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27 Dec 09. Merlin helicopters have been delivering morale-boosting Christmas post from loved ones to soldiers on the front line in Afghanistan. The helicopters, which arrived in Afghanistan last month, deliver letters from home along with vital supplies and ammunition to Forward Operating Bases (FOBs) and Patrol Bases. The Merlins pictured were delivering mail and supplies to members of 1 SCOTS in FOB Wishtan, and members of 3RIFLES in Sangin. The Merlin helicopters have deployed to Afghanistan as part of a move to boost air support. The helicopters can carry up to 20 personnel to the FOBs. The Merlin crews supported ground forces throughout the Christmas period, and remain ready to deliver supplies at a moment’s notice. The Merlin Force deployed to Afghanistan after completing operations in Iraq in August 2009. The crews undertook intensive pre-deployment training and the aircraft have received significant upgrades to meet the challenges of the harsh Afghanistan environment. This follows Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth’s announcement last week that the MoD will buy 22 additional Chinook helicopters with the intention of delivering the first 10 during 2012 and 2013. This is part of a new Future Helicopter Strategy that will deliver a 40 per cent increase in the number of lift helicopters available for use on operations in extreme conditions, such as those in Afghanistan.
26 Dec 09. The MOD sent over seven tonnes of festive food, including a tonne of sprouts, to Afghanistan give our forces a taste of Christmas while on operations. The tonne of sprouts accompanied:
-Two-and-a-half tonnes of Christmas cake;
-Nearly one-and-a-half tonnes of turkey;
-Over a tonne of mince pies;
-A tonne of Christmas pudding; plus
-1,000 litres of gravy.
Forces also feasted on 325Kg of cheesecake, 216Kg of shortbread biscuits and 174Kg of after dinner mints. But it was not just food that gave our forces a festive treat – the halls of Camp Bastion were decked with 80kg of balloons, 39Kg of party streamers, 58Kg of large party hats, 58Kg of party poppers and 46Kg of Christmas crackers which were all delivered to the frontline. Charity UK4UThanks! provided 15,000 Christmas boxes – weighing a total of 21 tonnes, that contained a host of goodies bought with money donated from members of the public for troops in Afghanistan to open on Christmas Day. Trooper Jay Moore, of The Queen’s Royal Hussars, said: “Last year I spent Christmas away from my family on deployment in Afghanistan. To have welfare boxes sent out to us brought a slice of home and the festivities to Afghanistan made all the difference and provided a real boost to morale.”
15 Dec 09. Afghanistan: OP HERRICK. A Lance Corporal and a Rifleman from 3rd Bn The Rifles died following a suicide improvised explosive device blast near Sangin on 15 Dec 09. A soldier from 2nd Bn The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment died from wounds received as a result of an explosion in the Nad-e-Ali area on 19 Dec 09. UK deaths since the start of Operations on 7 Oct 01 thus rose to 240, of whom 209 were killed as a result of hostile action. (MoD, 19 Dec 09.)