From Defenceweb: AFPAA NEWS FEATURE: The MOD Medal Office 06/06/2006 It has now been a year since the formation of the MOD Medal Office, and in that time 113,000 applications for medals have been successfully cleared. It is perhaps worth pausing for a moment, to recognise the challenging journey the team have undertaken in such a very short time. Prior to March 2005, there were four independent medal offices; Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Army and Royal Air Force, with the Army Medal Office being responsible for engraving the medals of all three Services. Furthermore, each medal office was situated within a different command structure. This was seen to be impractical, as there was a duplication of skills and resources spread across the country and, consequently, a plan was put in place to form a single tri-Service Medal Office by March 2005, to be located at RAF Innsworth. From early February 2004, AFPAA played a key role in bringing together these four separate medal offices and took full responsibility for tri-Service medal administration in September 2004. This programme of major restructuring came at a time when the single Service medal offices were the busiest they had ever been. Indeed they were taking on extra staff to react to the unprecedented surge of work caused by applications for the recently appointed Canal Zone and IRAQ medals. In all, they were grappling with the production of five campaign medals (Northern Ireland, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, IRAQ, and Canal Zone). At the same time there were heavy demands for Reservists, Conduct, World War II, UN, and NATO medals, as well as the knock on effect of servicemen completing increasing amounts of operational service, such that they became eligible for the Accumulated Campaign Service Medal. By September 2004, AFPAA had taken responsibility for the productive output of the separate medal offices, and at the same time invested in a new laser-engraving machine to speed up the engraving of medals. This was a quantum leap forward from the treadle operated, manually dialled, stamping machine, which had been in service since 1914. On 22 March 2005, the new MOD Medal Office was officially opened and work began in earnest to reduce the backlog of medals. A new database was commissioned in late August 2005, a second laser-engraving machine was purchased, and new working practices have ensured that an efficient tri-Service culture has permeated throughout the department. The MOD Medal Office comprises staff from both EDS and the MOD. The EDS component plays a vital part in the delivery of current medals ie GSM Northern Ireland, OSM Afghanistan and the IRAQ medal, whilst MOD staff are fully responsible for the delivery of all other medals - most of which are graphically depicted on the borders of this article. When the doors of the MOD Medal Office officially opened, a mere 12 months ago, the backlog of medals awaiting assessment was in excess of 50,000. Since then, a further 88,000 applications have been received. At the time of writing, the Medal Office has cleared some 113,000 applications and are poised to achieve the Agency Key Target of reducing the number of applications awaiting assessment to 21,000. To give an indication of the scale of the achievement, it is worth noting the number of applications for the IRAQ medal currently stands at 104,000, which exceeds initial planning figures by a wide margin. In addition, the retrospective award of the GSM Canal Zone caused a tremendous amount of interest from veterans of that campaign, generating almost 50,000 applications. Further to all the normal demands for medals, the MOD Medal Office is currently under pressure to deliver World War II medals to all those who have yet to request their initial issue. This service is extended to next of kin or the legal beneficiary, although surviving World War II veterans will take priority. It may seem strange that some 60 years after cessation of hostilities we are still delivering this group of medals. This is due to the lack of enthusiasm by those who endured the war years and their understandable desire to return to normality. The Regulations for the World War II medals were not finalised until late June 1948 and those who wanted to claim their medals were required to visit a Post Office for an application which on completion, was sent to the War Office. Clearly many did not undertake this process. Today, the current interest in genealogy, coupled to the history of World War II being taught in schools, has caused many second and third generations to query where their parents' and grandparents' medals are. Additionally, following the celebrations held in London to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the end of the World War II, there has been a significant upsurge of interest and applications from all sectors of society. Finally, I must pay tribute to all the staff in the MOD Medal Office who have performed so magnificently throughout the year. They have taken their fair share of criticism from veterans, current servicemen and women and the press. Throughout this, they have ensured the integrity of every medal awarded, knuckled down to hard work, adapted to change, learnt new rules and procedures, and remained cheerful throughout. It is often said that staff are the most valuable asset; this is never more true than of the MOD Medal Office staff, without whom the achievements and success of the MOD Medal Office would not be what they are today. This article by Lieutenant Colonel (Retd) Peter Lockyer appears in the Sprint 2006 edition of AFPAA News: the magazine for the Armed Forces Personnel Administration Agency.