CREDITON man Dennis Mardon had the exciting, and somewhat daunting, experience of attending Buckingham Palace to receive his MBE on January 31.

Dennis was awarded this for his services to Vulnerable People having been Chair of Citizens Advice Exeter since 2004.

Initial instructions had stated that he could take three guests with him which posed something of a problem for a man with a wife and three daughters, none of whom were willing to volunteer to miss this historic occasion!

Dennis rang the Investiture Office as soon as he received the invitation and it was agreed that he could take all four of them with him on what ended up being an unforgettable trip to London.

Journeying up from St David’s the day before, the train conductor noticed the bottle of champagne on the table and asked what the trip was in aid of.

Dennis and his family after he received his MBE.
Dennis and his family after he received his MBE. (Sarah Clarke)

This led to an upgrade to First Class and a smooth journey with complimentary snacks and drinks!

The family then enjoyed a fabulous meal out, a show (“The Tina Turner Story” – they said was well worth a watch) and checking in to a nice hotel near Paddington completed day one.

On the big day itself the emotions ran high for his family with their pride and excitement.

Dennis’s daughter Sarah Clarke explained: “Outfits had been planned well in advance – the dress code for Buckingham Palace had been sent with the invitations and it was clear this was not to be ignored!

“Suits, dresses and fancy fascinators in place they arrived at the Palace in good time and joined the other guests waiting for the gates to open.  It was fascinating to chat with other recipients, from all corners of the country, and hear the stories and achievements that led to them being honoured in this way.

“Once the gates opened it was time for all visitors to pass through security and then guests were escorted through the archway into the Courtyard so recognisable from many large Royal events televised over the years.

“One member of Palace staff stated that it was important to remember that these Investitures were to celebrate the achievements of normal citizens and not a royal event, and the design of the day was very much in line with this.  That didn’t deter from the enormity of the occasion however, nor from the incredible décor inside the palace from enormous pieces of art, gold artefacts from floor to ceiling and chandeliers as big as the average kitchen!  Background music was provided by The Countess of Wessex’s String Orchestra, under the direction of Captain Michael McGowan, Royal Corps of Army Music.”

In total 79 recipients had been invited on that day and the Investiture programme listed them and a brief line about their individual achievement.

Dennis’ daughters, in particular, were excited at the prospect of some celebrity spotting and weren’t disappointed when they found themselves sat next to television personality Davina McCall in the White Drawing Room – possibly the grandest waiting room in the world!

Before the Investiture, Dennis heard his name announced over the speaker system and he and his family were invited into the Throne Room.

Sarah added: “This room was as impressive as every other we had seen – a particularly impressive feature being two thrones made for the Coronation ceremony of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip in 1953, also used for the more recent Coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla.”

Dennis was thrilled to learn that it was Princess Anne, the Patron of the Citizens’ Advice service, who would be presenting him with his medal as he had met her in Exeter twice since becoming Chair.

Princess Anne pinned the MBE medal to Dennis’ suit jacket and after chatting for a few minutes they shook hands and he paid his respects to her with a bow before being escorted back to his family and out of the Throne Room.

The family said they would hold close to their heart such a lovely day, an experience never to be forgotten.

Congratulations Dennis!