My pride at rare Armed Forces medal

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A FAMILY man from Thrapston has described being awarded a rare Armed Forces medal as a fitting end to his Army career which spanned more than 27 years.

Matthew Ellmer, 44, served four challenging tours in Northern Ireland before becoming a senior training officer and overseeing the recruitment of thousands of soldiers.

The former King John School pupil signed up to the army at the recruitment office in Corby in 1984 and joined the Regiment Grenadier Guards where he worked up to the rank of Colour Sergeant until retiring this year.

Last Tuesday Mr Ellmer was watched by his wife Aberil and two daughters and two step-daughters as he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal by Prince Philip at Wellington Barracks.

The award is for his work reducing the drop-out rate of recruits in training at the infantry training centre in Catterick and Army foundation college in Harrogate.

Drafted in to turn around the rate in 2003, he increased the number of soldiers completing their training from 20 to 25 out of a platoon of 40 up to 34 a platoon and was rewarded with a four-year extension on the project.

Speaking to the Evening Telegraph yesterday, he said: “It was an immensely proud moment and a very fitting way to end my army career.

“Ever since I was young I always wanted to be in the Army and if they offered me another round of years I would take – the Army is a massive part of my life.”

The Meritorious Service Medal was introduced in 1845 and is awarded to a serviceman who has served for more than 20 years and has given a good, faithful, valuable and meritorious service with conduct.

Mr Ellmer adds the medal to his long line of awards which include the Long Service and Good Conduct medal, the Veteran Badge, the Goldon Jubilee Medal and Northern Ireland bar.

Mr Ellmer said: “I loved both the operational and training side of the army – it makes me especially proud to see so many good soldiers come through who, later in life, come up to you and say hello.

“I improved the training centre by giving recruits support and showing them a personal side.

“When training many get homesick and after a day when they get told off they want to get up the next day and go home.

“But by supporting them you can help them get back on track and regain their confidence to succeed in what they want to do.”

Mr Ellmer, who oversaw about 350 recruits each week, said his work not only benefited the recruits but also the Army.

He said after finishing he had lined up a job abroad, but that had since fallen through.

He said: “I’m looking for work so if anyone wants a loyal, committed and punctual person get in touch.”