A POSTMISTRESS from Enham has been left to cry tears of joy after receiving a New Year’s Honour recognition for providing services to her historic Hampshire community with a British Empire Medal.

Leslie Francis the sub-postmaster for Enham Alamein Post Office is delighted to receive the recognition.

In World War II many of the injured from the famous Battle of El Alamein was brought back to the UK. Many were cared for at a recovery centre in the village of Lower Enham, which was re-named because of its special war-time ties.

Enham Trust is a leading disability charity supporting people to transition towards independent living. Enham Alamein village remains a centre for charity work and supporting others.

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Leslie and her husband, Tim, took on the Village store and Post Office in Enham Alamein, near Andover, 18 years ago. They had moved from Shirley in Southampton to a close-knit village with many elderly residents and people with disabilities. Her daughter’s reaction was “you will love it there as you love to help people.”.

Leslie said: “I was surprised and honoured to receive the British Empire Medal. My notification letter had gone to an email address that wasn’t quite right.  I then got a phone call out of the blue to let me know. I had tears of joy running down my face, but I couldn’t let on, even to my friend who was in the shop at the time, only to reassure her that it was good news.

“Our shop is the hub of Enham Alamein and we love serving this community, neighbouring villages and passers-by. We adapted the shop to make wider aisles to make it easier for our customers in wheelchairs or walking sticks and frames.

“In February 2020, before the first lockdown, we handed out notes to the 250 homes in the village saying ‘If you can’t get out, don’t go without’ and we introduced doorstep deliveries.

“We like to bring cheer to the community on our Facebook page with fun photos and videos. Last year, Tim sang a Christmas song in a video. It went viral. Customers kept asking us to do another, so we did. Tim sang a different song and we messed around. We wished people a Merry Christmas and a cryptic message advising people to watch out for a New Year’s Eve message as I knew by then that I could share the happy news about my New Year’s Honour.”

Soon after Leslie arrived she took over the Residents’ Association and helped to establish the Parish Council and she has been chair since.

Lots of fundraising takes place at the Post Office and shop to raise money for charities that support the local community. Leslie loves to organise community celebrations including a party for the 75th anniversary of VE Day and the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. There are special plaques outside the shop marking these occasions and for going above and beyond during Covid.

Enham Alamein Post Office & SPAR store remained fully open during the pandemic as people needed vital services and groceries and customers wanted to stay local, including banking.

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Nick Read, Post Office chief executive, said: “I personally know Leslie and Tim and they are great ambassadors for Post Office. They really go above and beyond for their community, adapting their store to make it easier for the large proportion of their customers who are elderly or disabled, home deliveries, fundraising and big celebrations for the village for special occasions. I am delighted that Leslie has been granted a British Empire Medal.”

Post Office area manager Mitchell Taylor added: “To hear that Leslie has been mentioned in the New Year Honours is truly inspiring, Leslie is an absolute pillar of not just her community but surrounding villages and parishes. She is a member of our internal postmaster forums where she regularly joins and contributes to our future – a true Post Office ambassador. Leslie has a unique vision for her business and the first question she asks with any change is ‘How will this affect my community?’ I often joke that Leslie doesn’t sleep. Such a privilege to work and support Leslie and her team over the last 4 years, well done.”