SHOALHAVEN men Rick Meehan and Fred Campbell have been given access to something very few people will ever see.
The UK business that since 1856 has made each Victoria Cross.
For many years the duo has been the driving force of the Shoalhaven Digger Day activities, which over the years has brought a number of Victoria Cross recipients to the area.
The pair have recently been appointed to head up the Keith Payne VC Veterans Benefit Group, with Mr Meehan the chairman and Mr Campbell the vice-chairman.
While in London recently Rick and Fred were given the rare opportunity to visit Hancocks of London, who since 1856 have had the Royal decree to produce the Victoria Cross medals.
"That was so special," Mr Meehan said of visiting the Mayfair based business.
"While we didn't get the chance to go into the vault where all the Victoria Cross medals are stored, that is by strict permission only by the UK Minister of Defence and under great security, we did get the chance to see the register which lists every VC recipient since 1856.
"We got to see all the names. We found our own Keith Payne and even Private Henry "Harry" Hook of the Zulu fame at the Battle of Rorke's Drift in 1905.
"It was a very special moment and we were so privileged to be able to touch and look at such an incredible piece of history."
They also found Albert Chowne VC, the husband of Daphne Dunn, a war widow and a superfan of Prince Harry, who managed to flag down the Prince at three meet-and-greets in Australia and died earlier this year in Sydney aged 99.
Mrs Dunne was the last widow of a World War II VC recipient.
They met with store owner Guy Burton and were even shown a piece of bronze the medals are made from.
"It's from a cannon in the Crimean War," Mr Meehan said.
The medals are cast from the cascabels of two cannon that were captured from the Russians at the siege of Sevastopol.
"It was incredible to be able to hold such a wonderful piece of history," he said.
Interestingly no Victoria Cross medals have been made since the 1950s.
"VCs are only made in batches of 12," Mr Meehan said.
"They made the last batch in '50s at the time of the Korean War and there are several left from that casting that haven't been presented.
Interestingly each VC also has a secret marking as a way of identification.
The locals explained the Shoalhaven Digger Day concept to Mr Burton and how it works and how successful it has been and the work they are now doing with the Keith Payne VC Veterans Benefit Group.
As a thank you for his hospitality Mr Burton was presented with a Digger Day jersey.
"It was just an honour to visit the place that makes the VCs and to be given the special access we were," Mr Meehan said.
While in the UK they were also special guests at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, also known as Chelsea Pensioners, a retirement home and nursing home for some 300 veterans and the former home of late VC recipient Bill Speakman.
Mr Meehan and Mr Campbell had interviewed Mr Speakman in November 2017, which was his last known recorded interview before he died on June 20, 2018, aged 90.
Mr Speakman was the first VC invested by Queen Elizabeth II.
They were present as a special plaque commemorating Mr Speakman was dedicated and unveiled in the hospital's stunning chapel.
"Being able to present the hospital with a copy of Bill's final ever recorded interview was a great honour," Mr Meehan said.
Mr Speakman was scheduled to make the trip Down Under last year for Digger Day but unfortunately passed away prior to the event.
"We always knew there was a chance that Bill would not be able to make the trip to Australia due to health reasons," Mr Campbell said.
"That's why when we were in the UK we met up with Bill and recorded an interview and that was played at last year's Digger Day Ball."
They also presented the hospital's Regimental Sergeant Major Ross Martin with a Digger Day jersey and a copy of Michael C Maden's stunning book The Victoria Cross Australia Remembers.
Over breakfast one morning, while staying at Islington, London they also met 22- year-old Josh Nesbit from Scotland.
"We got talking to Josh and discovered he plays assisted rugby back home in Scotland," Mr Campbell said.
He was also presented with a Digger Day jersey which will no doubt be proudly on display somewhere in the Scottish Highlands, so the Shoalhaven jersey is certainly going far and wide.