Monday, June 14, 2010

David Cameron meets Task Force Helmand’s unsung heroes

Some of the unsung heroes in Helmand got a major boost to their morale today when the Prime Minister David Cameron, on his first visit to Camp Bastion, addressed the troops and paid tribute to their work describing it as “critical to the success of operations in Afghanistan”.

After spending time with the Camp Bastion Fire and Rescue Service, the Prime Minister visited the British Forces Post Office (BFPO) where he met the soldiers whose job it is to receive, sort and ensure the mail is delivered right out to the frontline.

The soldiers of 884 Squadron of the Postal and Courier Regiment are fully aware of the importance of their role and how receiving letters and packages supports the high morale and spirit of troops in theatre.

The Prime Minister was escorted by the Officer Commanding 884 Squadron, Major Cameron Hill, who explained that Camp Bastion’s Post Office is the hub of all mail distribution to British Forces in Afghanistan. His men process over 3,000 bags per week which converts to approximately 30 tons in weight.

When a delivery arrives the soldiers will work as long as it takes, sometimes 10 hours or more to get the bags sorted.

Major Hill said of their work “Our aim is simply to process the mail very quickly and get it to the Forward Operating and Patrol Bases as soon as we can”. He went on to describe how “everyone in my team knows the value, in terms of morale, of receiving mail and that’s the reward we get from our job”.

Major Hill was able to show how the BFPO is doing everything it can to speed up communication between soldiers and their families and how the growth in popularity of the E-bluey and Fax-bluey is beginning to constitute a bigger share of the overall mail traffic.

For example, a letter from the UK can take four or five days to reach a soldier in a FOB but using an ‘E-bluey’ it might only take hours. Bastion’s Post Office is now processing around 9,500 per month.

Although Mr Cameron decided against sending a message home explaining that he was anxious not to unnecessarily increase the service’s volume of mail he did confess he didn’t know his new postcode.

The Prime Minister met and chatted to members of the Squadron of which 25 are from the Territorial Army and many of them work for Royal Mail. He was very interested to hear how supportive their civilian employers had been in allowing their staff to serve on operations.

Mr Cameron got a sympathetic response when he described how, as an election candidate delivering leaflets, he dreaded the doors with the letter boxes low down which always seemed to “have a brush on the inside and the little bit which snaps your fingers just when you shove – that’s the classic - then if you get the angry dog too that’s the Full Monty”.

Among the soldiers Mr Cameron met was Corporal Pacha Bhaiya, a Gurhka who has served for almost thirty years in the British Army. During the conversation Mr Cameron pointed out that no British Prime Minister had ever visited Nepal, adding that he hoped he might be the first sometime in the future.

Squadron members were delighted to have met the new Prime Minister and appreciated the fact that he had taken the time out to come and meet them. It was a fantastic boost to their morale to be recognised. One soldier added that recently they’ve had visits from three Davids – Bailey, Beckham and Cameron but concluded – “It was great to meet the boss’s boss!”

Pictures: Sgt Ian Forsyth RLC


  1. Enjoyed this article as our family in America searched the internet for our British cousin serving in Afganistan. Vernon, we support your work and thank you for all you do to try make the world safer place for our children. Abbey wishes she could see you she visit your mum and dad next week! Ed & Amanda - Orlando.

  2. Great to hear about a Cameron from a Cameron! Best wishes to Cameron from your 'old' boss!