Introduction by Chris Elliott….
It was great to receive news about Les Smith who my late partner Margaret Sheard, was often in contact with and helped publish many articles about many former National Servicemen who served in Cyprus.
“Rainford man, 84, awarded a place on King’s honours list: A former National Serviceman has been awarded the British Empire Medal in the recently announced King’s Birthday Honours.
Les Smith, from Rainford, who served with the Royal Horse Guards in Cyprus from 1957 to 1959, said: “It came as a complete surprise that someone should recommend me for the award.”
The 84-year-old receives the BEM for research work that has led to the relatives of hundreds of former comrades – killed during the Cyprus Emergency between 1955 and 1959 – being presented with the Elizabeth Cross.
The Elizabeth Cross is a commemorative emblem for those members of the British Armed Forces killed in action, or through terrorism, after the Second World War.
The award was instituted in 2009, but few relatives are aware that next of kin are entitled to receive it.
Les said: “More than 22,000 British servicemen and women served in Cyprus during the emergency – and we lost a total of 372 servicemen and 21 British policemen during that time.”
In 2016 Les embarked on a quest to track down the families of those who lost their lives during the conflict to inform them that they are entitled to receive the Elizabeth Cross. This was after several years of building up a network of over 600 surviving comrades and organising commemorative events both at the National Arboretum in Staffordshire and in Cyprus.
So far, he’s managed to get in touch with more than 200 of the bereaved families and guide many of them through the application process.
A small handful have politely declined, but Les is committed to finding all of them and, at least, accounting for those who do not have any living relatives. Just over 200 next of kin have now either received their medals – or are in the process of doing so.
He set up a website, and a Facebook group and has conducted dozens of interviews with local newspapers and radio stations to appeal for next of kin to get in touch.
“The Cyprus Emergency is often described as one of Britain’s ‘forgotten wars’,” said Les.
“I’m just trying to ensure that those who were killed in the conflict are not forgotten – and that their loved ones have something to recognise the sacrifices made by their family members.”
Les would like to hear from anyone who served in Cyprus from 1955 to 1959. You can contact him by email at email@example.com
Les Smith served with the Royal Horse Guards in Cyprus from 1957 to 1959
Source: 24th June 2023 St Helens Star newspaper