As a child I struggled to find my place in the world, bouncing from various hobbies and sports that were clearly not my calling. Don’t get me wrong: I am still intensely proud of my two-season total of ‘one goal, one behind’ in AFL, and my yellow belt in karate lol.
Despite at least three generations of defence service in my heritage between my Dad, my Uncle Russell and Uncle Robbie, my Pop and two great great uncles, I’d never really considered the military for myself until I discovered Army Cadets. I swear my soul knew the instant that I joined that I was finally on the path to finding ‘my people’; although, like most teens, organisation and cleanliness were not necessarily (or at all – sorry Mum) at the top of my Passionate Pursuits List at this stage.
After 3 years in Cadets where I unveiled clean freak tendencies and attained the dizzying heights of Company Sergeant Major, I was the inaugural member of my family’s fourth generation of Defence service and joined the Army Reserves in my hometown of Hobart as a very skinny 17-year-old Infantry Soldier.
I ended up spending another 3 years in the Army and loved every minute of it. Unfortunately, the dual combination of my slight build and lack of interest/confidence in school at that stage meant that I never quite made it to the next level of the Regular Army. It was after being knocked back for the second time that 'Pussers' (Royal Australian Navy) began wooing me; I ended up succumbing and changed over in 1994 to the permanent forces.
When I received my first two medals in 1999 – the Australian Active Service Medal with East Timor clasp and INTERFET - I became a loyal customer of Glendinnings (for those of you old enough to remember them) for my ribbon bars.
The initial spark of what would become Foxhole Medals was ignited in 2004 during my newest posting with the RAN in Nowra, New South Wales - with no local Glendinnings - as a Petty Officer Aircraft Technician Instructor.
I was undoubtedly suffering with a bit of anxiety at the time and hence my need for perfection was in full flight. So, while the lovely lady at the local clothing store (hi Helga!) did an admirable job of my ribbon bars and medals, I decided to give them a go myself ‘just as a bit of a hobby’. Famous last words.
As a now somewhat-polished Navy boy, I set out to make the best quality ribbon bars and medal set I possibly could, with the best quality materials I could afford like Toye Kenning & Spencer ribbon from the UK and die struck replica medals instead of spin-cast. I also tweaked the court-mounting process and used acrylic backing board instead of flimsy, entirely non-weatherproof cardboard or buckram.
I fell in love that night with the entire process: the slicing of quality colourfast ribbon in just the right length with razor-sharp scissor blades, a perfectly trimmed board providing the foundation for flawless tape application, the almost meditative repetition of perfect stitching – a thousand tiny steps that all need to be done faultlessly and with quality materials to create an end result of perfection. Just like fixing one of my beloved Seahawks, but in miniature form.
And that was it really. The guys in the office were the first ones to put orders in after they’d seen mine, then word got round and ‘James Grice Medal Mounting’ was servicing Navy customers from Albatross, then Nowra generally (the clothing store was referring customers to me too) and the south coast of New South Wales, and then great support from RSL Tasmania when I moved back in 2006.
At this point, I had so many orders that I literally had to choose to shut it all down and get a real job or make it into something. And so Foxhole Medals was born. I initially operated from my mum and dad’s garage in Honeywood, then a custom-built garage at home with my first staff member; I then became the third medal mounter in Australia to open an eCommerce store in 2007 (behind two large-scale companies) then moved to the big smoke with two Hobart-CBD shopfronts and 6 staff.
In late 2020, early 2021 as online and phone sales dominate the retail market due to COVID-19, my team and I began working back at my home while my vision for a purpose built warehouse, kitted out with cutting edge tools and equipment, and my long coveted BAC storage and workshop fit-out becomes reality. With great anticipation I hope our team of 5 will be moving in by the end of 2021.
My passion is still creating beautiful products and the new Tasmanian Prison Service medallions, Brave Child Champion awards and our magnet-backed ribbon bars are my latest projects.
I am immensely proud, and emotional if I’m honest, when I think of what Foxhole Medals has grown into: it embodies my heritage, passion, and core values. We are never going to be the cheapest - we can’t afford to be with the quality of our products and our staff - but we aim every.single.day. to be the finest medal mounters in Australia; it’s how we show our respect for your own family’s sacrifice.
Thank you for letting me share my story with you, and for letting my Foxhole family look after yours.
Director - Foxhole Medals
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