A unique piece of Birmingham metal-bashing is playing a key role in world-famous pageantry – from the Trooping of the Colour to the State Opening of Parliament and the Cenotaph Remembrance Parade.
The All Arms Marketing and Manufacturing Organisation – AMMO for short – may have its roots in the Victorian era, but it is still blazing a colourful trail more than 150 years later.
AMMO is one of the UK’s leading suppliers of ceremonial equipment to the armed forces from its low-profile premises in Lombard Street, Digbeth, on the edge of the city centre.
The tiny Birmingham firm is not only a leading Ministry of Defence contractor but also a designer and supplier of military ceremonial equipment worldwide, from ceremonial sporrans to drums and even the personal pipe banner for the Queen in her role as Colonel in Chief of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.
The Trooping of the Colour, the Royal Edinburgh Tattoo, Beating Retreat on Horse Guards, Guard Mount at Buckingham Palace as well as other state ceremonies all feature equipment supplied by AMMO – while the Digbeth firm will provide parts of the highland dress, sporrans, plaid brooches and sword belts to the Band of The Royal Regiment of Scotland at the Birmingham International Tattoo at the end of November.
It is a far cry from the origins of the company in the mid-19th century when registered silversmith Frederick Narborough set up a firm specialising in the manufacture of ornamental walking canes mounted in precious metal and riding whips.
The firm later became Dalman and Narborough after Frederick’s nephew DC Dalman joined, and that name lives on today as a subsidiary of AMMO, which is now commanded by Tommy Dalman, the present managing director and direct descendant from the Dalman & Narborough company of old. The firm’s chairman, 82-year-old Roger Linford, who has known the firm for around 50 years, said: “It’s fair to say there is a little bit of Birmingham which is playing a big part in a whole variety of national ceremonial occasions.
“It is a unique business. I was originally a customer of Dalman and Narborough with my own business in London, during which time I travelled the world helping and advising various military ceremonial attachments.
“Dalman & Narborough were Birmingham metal-bashers who were approached to see if they could make some component parts for ceremonial dress for Scottish regiments. They made the metalwork for sporrans and the cross belt fittings for pipers and drummer.
“The firm became unique, virtually a sole supplier. It is a mixture of manufacturing and design, they bashed metal and still do today.”
The company has three divisions, from ceremonial specialising in the supply of fully embroidered Regimental Colours, standards and banners, the marching band division which supplies musical instruments to Corps of Drums and the cadet kit shop supplying uniform clothing and equipment for the pre-service units of the cadet forces.
Mr Linford added: “The drums now supplied to the Royal Marines and the British Army are supplied by us. Each drum has a different finish to it, they are bespoke. The manufacturers are Japanese, we embellish by emblazoning them with regimental heraldry and supply them.”
Mr Linford added: “We are pleased to be an SME. We keep a low profile, we get our heads down and do our jobs. We set our standards very high on quality. You do not get to make the Queen’s personal banner for the Royal Regiment of Scotland if you do not turn out the best equipment.”
AMMO’s influence now stretches beyond the best of British pageantry with the firm supplying the likes of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Oman, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain.
“We are currently 70 per cent UK and 30 per cent export. Our kit has been on parade in Washington DC at presidential state visits and inaugurations and we continually get enquiries from overseas markets
“We have a virtual monopoly in the UK at what we do but the demand from regimental military bands, for example, is getting smaller.
“The exciting growth is within the cadet forces together with youth marching bands, both in the UK and overseas.”