I recently did something that I had been meaning to do for 6 years; to have the last medal I was awarded during my service added to my existing medals.
I felt a moment of nervousness when I handed over the package containing my medals in the local Post Office to be sent off to the specialist company in Bournemouth. They can be replaced but there is a lot of emotional attachment with medals that have been earned during military service. I hoped that by sending them via Special Delivery I would all but guarantee their safe arrival the following Monday morning.
On the Monday afternoon I received a call from the company to tell me they were ready to send back. That was a fast turn around. I asked the gentleman to hold the package because I was going to be in the area for a few days and I would call in to collect them in person.
And that is what I did today.
To say that stepping into the Mess Dress Ltd premises was nostalgic would be an understatement. It was an extraordinary little place. On every wall there were reels of medal ribbons, replacement medals and bars for every campaign since the Second World War and Regimental ties of all persuasions.
Inside I met Alex, the proprietor who has been running this business for 15 years and proudly claimed to be the largest supplier of military medals in the country. I can see why. A lady was at her desk, sitting amongst discarded ribbon and threads, carefully sowing a set of miniatures together.
The shop extended away along a corridor to the rear of the converted house, the walls lined with everything you need to look your best on parade. While I was inside another young man knocked on the door and entered Alex’s medal mounting headquarters;
“What do I have for you?” said Alex.
“Could I have a crown for staff sergeant please?” came the reply.
A simple exchange but one so full of meaning for the newly promoted Staff Sergeant.
And then I left, I shook Alex’s hand, said goodbye to the lady working so diligently on other people’s most treasured possessions, and took my box of medals with me, no longer needing to feel anxious about their return journey by Royal Mail.
It’s the 100th Anniversary of the Armistice this year. When you watch those current and former members of the Armed Forces march on parade, wherever you are in the world, think of the care and effort that has gone into making them look their best to honour the fallen.