St Neots veteran starts petition for Suez Canal Zone medal time-limit extension
13:46 28 January 2014
A Suez veteran has started a petition to get medals for the servicemen who were on active duty at the canal during the end of the crisis.
Les Palmer, 77, of Longsands Road, St Neots, served with the Royal Military Police from May 1954 to May 1957 and was sent to the Suez zone on November 12, 1954, after 18 weeks’ training at the military police depot.
In 2003, Tony Blair announced that the General Service Medal was to be awarded to those who served in the Suez Canal zone of Egypt between October 16, 1951, and October 19, 1954 – the date on which Colonel Gamel Abdul Nasser signed a treaty with Foreign Affairs Minister Anthony Nutting.
But the cut off date was just weeks before Mr Palmer was sent to the area.
He left Suez in June 1955 after contracting a skin condition due to the living conditions and spent the remainder of his military career at the military police training depot.
The veteran is now fighting for the Ministry of Defence and Prime Minister David Cameron to extend the time criteria for the medal so ex-servicemen and civilians in the area would be eligible for the honour.
“The conditions before the cut-off date were no different to those after it,” Mr Palmer told The Hunts Post.
“The anti-British Egyptians didn’t want us there any less than before and the pull-out day couldn’t come quickly enough.
“When it was negotiated the first time around, it took 15 months and the MoD set out the criteria with an attitude of take-it-or-leave-it, but this is an injustice to those who served after October 1954.”
He added: “I am not sure how many people will have missed out on the medal but we are diminishing in numbers. The petition has only just been started but it is getting stronger.”
Mr Palmer, who has been a member of the Suez Veterans Association for four years, said: “I joined the military police aged 17-and-a-half and was sent to Suez later in the year.
“The conditions were horrendous. The food was atrocious, you washed in luke-warm water and the toilets, which were infested by cockroaches and dung beetles, were archaic to say the least.
“There were murders, stabbings, burglaries and some drivers would drive British vehicles off the road on purpose. Luckily I didn’t have to investigate any stabbings or murders.”
INFORMATION: To sign the petition visit www.change.org/en-GB and search Les Palmer.