Left Right Left requires your Christmas Ops memories for their December issue out soon.

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To get you all in the mood and rekindle your recollections of service over the festive period, Left Right Left Editor, Mal Robinson, looks back at his first Christmas away on Operations in Kandahar, Afghanistan in 2006.

“I was deployed to Afghanistan in October 2006 for four months, which meant my first Christmas on Operations. I had worked over Christmas before in the Forces and held jobs previous that saw me work the big day over the festive period and so it didn’t bother me too much about being away, I’d knew we’d make up for it, when I returned home.

Saying this though, the morale at Kandahar at the time was sapping and starting to dip badly, by the time Santa came calling.

The mail and goody bags from back home really did keep the troops going and I remember getting quite a lot as all the family chipped in sending delights through the post. As part of logistics, we saw firsthand the amount of mail being delivered on a daily basis and something like 65% of air cargo was mail to the troops in this period.

Instructions were sent back home to ensure illicit goods were required in the form of liqueurs and the like (Afghanistan was of course a no alcohol zone). Being in the Air Movements trade also had its perks; we were after all in charge of what came in and out of Afghanistan, cargo wise. Needless to say, if you’d like a merry Christmas on Operations in the forces, then befriend a mover!

The build up to Christmas was eventful to say the least.

There was a request made for 3 volunteers to dress as Santa and take the aforementioned mail bags to the various units in and around the base. I was game for a laugh and so offered my services as one of the three Santas. Little did we know, there was a photographer loitering with intent, taking snaps of us three, complete with our SA80 rifles in tow.

It was a few days later, when calling home, did I find out that these photos had actually made their way into The Sun newspaper!

At that time of year, we are graced by a few celebrities, wanting to boost morale and pay a visit to the troops and fair play to the ones that do. I had just missed out on the visit of Peter Reid in the summer months and so when I heard Gordon Ramsey was on his way to visit, all the boys were chuffed.

Gordon being Gordon was game for a laugh as ever and genuinely held the troops in high regard, visiting Kandahar, then Camp Bastion, where he apparently invited the military chefs stationed there back to his Claridge’s restaurant in London, when their tours were over – nice touch.

Gordon Ramsay even spared a moment for one of the lads, Popey. He had asked for a video message to his dad for his dad’s birthday, with one or two instructions on what to say. Needless to add then that the video message went something along the lines of “Happy Birthday Keith…now f**k off!” The lads as you can imagine were in stitches.

Christmas day was just another day, the Afghan winter having no respite.

All in all, most of us wanted the day over with, to crack on with work and break the back of our tour away.

There was though the enjoyment of a Boxing Day football match held at the social location known as the “Boardwalk”. A 5-a-side tournament held between various UK and Canadian units on the base, the pitch could only be described as “rocky” as we used homemade hockey nets for goals, whilst New Year’s Eve involved the merriment it did back home, even if a bar crawl was replaced for one of the lads’ rooms!

It is what you make of it. We were all there together, away from home, relying on each other to see it out.”

If you would like to send your messages of support to troops away this Christmas then leave a message on the link below and these will be printed inside of Left Right Left, which is distributed to the Forces in print and digital.