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Army veterans who served in Cyprus reunited after 60 years

The two men when they served in Cyprus

By Adam Hale

Two British soldiers who had served together in Cyprus during the fight for independence were reunited for the first time in 60 years in an emotional chance encounter at a Christmas party.

John Stacey, 83, and John Halloran, 81, were demobbed from their British Army regiment in 1959 after being posted to Cyprus, but the best friends lost touch shortly after despite both returning to their hometown of Cardiff.

The men served as infantry in the Welch Regiment during the battle for independence on the island and their unlikely reunion on December 9 was described as “an early Christmas present”.

Stacey, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s six years ago, was at a Christmas tea party for veterans suffering with dementia when long-lost friend Halloran walked past on his way back from a pub.

Halloran asked a man outside what was going on at the Royal British Legion club in the suburb of Whitchurch and talked about his army service including time spent in Kyrenia in the late 1950s.

The man, Roger Lees, who helps support Stacey, linked the two veterans and set up a reunion on the spot, which he says became emotional when Stacey recognised his old friend despite suffering from memory problems.

The two men today

Lees, who works for a charity which sees peer mentors support fellow veterans, told the PA news agency: “I said to Halloran ‘Do you know John Stacey?’ and he said they were best mates out in Cyprus. I told him he was inside if he wanted to meet him.

“The bit that gets me going is Stacey’s emotion when he saw his mate. Halloran tapped him on the shoulder, he turned around and he said ‘Blimey O’Riley’.

“They started hugging and that was the most beautiful thing I’d seen, as an ex soldier talking.”

Widower Halloran, who worked as a steelworker, said: “We were in the same Company, and John was a character around the camp. He was always laughing and joking, playing jokes on people including me.

“We talked about our days in Kyrenia, about the boys were served with and lost.

“I got emotional when I saw him. He’s a character and he hasn’t changed.”

Stacey and Halloran served in their regiment’s B Company during the Cyprus Emergency, when Greek Cypriots began an armed campaign to end British colonial rule between 1955 and 1959.

 

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