December 16, marked a poignant day for veteran, Leslie Caine; who was finally recognised for his services on Christmas Island.  

Les was awarded for his valiant commitment in a surprise presentation at Abergavenny Combined Armed Forces and Veterans Breakfast Club’s annual Christmas lunch.   

Hosted at the local Brewers Fayre, it was a sea of Christmas jumpers and paper hats, as members of the Breakfast Club and their families enjoyed great conversation and food. Altogether, there were 110 attendees, all excited to see Les have his moment.  

Supported by his family, Les was invited to the front, to receive his medal from special guest, Deputy Lord Lieutenant Ross Murray.  

Mr Caine, 89, joined the Royal Air Force in 1956, serving as a Senior Technician. He was stationed on Christmas Island at the end of 1957, where he served for nearly two years. It was during this time, that Les witnessed no less than five atom bombs being exploded.  

The bombs detonated on Christmas Island were a part of Britain’s nuclear deterrent and reportedly, 100 times more powerful than those that were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima during the Second World War. 

Whilst Les had officially received his medal earlier this year in the post, following the Government’s decision to finally pay homage to the brave soldiers wh served on Christmas Island over sixty years ago; the Abergavenny veterans wanted to pay a special tribute to one of their oldest members by ribboning the medal, so that Les may wear it on special occasions.  

In the presentation, Mr Murray commended Les’s bravery and commitment; saying “it is the British nuclear deterrent that has kept us safe all of these years, because it has stopped aggressive parties from going to war.” 

A visibly touched Les said: “I am humbled. Honestly, I feel a little bit of a fraud receiving this when I am in a room surrounded by people who have done so much more than me, for our country.  

“Thank you so much to the Breakfast Club which has been an incredible support and to my family, who have been my everything.” 

Present at the event was Leader of Monmouthshire County Council, Mary Anne Brocklesby. Cllr Brocklesby shared her delight, saying: “It is an absolute privilege to be here, Peter (Farthing) has built a club of an enormous community but today was extra special to see Les being awarded his medal.  

“It is so important to us at Monmouthshire County Council to support our veterans, who are such an important part of our county.” 

Abergavenny’s Mayor, Cllr Anne Wilde also attended the lunch, commenting: “It is an honour to be here and witness such a moving occasion. Abergavenny Town Council works closely with the veterans, and it is important for us to recognise everything they have done for our community.” 

As the day came to a close, Peter Farthing, who is also Chair of the Abergavenny RBL and member of Monmouthshire Veterans Support Hub, looked back on the year, sharing the highlights that demonstrates how the growth of the veterans community has only strengthened bonds between members and the town.  

Peter said: “We now have over 150 members with a regular turn out of approximately 50 members meeting monthly for breakfast. 

“We have raised funds for SSAFA,Breast Cancer and Prostate Cancer. 

“During this year as a group we have provided transport for members to hospital, doctor, dental and eye appointments; visited members who have felt isolated and lonely; shopped for members who couldn’t get to the shops; helped members move home; supported members and families during bereavement; helped members with computerised filling in of forms etc and generally been there for each other. 

“We have supported Abergavenny Town by providing stewards for the steam rally, the Shire Horse Fayre, the turning on of the Xmas lights and other town events. 

“From an RBL perspective, although we are still awaiting some outstanding monies for wreaths, the total raised so far for this years Poppy Appeal in Abergavenny alone is £40,113. The town’s contribution has exceeded last year’s total even though we are all suffering a cost-of-living crisis. We, the RBL cannot thank the people of Abergavenny enough; we salute you.” 

Peter went on to pay a special thanks to guests and individuals who had made the day all the more special. “Thank you to Ross Murray; Cllr Brocklesby; the mayor; staff at Brewers Fayre; Ray Taylor; Julian Edwards for his support and my close helpers, Tracey, Helen, Kevin, Gary, Rick, Helen and Tony. And of course, all of you. You are all very special to me and my wife Wendy.” 

The fantastic day was closed off with the veteran’s motto: “Together we served. There is no stronger bond.”