Suffolk: Proud day for families as soldiers honoured at last

THE proud families of three soldiers killed more than 50 years ago have collected medals in their honour.

It was an emotional day at Wattisham Flying Station yesterday as the Elizabeth Crosses were handed out.

Alan Clarke was presented with an Elizabeth Medal and memorial scroll on behalf of his brother, Lance Sergeant Peter Clarke, who died in Palestine in January 1948.

The 21-year-old Grenadier Guard had been due to return to England just weeks later to marry his sweetheart, a Londoner who had been an evacuee in Nedging Tye during World War Two.

But he was killed by a sniper and was buried in the Khayat Beach War Cemetery, in Israel.

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Mr Clarke added: “It was so terrible and hit my mother the worst.

“I remember him before he went in the Army – he was an avid collector of military relics and he had a garden shed full of bits of planes.”

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The families of two members of the Royal Norfolk Regiment were also at the Officers’ Mess at Wattisham to be presented with Elizabeth Crosses.

The medal was introduced in 2009 to give recognition to bereaved families of soldiers killed on operations, or as a result of terrorist actions since January 1, 1948.

Corporal Keith Haylock’s five younger sisters were all present to receive his medal.

The Haverhill-born soldier was killed in Cyprus on June 17, 1956, when he and 20 other people became trapped in their vehicles as the Troodos Mountains were consumed by a raging fire.

The fire was caused by mortars used to flush out terrorists during Operation Lucky Alphonse.

His eldest sister, Margaret Bruty, who still lives in the family home in Steeple Bumpstead, near Haverhill, where Cpl Haylock had grown up, said it had been an emotional day for the family. She said: “It really means so much.

“It’s been so long coming – it’s 56 years since Keith died and it’s nice that we feel he’s being recognised.

“It was a war in Cyprus, but it’s almost the forgotten war. It’s never really mentioned, but when you have lost someone it means an awful lot.”

Also present were the family of Lance Corporal Peter Elliott, who was killed in Cyprus on January 14, 1956, after being shot accidentally while out on patrol.

He was buried on June 15 and lies in the Military Cemetery at Wayne’s Keep, in Cyprus, alongside other comrades from the Norfolk Regiment.

L/Cpl Elliott was just 19 when he was killed and his brother John, 76, who lives in Diss, was on hand to collect his Elizabeth Cross.

He said: “Today has been very important. Mostly because of the memories I have of Peter and to receive this award from the Queen is a real honour and the kindness of the people here today will not be forgotten.

“My memory of my brother is very bright, very cheerful. A person who never hesitated to help anybody. And he was adored by his mother. The news of his death was devastating.”

The presentations were made by Lord Tollemache, Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk, and Brigadier Andrew Williams, Commander of 49 East Brigade.

Brigadier Williams said: “Today is very much a day of mixed emotions.

“I pay tribute to the courage of the families that have come here to receive the recognition of the nation for the loss of their loved ones, but at the same time opening up some very old wounds.”

Lord Tollemache added: “I’m presenting the Elizabeth Cross on behalf of the Queen and it’s a great privilege to present something so meaningful to the families who lost loved ones.”

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