Images, video and audio footage available
Overwhelming public support for the Armed Forces has led to a massive increase in the volume of Christmas mail being sent to Afghanistan.
The latest indications from the British Forces Post Office - now that the last posting date for Christmas mail has passed - suggest that the volume of Christmas mail to Afghanistan has increased by 63 per cent.
Whilst much of the mail is made up of letters and gifts from families and close friends of deployed personnel, a large part of the increase consists of welfare parcels sent out in large numbers by local appeals and individual members of the public.
The kindness and generosity of people who send boxes of treats out to operational theatre is greatly appreciated – but the massive increase in post is having a serious impact at the sharp end.
Although the British Forces Post Office can cope with the mail surge and the Ministry of Defence has laid on additional aircraft to get the post out to Camp Bastion, the problems lie with the onward delivery to smaller bases around Helmand province.
Lieutenant Colonel David Wakefield, spokesman for Task Force Helmand, explains:
“It is not a matter of lack of investment in equipment or people that makes getting the mail out to soldiers a challenge during Christmas. Getting the post to our main distribution point in Camp Bastion, down the artery, is easily managed; it can cope with the increased pressure at Christmas. It is getting it on from there to the Forward Operating Bases and Patrol Bases, down the capillaries, which is the issue.
“Every road move of a convoy to a FOB or Patrol Base is dangerous. They attract IEDs, which represent a threat not only to our soldiers but also to civilians who use the same roads. Convoys are something we therefore seek to minimise.
“Of course the thing we miss the most out here is our families and friends, so it is letters and parcels from them which are of particular importance to us. We provide guidance to try to ensure that the post from our loved ones gets through as a priority, which is what we all would want.”
For these very reasons, the Ministry of Defence is calling again on people who want to show their support for the Armed Forces to consider alternative ways of doing so, such as donating to the SSAFA Operational Welfare Fund. The fund has proved very popular since its launch earlier this year, but further donations could always be put to good use. Information on this and other appeals can be found at www.mod.uk
To reinforce the message, the three Services are launching a poster campaign. The design, which invites people to visit www.mod.uk to find out the most effective ways of showing their support, is being widely circulated around organisations, businesses and military establishments. For example, the poster has been sent to the major supermarket chains for display in their branches.
The Ministry of Defence is delighted to confirm that Tesco has agreed to circulate the poster to all of its UK stores where it may be displayed at the discretion of the store manager. The poster is also available electronically by calling the Ministry of Defence Press Office on 0207 218 3257.
Minister for the Armed Forces, Bill Rammell MP, said:
“I am delighted that so many members of the public are keen to show their support for our Armed Forces this Christmas. I know how much it means to our brave men and women serving overseas.
“However, it is very important to make sure that people express their support in the right way to make the biggest difference in helping our troops on the ground. Rather than sending their own letter or parcel, I am strongly urging people to consider making a donation of whatever they can afford to one of the excellent Service charities on our recommended list. This is what those in Afghanistan are saying they would like, as they want to make sure letters from their family and friends get to them without delay.
“Once again, let me say thank you to the British public for their incredible ongoing support for our Armed Forces.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
For more information about this press release, or to receive a PDF version of the poster, contact Ben Wilkinson or Nick Manning in the MOD Press Office on 0207 218 3257.
Pictures, video and audio footage are available on request or fromwww.defencenewsimagery.mod.uk
The direct link for information on alternative ways of supporting deployed troops iswww.mod.uk/publicsupportforourservicepersonnel. More information about the SSAFA Operational Welfare Fund can be found at www.mod.uk/operationalwelfarefund.
Phone: For enquiries please contact the above department