News story

Public urged to keep postal system clear for families sending Christmas post to Afghanistan

With just one week left for families to send Christmas cards and presents to their loved ones in Afghanistan, members of the general public are once again being urged to donate to charities and keep the postal system clear.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
Post arriving at Lashkar Gah by Chinook helicopter (stock image) [Picture: SAC Kimberley Waterson RAF, Crown Copyright/MOD 2007]

Post arriving at Lashkar Gah

The deadline to send post to arrive in Afghanistan for Christmas is Friday 3 December 2010.

In order that the postal system doesn’t get clogged up by generous members of the public wishing to show their support for Service personnel overseas and that gifts and cards from loved ones get through in time, the Ministry of Defence is urging the public to consider donating to Service charities as an alternative way of showing their support, rather than sending parcels to troops overseas.

The kindness and generosity of individuals and groups who send boxes of treats out to operational theatres is greatly appreciated. However, the sheer volume of such mail delays the mail sent by family members and loved ones. In addition, the unintentional inclusion of inappropriate items causes serious difficulties for those charged with distributing all supplies, including post.

Head of the British Forces Post Office, Brigadier Russell Beattie, said:

All the staff throughout the British Forces Post Office network worldwide are focused on the particular challenges of getting personal mail through at Christmas.

This is of course particularly important where it concerns Service personnel deployed on operations, not least because of the often acute difficulties of reaching individuals in some very inaccessible locations.

Whilst the sentiment behind the public wishing to send welfare parcels is gratefully acknowledged it is far better that they donate to established Service charities as they can focus support directly to areas of greatest need.

The volume of mail arriving at Camp Bastion for onward distribution causes three problems:

  • personal mail sent to deployed personnel by their loved ones can become significantly delayed amidst all the other items from members of the public. Receiving a letter or a gift from a family member or loved one is very important for morale, and for the peace of mind of families back home. While unsolicited parcels are without doubt gratefully received, the delays they inevitably cause to the much more valued personal mail are considerably less welcome.

  • delivering goodwill parcels to forward operating bases needs additional helicopter resupply flights and road convoys which can place Service personnel at additional risk in what is already a difficult and dangerous operating environment. Every time an additional convoy is laid on, more troops are put at risk of enemy attack.

  • many of the items included in the public’s welfare parcels are either already readily available in theatre or are simply not appropriate for the Afghan environment, and therefore can go to waste.

The MOD has drawn up a list of recommended Service charities which accept public donations to assist deployed personnel and their families back at home.

Some of these funds send welfare parcels to Afghanistan, but they do so in consultation and partnership with the Armed Forces, and in a co-ordinated way which does not put undue pressure on resources.

The charity uk4u Thanks! is sending 22,000 Christmas Boxes to personnel serving around the world. One of the charity’s trustees, Sally Little, said:

uk4u Thanks! is very grateful for all the support we receive. Donations enable us to fund our Christmas Box campaign, with everyone serving overseas or in hospital over Christmas receiving a box of presents and treats. We make sure everyone receives their box, and it means a great deal to our servicemen and women knowing the public are thinking of them at this special time.

Recognised Service charities include:

The Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) Operational Welfare Fund

In conjunction with the MOD, SSAFA launched the Operational Welfare Fund last year. Dedicated to providing support to the front line, the fund has so far raised over £38,000 of which over £31,000 has been spent following specific requests from operational theatres. Examples of purchases include Wii handsets, games consoles, table tennis tables, film projectors and portable DVD players.

Although the MOD provides a comprehensive Deployment Welfare Package which includes a free mail service, 30 minutes of telephone calls a week and internet access, there are still areas where life can be improved.

Priority for spending from the fund is set by commanders in theatre for those items which will have the most significant impact on enhancing the morale of their personnel.

uk4u Thanks! Christmas Box Scheme

uk4u Thanks! is a registered charity which provides Christmas Boxes full of presents (affectionately known as the ‘square stocking’) as a gift from the nation to all those serving in the Armed Forces overseas away from their families on Christmas Day. They ensure that all servicemen and women who are serving away at Christmas receive a box, whether they are in the Royal Navy, the Army or the Royal Air Force, and wherever they are in the world. Feedback from troops who have received the boxes since the charity began in 2004 has been extremely positive, and they are a significant boost to morale.

The charity does not receive any public funds, but the Ministry of Defence supports the charity with advice and guidance. They also help by sending the parcels for troops in any transport going out to operational theatres which has spare capacity. It is important that the boxes are not sent through the British Forces Post Office system so there is no chance that they will ‘clog up’ the supply chain and delay parcels from families and friends getting to their loved ones.

Support Our Soldiers

Support Our Soldiers is a tri-Service charity which allows the public to show their support for both members of the Armed Forces serving overseas and their families back home.

The founders of the charity are both mothers of soldiers keen to do something positive as a result of their personal experiences.

Support Our Soldiers has a bespoke arrangement with the British Forces Post Office to facilitate the sending of high quality parcels out to named Service personnel which is co-ordinated to ensure minimum disruption to the operational postal system.

Thank The Forces

Thank The Forces is a tri-Service charity which allows the public to show their support for members of the British Armed Forces serving overseas.

Thank The Forces has a bespoke arrangement with the British Forces Post Office to send an agreed quantity of parcels for troops out to each of the chaplains in theatre every week for onward distribution to where they will be most appreciated. The delivery of these parcels is also co-ordinated to ensure minimum disruption to the operational postal system.

Any monies raised in excess of that required for the parcels for troops is passed direct to the SSAFA Operational Welfare Fund.

Published 26 November 2010