The chairman of Hounslow Royal British Legion says it's costing an "arm and a leg in cola" to clean smoke-damaged war medals in time for the clubhouse's reopening this summer.

Flames tore through the building, in Whitton Road, Hounslow, in March 2014, gutting the premises and destroying treasured memorabilia.

But the majority of medals were salvaged following the huge fire, and members of the armed forces charity have been working hard to get them shining again in time for the building's scheduled reopening at the end of July.

Branch chairman Andre McGill said the medals were so filthy a bit of spit and polish simply wouldn't cut it, which was why they had used gallons of fizzy drinks to eat away the soot and restore the sparkle.

"We managed to salvage all the medals and we're slowly cleaning them so they can fill the cabinet. It's costing us an arm and a leg in cola," he told getwestlondon.

Mr McGill added that many wartime photos had been destroyed in the fire and while a recently disbanded Army regiment had donated some of its photos, the legion was keen for more contributions to replace the lost memorabilia.

The aftermath of the fire at the Royal British Legion building in Whitton Road, Hounslow

The clubhouse blaze on March 15 last year sent huge plumes of smoke, visible for miles, billowing into the air.

Restoration began at the end of last year and the new roof is now finished, with just internal work to be completed.

Club treasurer Val Tyler said she hoped the clubhouse would be able to reopen towards the end of July, with a big party to mark the occasion.

One positive from the disaster, according to Mr McGill, was how the community had rallied around to support the local branch of the veterans organisation, which has more than 400 members.

"There's been a really positive reaction since the fire. We've had great support from people in the area, which is really nice," he said.

"We've had a handful of new members join us but the telling time, in terms of new members, will be when the clubhouse reopens."

If you have any old wartime photos you wish to donate, you can contact the legion via