Back in September, there were few prouder men alive than 94-year-old Steven Taylor Smith, as he hoisted the Red Ensign at Scottish Borders Council Headquarters on Merchant Navy Day.
But the former DEMS (defensively equipped merchant ships) gunner told us he would have given up that honour in exchange for making his dearest wish come true – meeting up with any of his old comrades one more time.
The DEMS were key to the success of the Allies in the Second World War, holding firm against heavy bombing raids, manning the guns against enemy aircraft and U-boats and helping to keep Britain’s fleet moving.
But former Selkirk postie Steven had lost contact with his fellow servicemen and was losing hope that any were still alive.
But following the story in The Southern, that all changed. Word had got back to 92-year-old former Radar DEMS Alan Derwent Day of Kirby Lonsdale.
And, what’s more, he was also in contact with another DEMS gunner, 93-year-old Harry Day (no relation), from Liverpool.
A reunion was soon arranged, where the men could meet half-way, in Carlisle, on Friday, November 16.
Unfortunately, on the day, Harry was unable to attend, but Steven, accompanied by his son and daughter-in-law Gordon and Linda, turned up at the Coach and Horses pub in the city’s Kingston Road.
There, Steven’s dream came true at last, and he and Alan enjoyed exchanging many a tale.
And Alan had a further surprise for Steven, who is now resident at Deanfield care home in Hawick.
He presented the proud Borderer with a miniature bottle of Navy Rum, and a centenary seafarers pin badge,
Gordon told us: “What a brilliant reunion it was, after 75 years.
“There were plenty of stories being exchanged and it really was a wish come true for dad.
“He will be 95 in March and Alan will be 93 next month, but they are both planning another reunion, this time with Harry, early next year.
“Having talked to my dad and Alan, it’s the recognition for the DEMS that they want ... and Alan and Harry have been laying a wreath for DEMS at Liverpool on Remembrance Sunday for years.”