Soldiers serving in Afghanistan celebrated Christmas with traditional roast turkey lunch

Around 9,000 servicemen and women are deployed in Helmand Province an

Troops serving in Afghanistan celebrated Christmas with presents from home, a traditional roast turkey lunch and a charity fun run today.

Around 9,000 servicemen and women are deployed in Helmand Province and an extra effort was made today to make sure they were given some "down time".

At the medical centre in Main Operating Base Lashkar Gah, staff opened Secret Santa presents and gifts from family.

With a Christmas playlist on in the background, featuring Driving Home For Christmas by Chris Rea and the Pogues' song Fairytale Of New York with Kirsty MacColl, the medics tore away wrapping paper to find home comforts such as new socks, underwear and toiletries.

Many wore pyjamas and all-in-one sleepsuits, while eating toasted bacon bagels for breakfast.

Private Amy Louise Johnson, 23, from Newcastle upon Tyne, who serves with the 3 Medical Regiment, said: "Before I left, I thought I would be sad and missing all my family around the table, but we are such a team here that it's like having your family here with you and you're all in it together.

"I think it's just part of being a soldier - getting on with it."

Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, (1 LANCS), held their own celebrations with cups of tea, festive hats and Christmas jumpers.

Commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Nick Wood addressed the troops to thank them for their hard work on the tour so far, and wished everybody a merry Christmas.

In Lashkar Gah, hundreds of soldiers and spectators gathered in costumes for the Lash Dash, a 5K fun run for charity.

Captain Callum Fraser, 28, a Royal Military Police officer from Helensburgh, Argyll, dressed up as a robot covered in tinsel and glitter, with Christmas crackers glued on to his makeshift outfit.

He said: "We're just having a laugh. It's Christmas - time to let your hair down."

Lash Dash organiser Captain Emma Wardall, 25, from Wiltshire, who is with the 4th Regiment Royal Artillery, said: "We thought it would be a good excuse to get out of the office on Christmas morning and into the sunshine.

"All of the money we've raised will go to the Black Rat brigade charity and the Lashkar Gah orphanage."

At lunchtime, troops made their way into the main dining tent, where turkey and all the trimmings were served, along with mince pies and Christmas pudding.

Senior ranking officers maintained Army tradition by serving soldiers their sprouts and carrots.

Thousands of balloons, crackers, party poppers and hats were flown in to the areas of operations specially, and more than 130 tonnes of Christmas post was delivered to Camp Bastion this week, to be handed out among bases.

Captain Daniel Turner, 36, from Bristol, who serves with the Royal Dragoon Guards, said: "It's fantastic, I've had turkey and sprouts and have had a great time sitting with my friends.

"It's great having a day like today halfway through the tour."

It was business as usual for many troops on the front line, as members of the Royal Military Police and the Royal Dragoon Guards set off on an early morning patrol.

The group of about 20 soldiers went out on foot patrol to visit Afghan National Police officers, a practice they have been carrying out daily.

Corporal Alex Petrie, 28, from Rutherglen, near Glasgow, is a Royal Military Police officer.

He said: "It's a different experience, a different way of celebrating Christmas, but I'm missing my wife and kids."

Lance Corporal Johnny Birch, 23, from Leeds, who serves with the Royal Dragoon Guards, said: "We're doing five weeks of training with the Afghan policemen so they can be instructors on things like counter-IED (improvised explosive device) and first aid.

"It's not too bad spending Christmas here, but obviously there's a lot of places you'd rather be."

Corporal James Keenan, from the Alpha Company of 40 Commando, Royal Marines, said it was "a bummer" to spend Christmas away from friends and family.

The 24-year-old, from Stornoway, on the Isle of Lewis, said: "Obviously there's a reason why the forces are out here so we have to keep on with the job."

Celebrations and lunches were laid on at bases across Helmand, including Camp Bastion and Forward Operating Base Shawqat, as well as Camp Tombstone and Main Operating Base Price, where the Royal Scots Borderers, 1st Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland, (1 SCOTS), are operating.

Every soldier serving in Afghanistan received a Christmas lunch or dinner, even those in remote patrol bases, as Army chefs travelled around to serve them freshly-cooked meals.

A Christmas pantomime, loosely based on Aladdin, was put on by troops at the base in Lashkar Gah, spoof-starring "Cheryl Cole" and "Ross Kemp".

Producer Captain Ash Greenwood, 27, a Royal Engineer from Barnsley, South Yorkshire, described the show as "a modern twist on a classic".

PA

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Learning Support Assistant

£65 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Due to the continual growth and...

Learning Support Assistant - Newport

£65 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Due to the continual growth and...

Operations Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: I am currently recruiting for an Operati...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, Security Cleared

£100 - £110 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Ham...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz