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Australian and British forces compete for 'Afghan Ashes'

Emulating their cricketing heroes in the real Ashes in Australia, British and Australian soldiers fight over the 'Afghan Ashes' in Helmand.

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The Australian soldiers, Gunners of the Royal Australian Artillery, are working alongside British Gunners in Forward Operating Base (FOB) Budwan. And although the ISAF mission in Afghanistan means that the troops work long days, during their precious downtime, the sound of leather on willow helps keep morale high and the troops of both nations unwind.

The current Ashes series is adding an extra element of competition to the informal games, as the Australian and British Gunners in FOB Budwan compete with each other for bragging rights.

The plan is for a five-game series, mirroring the real Ashes currently being played in Australia. The first game, an eight-a-side, 16-over format, allowed for every player to have a bat and a bowl and resulted in a closely fought contest - but an eventual narrow victory went to the British team.

British top-scorer Warrant Officer Class 2 Craig Mason, the Battery Sergeant Major of J (Sidi Rezegh) Battery Royal Horse Artillery, notched up an unbeaten 52 not-out.

He said of his Australian opponents and colleagues:

The friendly rivalry between us is all part of Army life. Living and working with the Australians during the Ashes series will just add to an already healthy level of banter.

At the end of the day though, cricket aside, we are here to do a professional job and having the Australian Gunners here can only strengthen the team.

Australian Sergeant Major Paul Chapman said:

We lost this game, but it was just unlucky. The Brits’ standard of playing is improving after some training from us!

As far as the Ashes goes, I’ve been having a look at some of the websites and there is a lot of criticism of the Australians so hopefully this will get the players backs up so hopefully we will win the series.

The Ashes will be shown live across Helmand province on the British Forces Broadcasting Service, a free television network for UK forces personnel across the world.

The Australian Gunners, from 105 Battery, 1st Field Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery, based in Brisbane, are on attachment to Colchester-based 7th Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery (7 Para RHA). The attachment, an arrangement which first saw Australian Gunners attached to the British Close Support Artillery Regiment in Afghanistan in 2008, also with 7 Para RHA, is the last of its kind.

The 15 Australian Gunners arrived in Colchester back in February 2010 after completing a six-month training package in Australia.

They went on to complete conversion training to enable them to use British equipment, including the L118 Light Gun, and then completed the usual six-month British pre-deployment training. When they return to Australia in April of next year, the Gunners of 105 Battery will have been away from home for 14 months, a tough ask when considered against the fact that half of them have spouses or partners at home.

The Australian Gunners based at FOB Budwan are there as part of J (Sidi Rezegh) Battery RHA, who are also attached to 7 Para RHA for the duration of their tour.

Published 26 November 2010