'Good morning, Afghanistan': War radio

British Forces radio has hit the airwaves in Helmand. Terri Judd reports

The hi-tech equipment, red "On Air" light and the DJs' patter are no different from those at any radio station. But step out of the studio and you are greeted by sandstorms, attack helicopters and armoured vehicles bearing machine guns. At a time when most of us were slumbering happily, at 6.30am Helmand time today, the words "Good Morning, Afghanistan" boomed forth from the first British Forces radio station in the country.

More than 9,000 troops fighting in the southern province's war zone were greeted with the upbeat sounds of The Boo Radleys' Wake Up Boo! – a track selected by British soldiers around the world to be the first broadcast from the new British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS) station at Camp Bastion.

"There may be a touch of irony in this choice: 'Wake up it's a beautiful morning,'" conceded Nicky Ness, the controller of BFBS. DJ Dusty Miller, who mimicked Robin Williams's greeting this morning, added: "Mindful of the very particular brand of humour among our listeners, we were worried what they might foist on us – but we were braced to play whatever they asked for. The first song played on the ground in any operational theatre tends to get a bit of an iconic status."

British Forces' radio has been following the troops around the world since an experimental station was sent up in an Algiers harem during the Second World War. It has been there through the Aden crisis, the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, the Falklands conflict, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Balkans conflicts, the handover of Hong Kong and the two Iraq wars, with presenters as diverse as Sir Roger Moore and Kenny Everett.

In Iraq, the team prided itself that it continued to broadcast through mortar attacks and went off-air only once when the building had to be evacuated to clear a rocket that had landed nearby. But the move to Afghanistan has been a long time coming. BFBS originally built and shipped a radio studio to Afghanistan in 2007 but it took two years to finally get a site for the equipment and months more for engineers to restore it since it had been buffeted by the harsh desert conditions.

But it finally opened a new chapter in radio history this morning when Mr Miller and his fellow DJ, Dave Simon, began broadcasting across airwaves dedicated to the troops in Helmand and to their families back home. The ironies the forces have to contend with during their tours of Afghanistan was more than evident in the tracks chosen when the broadcaster asked the forces community to vote for the song that should be the first broadcast. The Boo Radleys track beat competition from such songs as The Sound of Music sung by Julie Andrews, which includes the famous line: "The hills are alive."

Other favourites in the poll included Edwin Starr's Stop The War Now, Razorlight's Before I Fall To Pieces , Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms , It Bites' Calling All The Heroes. Iron Maiden's epic Run To The Hills, The Clash's Rock The Casbah, Leaving On A Jet Plane by John Denver and Take That's Patience were all in contention too. The nomination that came in eighth on the list was the Coming Home debut album by three servicemen who have formed The Soldiers to raise funds for service charities including The Royal British Legion and Help for Heroes.

"Many came in with dedications and we will be playing those messages whether the tracks made the top 10 or not," Mr Miller said. "As a presenter, I intend to make sure that every single request gets played."

To the servicemen and women on Helmand's front line, any contact with home is priceless and that message, Mr Miller said, had come through loud and clear when troops were asked what they wanted from the new station. While service personnel in Afghanistan have been able to tune into BFBS Radio shows from the UK over the past years, this is the first time they will have their own dedicated station and be able to choose the music, messages and shows that are broadcast. They will be able to walk in to the station, use a dedicated military phone or online messaging service.

BFBS began broadcasting digitally in the UK six months ago so for the first time relatives will be able to hear soldiers talking live in Helmand as well as send their own messages out. The mix of dedications with news and music will be broadcast from Afghanistan to the UK three times daily, while those serving in Helmand will hear broadcasts alternating between programmes from Helmand, the UK and bases in Germany.

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Life & Style
Father and son: Michael Williams with son Edmund
lifeAs his son’s bar mitzvah approaches, CofE-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys he’s experienced in learning about his family’s other faith
Arts & Entertainment
Ian Anderson, the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, (right) and British guitar player Martin Barre (left) perform on stage
musicJethro Tull frontman leads ‘prog rock’ revival
Sport
Gareth Bale dribbled from inside his own half and finished calmly late in the final to hand Real a 2-1 win at the Mestalla in Valencia
sport
Arts & Entertainment
Who laughs lass: Jenny Collier on stage
comedy... writes Jenny Collier, the comedian whose recent show was cancelled because there were 'too many women' on the bill
News
House proud: keeping up with the Joneses now extends to children's playhouses
newsLuxury playhouses now on the market for as much as £800
News
news
Life & Style
Stir it up: the writer gets a lichen masterclass from executive chef Vivek Singh of the Cinnamon restaurants
food + drinkLichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines
Extras
indybest
Arts & Entertainment
Ken Loach (left) and Mike Leigh who will be going head to head for one of cinema's most coveted prizes at this year's Cannes Film Festival
filmKen Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
News
The academic, Annamaria Testa, has set out on her website a list of 300 English words that she says Italians ought to stop using
newsAcademic speaks out against 'Italianglo' - the use of English words in Italian language
Life & Style
tech
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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers