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Fears over soldiers' Christmas post

PUBLISHED: 13:47 20 November 2009 | UPDATED: 15:41 03 July 2010

Families of East Anglian soldiers fighting on the frontline in Afghanistan fear that Christmas mail will not reach loved ones due to a backlog in the postal system.

Families of East Anglian soldiers fighting on the frontline in Afghanistan fear that Christmas mail will not reach loved ones due to a backlog in the postal system.

The Viking Family Support Group, made up of partners and relatives of members of the Royal Anglians who are currently based in the Helmand province, said post from home played a vital role in boosting morale but is being blocked by unsolicited welfare packages.

Some relatives have been told it could take up to six weeks for packages, including food parcels, to get through. Ordinarily it should take about two weeks.

Alison Burgess, a founder member of the support group, said: “We're told there has been a flood of unsolicited parcels being sent through charities and welfare organisations.

“Obviously the boys are very grateful for this support but it is stopping them getting post from their own families which a lot of them depend upon for a boost.

“It's getting to the point where we are thinking about Christmas and are worried that they won't get letters and parcels from home in time.”

The father of one Royal Anglian said he had taken to sending food parcels to his son to supplement rations. “The rations they have aren't enough to live off for a sustained period of time under tough conditions,” he said.

“We send his favourite sweets and things like pasta and garlic just to add to it. But it just isn't getting through.”

The Ministry of Defence confirmed that unsolicited mail is clogging up the post system, meaning parcels for named servicemen and women does not get through on time.

Last year, a record 1,000 mailbags a day flooded into the British base at Camp Bastion, up 60 per cent on the same period last year. Much of it was simply addressed to “A Soldier”.

The mail is flown into Bastion in an RAF Hercules transport plane before being distributed to forward operating bases by Chinook or Sea King helicopters.

A spokesman said that the enduring families' free mail service - which is paid for by the Royal Mail and the MoD - is only intended for the use of the close friends and families of those on operations.

He added that providing extra flights and convoys to deliver goodwill parcels puts personnel at “additional and unjustifiable risk” in danger zones.

The MoD's preferred method for helping troops on the frontline is to donate to the new Operational Welfare Fund, which supplies troops on remote bases with morale-boosting equipment including solar-powered chargers, portable DVD players and games consoles.

Visit www.mod.uk/ operationalwelfarefund.

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