Our Sam meets our boys

'LOWER yourself down, but as you do, force your legs forward.'

'Ooh.'

The diminutive figure of Samantha Fox, former tabloid Page 3 girl and occasional pop singer, disappeared into the driver's compartment of the Warrior infantry fighting vehicle. 'I need a cushion,' she said. 'I don't think I can reach that pedal.'

The plucky Ms Fox, 27, was in Vitez, the base in central Bosnia where the 900-strong front-line contingent of the British battalion group is based. From the north came the crump of a mortar round landing, and the occasional crackle of musketry.

She was determined to join the distinguished line of Forces' sweethearts and front-line entertainers - and the Army was not going to stop her. 'I think it was my Mum that made me more nervous than anybody,' she said. 'Landmines and tripwires and everything. I'm really pleased I've done it.'

What had she done? Why was she here? 'To cheer them up. To let them know that we're thinking about them.' Then, suddenly more serious: 'I've seen myself that the supplies are getting through to the people.' She added, on a more serious note: 'From the helicopter I could see houses burning. Seen a lot of houses which have been 'cleansed', as they say, 'ethnically cleansed'.'

But was she achieving her aim? The soldiers were not sure. 'The trouble is,' said one officer, 'the young soldiers - they don't know who she is.' Ms Fox made her well-endowed debut a decade ago, when they were about eight. Some of them were relaxing in the hot Bosnian sun. 'Why's she doing it - publicity,' one said. 'She says she's here to cheer you up. Does she?' 'Not really. It'd cheer you up for 10 seconds when she stands next to you.'

The whole performance seemed extraordinarily old-fashioned, but it was a laugh. Clad in a black singlet, peach-coloured shorts and black canvas boots, Ms Fox was clearly part of show-business.

She donned a flak jacket to travel in the Warrior - an ordinary one, not, as some speculated, specially made.

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