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YOU AND THE RAF The Square Stocking The message of warning goes out to the generous, well intentioned public:

‘Stop and Think! Don’t send welfare parcels to Afghanistan. But why on earth not? Charles Wookey of uk4u Thanks!, has the reason.


he MoD is hugely grateful for the fantastic generosity shown by the British public. Service personnel are doing a

tough job in dangerous circumstances and the support of the British public means a great deal to them. However, the issue of unsolicited parcels to operational theatres is a tricky one.

The truth is that the level of support from the public has been frankly overwhelming and the postal system to operational theatres cannot cope. The net result is that some personal mail suffers significant delays.

Unsolicited goodwill parcels place a strain on the logistics supply chain whose primary purpose is to make sure troops in theatre are properly equipped with ammunition, rations, medical supplies etc, to enable them to operate effectively. The delivery of such mail necessitates additional re-supply flights and convoys which places personnel at additional risk and it is estimated the cost of extending the current system to accept this unsolicited mail, would be £19M per year.

It is for these reasons the MoD is keen to encourage the public to demonstrate their

support in other ways. One of the four charities it supports is uk4u Thanks! The charity represents a gift from the nation and sends well-considered Christmas boxes of practical gifts and fun treats to every airman, soldier and sailor deployed overseas in Afghanistan and elsewhere and those in hospital and recovery centres in time for 25th December.

The charity has been doing this for some years now but you have to go back to 1914 to see where it all started. It was King George V’s daughter, Princess Mary, who had the idea to provide everyone wearing the King’s uniform and serving overseas on Christmas Day with a ‘gift’ from the nation.

An embossed brass box containing a pipe, cigarettes and tobacco, Christmas card, a bullet pencil case and a picture of Her Royal Highness was that gift (the smoking items were omitted from the boys’ boxes). This project was funded by contributions from members of the public and private companies.

In 2004 the initiative was resurrected and 19,000 Christmas Boxes were sent to military personnel serving overseas on operations on Christmas Day. With MoD

assistance, the boxes were distributed through the existing MoD supply chain using spare irreducible capacity over an extended period of time. Such was the success of the box that the charity uk4u Thanks! was formed to continue this work and has since provided 158,000 boxes.

Three trustees worked with senior representatives from the Permanent Joint Headquarters (PJHQ), Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Personnel), Defence Media and Communications and Defence Catering Group (DCG) to form the MoD Christmas Box Committee. With considerable support from General Sir Kevin O’Donoghue, then Chief of Defence Logistics, sponsorship from industry and private individuals was sought.

Planning for each year’s boxes starts early and the final decision on the box contents is taken by March and Vestey staff then procures the selected items for packing in early August.

You can understand therefore how difficult it is to judge in March how many Christmas Boxes will be required, not easy when you consider how quickly Op ELLAMY sprung up. Using guidance from PJHQ and DFS staffs, the figure is agreed. Once the boxes are packed, they are moved forward using spare irreducible capacity in the MoD Supply Chain. For some of the more unusual destinations such as Diego Garcia and Sierra Leone, the


Envoy Winter 2011

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