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Glasgow City Council

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

Published: 22 February 2017

Elizabeth Cross Pte Beattie 2017

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 (Wednesday 22 February 2017).

It's the second Elizabeth Cross to be presented in the last six months to a sister of a local soldier who served in the 1st Battalion Highland Light Infantry more than 60 years ago.

Pte John Lindop Beattie (19), from Rhymer Street, Garngad, was one of three soldiers who died when a bomb detonated during their football game. The Elizabeth Cross award will go to his sister, Jean Andrew.

Lord Provost Sadie Docherty, in her role as Lord Lieutenant, made the presentation to Jean (73) who was only 12 years old at the time of her brother's death.

Lord Provost Sadie Docherty said: "It's important that families of these soldiers do receive some recognition of their service. Conflict visits great costs on everyone who loses a loved one. It's my honour and pleasure to have been able to present the Elizabeth Cross. I know that it's a source of great pride and comfort to surviving family members."

Last year Mrs Margaret Moncur (75) from Crow Road received the emblem on 24 October in memory of her big brother, Private Matthew Neely (19).

Both women, united in their grief have now become firm friends. Jean read about Pte Neely's sister's sorrow and was invited to last year's ceremony. Similarly, Margaret attended today's event.

Pte Beattie was 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 with his comrades when a bomb located at a nearby water fountain exploded. Pte Neely died instantly. Ptes Beattie and Ben Doherty, survived the initial blast and were rushed to the Military Hospital, Nicosia. Sadly, they later died of their injuries.

A total of 371 British servicemen 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.

Pte Beattie was the oldest child of Hannah and John Beattie. He had three sisters Betty, Jean and Agnes as well as a brother Robert. Jean and her older sister Betty are the only siblings still alive.

Jean said: "Obviously he died at 19 and didn't have much of a life. I remember all the friends and neighbours collecting with big milk tins in the dance halls to get the money to bring his body home. Nobody had anything in these days.

"Like Margaret's family we went to the Highland Light Infantry HQ in Sauchiehall Street to try and get my brother brought home and found out, because he was non-commissioned, they couldn't do anything. So we had to find the money ourselves.
"I feel our brothers, and the others who died, were forgotten. There were no memorials or services for them. I'm so chuffed and excited and proud that his military service is finally being recognised.

"He was very good looking. I used to press his trousers and he'd give me a tanner. He loved his bicycle and his swimming. He was also a great singer in the style of his idol, Nat King Cole.

"My mother was in a terrible state. She turned into an old woman overnight. She took to her bed. She never really got over losing her oldest boy. When I read about Margaret's story I thought, that's just like my mammy."

Pte Beattie was buried at the Military Cemetery, Nicosia. However, thanks to the fundraising efforts of neighbour and friends, his body was repatriated. He now rests at Lambhill Cemetery.

Both sisters are hoping they can trace the family of the third casualty Pte Ben Doherty.

Read Pte Neely's story


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