Throughout the festive period, 10,000 Service personnel will be deployed on operations across the world. Two of our colleagues, who are former officers, share their experiences of Christmas on deployment.
Lisa is a former Army officer and now an OA Career Consultant.
“I spent two Christmases away from home during my time in the Army. The first was in Bosnia and the second in Afghanistan. The atmosphere can be somewhat subdued as people would obviously prefer to be at home with family and friends, but everyone tries to make it as jolly as possible and there is always a Christmas dinner!
The thing that always struck me was the kindness of friends and family (and indeed strangers) with so many parcels and letters arriving. This was always the source of great excitement and I think that in these days of digital messaging, it is always so wonderful to receive a ‘real’ letter or parcel, especially when you are far from home.
I lost my father a few months after my return from Afghanistan and, while I regret that I missed our last Christmas together, I will always treasure all the ‘blueys’ he sent me while I was away.
Christmas is a time of reflection and to consider how lucky we are, and I think that when you are away from your usual surroundings, you feel this more keenly. It certainly makes you appreciate the time you do spend with family and friends all the more, and realise that these are precious moments.”
Simon is a former Army officer and now the Chief Operations Officer at the OA.
“On Christmas Day 1993 I was with my Regiment (2nd Royal Tank Regiment) on a United Nations tour in Cyprus. The Regiment was manning the buffer zone (the Green Line) between the Turkish and Greek Cypriot halves of the island, where it runs through the capital, Nicosia.
The watch towers along the buffer zone had to remain manned and foot patrols had to continue, along the narrow alleyways which constituted the Green Line in the old part of Nicosia. So a plan was devised to have Christmas lunch in shifts.
This was easy enough in the main base (the Ledra Palace Hotel which sits right by the crossing point to the north of the island). However most of the Regiment was based in smaller ‘Troop Houses’ dotted along the Line. So our cooks pre-prepared numerous Christmas lunches that were sent in insulated containers at pre-determined times to each location – quite a logistical operation! So although we were all away from home, we were able to enjoy a cheerful (and sunny) Christmas.”
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