Thinking of you on the Afghan frontline

afghanram'1 Yorks soldiers in Afghanistan Christmas 2011'l-r Lace Corporal Matthew Wright, Privates Josh Clay, Zak Wilson and James Burgan
afghanram'1 Yorks soldiers in Afghanistan Christmas 2011'l-r Lace Corporal Matthew Wright, Privates Josh Clay, Zak Wilson and James Burgan

FRONTline soldiers from South Yorkshire serving in Afghanistan have told how they have spent a very different Christmas - and sent messages home to loved ones.

Members of First Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, which includes dozens of men and female troops from Sheffield, Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham, are spending the festive season deployed at bases around Helmand Province.

1 Yorks adjutant Capt Euan Mathieson said: “The battalion has received a large number of welfare parcels from the very generous British public. Most of these were stored up to ensure that everyone had something to open come the big day.

“The chefs, both military and civilian, were working overtime to ensure that everyone had a chance to enjoy a traditional Christmas dinner, regardless of their location.

“Patrols went out to the most remote locations to bring festive cheer in the form of extra phone cards, mail and festive favourites such as sprouts!

“No soldier could bear to be without sprouts - even in Afghanistan.”

Gurkhas attached to the battalion also adopted Christmas and ‘marked the occasion in the same spirit’, Capt Mathieson said. Entertainment included an X Factor-style talent contest, a nativity play and private soldiers and junior non-commissioned officers were served Christmas Dinner by officers.

Among the battalion’s South Yorkshire contingent is Private Brett Marshall, from Barnsley, who joined up in September 2009 and has undergone basic training, then nine months of preparations for Afghanistan, including learning the Pashtu language spoken there.

He said: “As part of daily routine we conduct reassurance and deterrence patrols in order to provide security for the local population and to deter the insurgents.

“I have also done a search operation in which we searched an insurgent linked compound and also a hearts and minds operation where we handed out warm clothes and blankets to the local children, to prepare them for the harsh Afghan winter. I look forward to conducting further operations, ensuring we do our job well and provide security to the local population.

“Hopefully some of these operations will be in areas in which I have not worked before. But I also look forward to coming home at the end of the tour and my post tour leave. For my family back home I look forward to seeing you again - make sure you get the beers in!”

Also serving with him is Pte Elizabeth Crossland, 18, from Cudworth, Barnsley, who joined up at the same time as Pte Marshall and is attached to 1 Yorks as a Human Resources Specialist.

She said: “Working with an Infantry Battalion has been hard work, especially the fitness which I take part in with all the guys, but I enjoy every minute of it. Being the only female within the company, the lads really look after you in their own way.”

Pte Brett Marshall, of Barnsley, said: “Hello Mum, Dad, Lee, Luke and everyone else back home. Just to let you know I’m doing fine. Thank you for all the gifts you sent out to me, the effort is really appreciated. I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I’m looking forward to seeing you all on my R and R.”