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Glasgow City Council

Elizabeth Cross presented to sister of soldier killed in 'forgotten' conflict

Published Monday 24 October 2016

Private Matthew Neely's family received the Elizabeth Cross in recognition of his death during the Cyprus Emergency Displays a larger version of this image in a new browser window

The sister of a Glaswegian soldier killed during the four year Cyprus Emergency was presented with the Elizabeth Cross at a ceremony at the City Chambers today Monday 24 October at 2pm.

Precisely 60 years to the day a telegram boy knocked on the family's Maryhill door to deliver the dreadful news.

Deputy Lieutenant Jean McFadden awarded Mrs Margaret Moncur (75) from Crow Road with the Elizabeth Cross in recognition of the death of her big brother Private Matthew Neely (19) while on active service on 23 October 1956.


Pte Neely served with the Highland Light Infantry and had been deployed to Cyprus as part of the Cyprus Emergency Peace Keeping Force in January 1956. He had been enjoying an off-duty game of football at Lefkoniko when he approached a water fountain and was killed instantly by a bomb. His comrades Ptes Beattie and Doherty were injured but later died of their wounds.

Pte Neely was one of 371 British servicemen who lost their lives in what some call 'The forgotten conflict' between 1 April 1955 and 18 April 1959.

The Elizabeth Cross was created to provide national recognition for the families of armed forces personnel who have died on operations or as a result of an act of terrorism. It is not a posthumous medal for the fallen but an emblem demonstrating tangible national recognition for service families for their loss.

Margaret is the youngest of Isabella and Oliver Neely's five children: Matt, Nan, Ollie, Peter and Billy.  She remembered how Matt and Ollie loved football and would always go and watch the Partick Thistle games.

She also recalls how her brother's death devastated her mother. "He was her blue- eyed boy. Full of fun. Always kidding with her. She never recovered. He was her pride and joy.

"It was around 7am on Monday 24 October, the day after Matt's death, when the telegram boy came. I was sleeping. My father Oliver had already left for work. My sister Nan and brother Billy were having porridge. My mum (53) was up at the bakery buying morning rolls. Something she did every morning.

"Billy opened the letter and he screamed to Nan 'Matt's been killed'. Then Nan started screaming and came into the bedroom to tell me. Billy ran up to the baker's and there was a queue.

"My mother heard people saying 'look at the state of that boy' because he'd run up barefoot - only in his trousers. When she turned round she fainted. She was never the same. She developed psoriasis over her entire body. It never left her."

Margaret is Matt's only surviving sibling. Billy died two years ago. She said: "Knowing this event is coming up, I think of Matt all the time and what happened. I'm sure I'll be very emotional.

"People don't know about the Cyprus Emergency. It was the forgotten war. I remember my dad went up to the Highland Light Infantry HQ in Sauchiehall Street and said he wanted my brother brought home.

"He was told because he was non-commissioned they couldn't do anything. However my family was well known. Families and businesses helped us raise the money to bring him home. It cost around £160. All the soldiers in his company gave up a month's salary.

"Matt's body came by ship from Cyprus to Liverpool and was then transported by rail to Central Station. It was a big, big thing. But nobody knows about it today."

Matt was buried at Glasgow's Western Necropolis in December 1956.

Published Monday 24 October 2016

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