrenia Castle, 1800 hours, lowering the flag as the last post rang out over the harbour.
Service over, there was an address by David Littlemore and another by Sir Michael Graydon, both recognising the efforts of each other and the many people whose involvement made it possible for the Memorial Rock to be placed at the Arboretum.
My friend, and fellow Wiltshire Regiment comrade Peter Stroud, introduced me to Les Smith whose tremendous effort in rallying ‘the troops’ makes sure that people attend. As a result of his efforts, there were some nineteen regiments represented plus a large group of Elizabeth Cross holders. This sterling silver cross is awarded to the families of servicemen and women who have died on active service since the Second World War.
The photo on the left shows Les Smith being photographed with a lady attending the service. The Paratrooper to his left is John Rhind who with his wife travelled all the way from Scotland and is ever present both at this ceremony and the one in Kyrenia in November.
Service over, we made our way back to the Centre for a welcome cup of tea, a chat, and talk of old times. There is nothing quite like the bond we have, us old lads, mostly over 80 but still in the prime of youth once the stories flow.
A day to remember, and God willing I will be back.
Additional information from David Littlemore :
We had about 200 vets and families at the Cyprus Memorial Service last Sunday. The Padre was the Chaplain from Whittington Barracks who had been in Cyprus as a child with his father, a Captain in the RN, in the 1950s.
This year we had Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Graydon at the service and also Keith Rackham, the stonemason, who went the day before to prepare the memorial for the service.
We will be holding next year’s service (2019) on Sunday the 18th of August.