On reflection, the number of medals should have been a give-away. Certainly, the middle-aged gentleman marching proudly at a Remembrance Sunday parade last month could have served in the Falklands. Indeed he could – perhaps at a stretch – have also served in the first Gulf War.
But surely not even the most superhuman soldier could have managed to be awarded medals for almost every significant piece of combat involving British forces in the second half of the 20th century.
So last night a hunt was under way to find the man who angered veterans by marching with them in Bedworth, Warwickshire, wearing an "impossible" array of medals. The anonymous faker strode alongside 600 genuine war heroes, wearing a beige SAS beret and a dazzling selection of 21 military medals and badges, including the Military Cross.
Walt-spotters (in Army slang, a Walter Mitty is someone who fakes his military service) became suspicious when they noticed he had medals from campaigns including the Second World War, Korea, the Falklands, awards both for officers and other ranks, and even a foreign medal.
Military experts confirmed it would be impossible for one man to have been awarded all the decorations. He was confronted by Jim Nicholson, an 11 November march organiser, and admitted being a fake, then promptly disappeared.
The imposter wore the winged dagger of the SAS on his beret, poppy and tiepin, as well as a veteran's badge on his lapel. On his left breast, he wore a rack of 17 medals starting with the Military Cross (MC), and the Distinguished Service Order (DSO). On the MC, he has a bar signifying the Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service, and on the DSO there is a bar for Mentioned In Dispatches. Neither bar is ever worn with those medals. Next comes a foreign cross, thought to be Polish, which should only be worn after all the British medals. Then is the Queen's Commendation Medal, the Military Medal, the other-ranks version of the Military Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal and the Campaign Service Medal.
On the row underneath he has a South Atlantic Medal for the Falklands, a Gulf Medal for the first Gulf War, and an Accumulated Service Medal, worn back to front. Fourth in line is the Saudi Arabian Medal for the liberation of Kuwait, the Kuwaiti Liberation Medal and four more unknown foreign medals.
A spokeswoman for Veteran's Aid said: "Sadly, it's human nature. People want to bask in the reflected glory but it's sad and insulting to those who have earned the medals."
The most offensive regalia of all however? Probably the tie.
Badges of dishonour: The 17 medals
1 Distinguished Service Order with bars signifying Queen's Commendation for Valuable Service
2 Military Cross with a bar signifying Mentioned in Dispatches
3 Unidentified foreign medal, possibly Polish
4 Queen's Commendation medal
5 Military Medal
6 Distinguished Service Medal
7 Meritorious Service Medal
8 Campaign Service
9 South Atlantic Medal
10 Gulf Medal
11 Accumulated Campaign Service Medal
12 Saudi Arabian medal for the liberation of Kuwait
13 Kuwaiti Liberation Medal
14 Unidentified foreign medal
15 Unidentified foreign medal
16 Army Long Service and Good Conduct medal
17 Nato medal