FRIENDS, family and well-wishers gathered as a popular postmaster and town crier had his service to the Darlington community recognised with the presentation of his British Empire Medal (BEM).

Peter Stemmer, who runs Mowden Post Office, in Fulthorpe Avenue, was presented with his medal in a ceremony at the post office on Thursday (April 10) morning.

Lord Lieutenant Sue Snowdon made the presentation, watched by Darlington mayor Charles Johnson and Mr Stemmer’s wife, Marilyn.

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The couple took over the post office more than eight years ago and have transformed it into a thriving hub of the community.

Mr Stemmer, a former sergeant major with the Royal Signals, will wear the honour with pride along with his General Service and Long Service and Good Conduct medals.

He said he has ‘no idea’ who nominated him for the medal, which was announced as part of the New Year’s Honours.

Asked how the presentation had gone, Mr Stemmer said: “Stunningly well. I could not have picked a better location to hold it, we had a phenomenal turn-out of people who turned up to be part of it.

“I was chuffed with how well it went.”

Mr and Mrs Stemmer will attend a Royal garden party in June, along with other BEM recipients.

He added: “We chose somewhere relevant for the presentation, which was the Post Office.

“Holding it there allowed the community to be present and it was a chance to say thank you to them for their support over the past eight years.”

Before buying the Post Office business, Mr Stemmer spent 22 years in the Army.

He said he was still in shock at receiving the honour, adding: “It is still a bit surreal. It’s not like you’ve won a contest or a race.

“You do not aspire to be on the honours list, I do not know anybody who has thought ‘one day, I will be on the honours list’.

“When I got the call, in November, to say I’d been chosen, I was absolutely shocked, as well as very proud and honoured.”

As well as his Post Office role, Mr Stemmer has served as Darlington’s town crier for the past six years and says he has no plans to retire from either position any time soon.