Revealed: The REAL Sergeant Pepper
By NICK MCDERMOTT
It is a mystery that has puzzled Beatles fans for four decades.
While Paul McCartney and George Harrison proudly sported their MBEs on the sleeve of Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, John Lennon refused to be pictured with the award he would later return to Buckingham Palace.
Instead, he wore five antique medals on his left breast.
Until now, the truth about where those medals came from has eluded devotees of the band. In fact, they once belonged to Major Thomas Shaw, grandfather of the 'fifth Beatle', Pete Best.
The band's original drummer, Best was sacked by manager Brian Epstein in 1962 shortly before they hit the big time.
The drummer, who still tours with his own band, revealed the history of the decorations on the 40th anniversary of the release of Sgt Pepper - one of the most influential albums in rock.
Its psychedelic cover featured a collage of life-sized cardboard models fronted by the four Beatles in fluorescent military attire.
Lennon, a fan of military paraphernalia, remembered the medals long after Best had been replaced as drummer by Ringo Starr. They were awarded to Major Shaw for exemplary service with the British Raj in India.
A member of the 11th (Prince of Wales's Own) Bengal Lancers between 1876 and 1903, Major Shaw was awarded the Afghan War Medal and three other crosses during the two-year Second Anglo-Afghan War, which ended in 1880.
He was awarded two other medals to mark the length of his service.
Lennon called Best's mother Mona - then the owner of the Casbah Club in Liverpool - out of the blue to ask if he could borrow the medals for the cover shoot with artist Peter Blake.
Best, 66, said: "Every time John came to the Casbah, he would ask to see the medals. He just loved the look and the feel of them and never tired of the stories behind them.
"Mum lived in India for a while, which was when my grandad was awarded the medals.
"She was delighted to see John wear them on what turned out to be one of the greatest albums ever.
"John knew how important they were, so they were returned swiftly with a polite thank-you note."
Major Shaw's six medals - Lennon wore five of them - have gone on display to mark the album's 40th anniversary at the Casbah in West Derby, Liverpool, where the Beatles played before their days at The Cavern.
The band received their MBEs in October 1965. Lennon returned his in 1969 in protest at British involvement in Biafra.