DOGGED John Hunt was determined that the ‘forgotten army’ should be both remembered - and honoured.
John, a veteran of the Suez crisis of the 1950s, launched a campaign for recognition for himself and his fellow members of the armed forces for their service during the conflict.
The former RAF serviceman’s wait ended after 50 years when the Queen gave the Royal Assent to the issuing of a General Service Medal with a special Canal Zone clasp for veterans who served in Egypt from 1951-54.
Now he has written a book about the crisis called Suez The Hidden Truths.
John, of Carrfield, Bamber Bridge, wrote his account of his view of the long battle, in which he was prominent, to secure a medal for the veterans of Suez Campaign 1951-1954.
It is a remarkable piece of work and its 96 pages cover a tremendous amount of ground, with harrowing stories of attack by Egyptian troops and terrorists not excluding the Egyptian police, and including a paramilitary force of police “auxiliaries” who were uncontrollable by the Egyptian government.
One especially moving occasion was when he was privileged to be in the guard of honour at the funeral, with full military honours of a nun murdered because she was teaching English children.
The campaign in Egypt ran from October 15, 1951 to July 27, 1954.
The author enlisted lots of support and is particularly grateful to certain local and national newspapers - including the Chorley Guardian - for the publicity which he was able to obtain through writing to them.
Chorley MP Lindsay Hoyle assisted and encouraged him both in the House of Commons and outside.
At the height of the Suez ‘emergency’ there were more than 65,000 army troops and 14,500 RAF personnel crammed into camps which had been built in the 1930s to accommodate 10,000 army and 1,500 RAF personnel.
It was a not a “war” but an “emergency”, but our men, and many of them doing their National Service, were put on active service status.
Apart from all the shouting and murder there was rioting among the civilian population, orchestrated by the Egyptian authorities.
The book draws attention to the fact that many other conflicts since 1945, Indonesia, Malaya, Korea, Palestine, The Yangste, Kenya, Cyprus, Borneo, Suez (1956), Radfan, Aden, Dhofar, Northern Ireland, Falklands, the Gulf (1991) and the Balkans, had all attracted campaign medals and it was a source of great bitterness that this campaign did not.
More of our men died in Suez between 1951-54, nearly 350, than in several other of these other conflicts.
Most of the graves are in the cemeteries at Moascar and Fayid.
The ‘emergency’ was a great political embarrassment - the USA undermined us with financial threats against us to appease the oil producing countries of the Middle East and had their fleet in the Mediterranean breathing down our necks - and the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence didn’t want to know.
It took some very determined people to keep up the pressure and it took 50 years for the General Service Medal (1918) with clasp “Canal Zone” to be awarded.
John said: “Even though many of the men who died were only in their teens, we were inexplicably denied a medal.
“However, after a long campaign this injustice has been righted.
“Within this ‘forgotten army’ hundreds perished and are buried in the sand at British military cemeteries in Egypt.
“Indeed, from this failed adventure, can anything be learned today in the context of Afghanistan?
“As in the Suez conflict, brave men are sadly being killed and maimed once more.”
The book has sold the astonishing figure of 9,000 copies.
It can be obtained from John, of 14 Carrfield, Bamber Bridge PR5 8BS. Tel 01772 322717, for £7 including postage.