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Soldiers celebrate far from home
From left, L/Cpl Carlos Da Costa from Jamaica, Cpl Al Butterfill from Doncaster and SAC Curtis Shield from Blackpool enjoy Christmas dinner in Helmand Province
Troops serving in Afghanistan have celebrated Christmas with presents from home, a traditional roast turkey lunch and a charity fun run.
Around 9,000 servicemen and women are deployed in Helmand Province and an extra effort was made to make sure they were given some "down time".
At the medical centre in Main Operating Base Lashkar Gah, staff opened Secret Santa presents and gifts from family. With a Christmas playlist on in the background, featuring Driving Home For Christmas by Chris Rea and the Pogues' song Fairytale Of New York with Kirsty MacColl, the medics tore away wrapping paper to find home comforts such as new socks, underwear and toiletries.
Private Amy Louise Johnson, 23, from Newcastle upon Tyne, who serves with the 3 Medical Regiment, said: "Before I left, I thought I would be sad and missing all my family around the table, but we are such a team here that it's like having your family here with you and you're all in it together."
Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, (1 LANCS), held their own celebrations with cups of tea, festive hats and Christmas jumpers. Commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel Nick Wood addressed the troops to thank them for their hard work on the tour so far, and wished everybody a merry Christmas.
In Lashkar Gah, hundreds of soldiers and spectators gathered in costumes for the Lash Dash, a 5K fun run for charity.
Captain Callum Fraser, 28, a Royal Military Police officer from Helensburgh, Argyll, dressed up as a robot covered in tinsel and glitter, with Christmas crackers glued on to his makeshift outfit. He said: "We're just having a laugh. It's Christmas - time to let your hair down."
Lash Dash organiser Captain Emma Wardall, 25, from Wiltshire, who is with the 4th Regiment Royal Artillery, said: "We thought it would be a good excuse to get out of the office on Christmas morning and into the sunshine. All of the money we've raised will go to the Black Rat brigade charity and the Lashkar Gah orphanage."
At lunchtime, troops made their way into the main dining tent, where turkey and all the trimmings were served, along with mince pies and Christmas pudding. Senior ranking officers maintained Army tradition by serving soldiers their sprouts and carrots. Thousands of balloons, crackers, party poppers and hats were flown in to the areas of operations specially, and more than 130 tonnes of Christmas post was delivered to Camp Bastion this week, to be handed out among bases.
Every soldier serving in Afghanistan received a Christmas lunch or dinner, even those in remote patrol bases, as Army chefs travelled around to serve them freshly-cooked meals.