Girl group and Armed Forces fans The Saturdays launched charity uk4u Thanks! 2009 Christmas Box campaign, at RAF Northolt today, alongside Defence Minister Kevan Jones and charity trustees. The campaign sees some 23,000 boxes full of festive cheer being sent to Service men and women right across the world who are working away from their families this Christmas.
Una, Mollie, Frankie, Vanessa and Rochelle arrived at RAF Northolt in a 4 tonne military wagon and along with Father Christmas, delivered Christmas Boxes to sailors, soldiers and airmen.
uk4u Thanks! works with the MOD to send the boxes, containing some 20 items, out to locations such as Afghanistan, the Falklands, and ships and submarines across the world in time for Christmas Day. They do not use the British Forces Post Office system, so do not delay parcels from families and friends getting through.
Defence Minister Kevan Jones said:
"The MOD is an enthusiastic supporter of the Christmas Box campaign, bringing cheer to those members of the Armed Forces serving abroad on operations over the festive period. Knowing that the public are behind them when they are working in often very difficult conditions, especially at this time, is a real morale boost for our Servicemen and women.
"Donating to charities such as uk4u Thanks! is the best way to say thank you to our personnel at Christmas. Making a donation instead of sending an unsolicited parcel also means less pressure on the Forces’ postal system at this time, which means more post from families will reach their loved ones in time for Christmas Day."
The Saturdays said:
"We are honoured to be supporting uk4u Thanks! and their quest to send 23,000 Christmas Boxes out to the brave men and women of our Armed Forces. They are very much in our thoughts, and we wish them and all their families a very Merry Christmas."
Sally Little, uk4u Thanks! trustee said:
"uk4u Thanks! is extremely grateful to everyone who is supporting us. What we undertake is no small task, but the letters and emails of thanks we receive each year make it well worth it. The overwhelming sentiment from our Armed Forces is that they are so very pleased and touched people are thinking of them."
Along with donations from the public, the charity is supported by a number of defence companies including BAE Systems and Finmeccanica.
Notes to Editors
1. The launch is to highlight that 23,000 boxes, or ‘square stockings’ as they are affectionately known in the Services, are being sent to personnel serving across the world, including those in hospital due to being injured on operations. For more information visit http://www.uk4u.org/.
2. Crucially, the boxes are sent using existing spare space in the supply chain, meaning they are not sent through the British Forces Post Office system, therefore are not placing additional strain on the system nor disrupting the delivery of mail from families and friends.
3. The content of the boxes are kept a strict secret until Christmas day.
4. The Christmas Box takes as its inspiration the 1914 gesture of the 17 year-old Princess Mary, who had the idea of presenting a gift from the nation for everyone wearing the King’s uniform and serving overseas on Christmas Day. Since 2004 forces charity uk4u Thanks! has raised money and sponsorship throughout the year to provide these boxes as a way of saying thank you to our Armed Forces and to let them know that people are thinking of them over Christmas.
5. The boxes, which are the same size as a 24-hour rations pack, are filled with approximately 20 items, some Christmassy, some amusing, some useful, some entertaining, and some just plain fun.
6. Members of the public who wish to support the Armed Forces this Christmas are being encouraged to donate to an existing charity rather than sending their own parcels.
7. The charity does not send on items from the public – the contents of the boxes are carefully chosen to be relevant to all working abroad, and also do not contain perishable items or those which could cause offence in the country to which they are being sent. Feedback from the Armed Forces is received each year, and helps in planning the following year’s box.
8. While support from the general public means a great deal to Service personnel, particularly those deployed on operations, the sheer number of parcels sent at this time of year causes delay to personal mail getting through. The numbers involved can necessitate extra resupply flights and convoys, which places Service personnel at additional and unjustifiable risk in what is already a difficult and dangerous operating environment.
9. Father Christmas was played by uk4u Thanks! Trustee Allan Simms.
10. Images from the launch are available on Defence News Imagery, www.dni.mod.uk. Images for use in News reporting can also be accessed via a temporary log in. User name: GuestUser Password: GoldenMedal
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