AFTER 34 years in the Army I have had many less ...
AFTER 34 years in the Army I have had many less than conventional Christmases, including one Christmas lunch consisting of spaghetti Bolognese having just moved to a new house in Germany on Christmas Eve.
Christmas 2015 in Sierra Leone during our operation to combat Ebola sticks in my mind. Given the nature of that crisis there wasn’t too much time for Christmas celebrations, but we did try to give our soldiers a little respite with some festive food and a little time off.
In the run-up to Christmas, we were still building Ebola treatment centres and organising the safe burial of victims, as well as trying to identify sick people and to stop the spread of that deadly disease.
On Christmas Eve, I was flying round our outpost locations with Christmas mail and small festive parcels from home, helped with mince pies and cakes which arrived at a steady pace — mostly crushed, but it was the thought that counted.
That night, I led a midnight open air carol service. The event was pretty bizarre — outdoors, 32 degrees centigrade and incredibly humid, singing Silent Night, While Shepherds, etc, and about 200 of us singing lustily, if not tunefully. Importantly, it brought a little bit of home to West Africa for a short time.
Christmas Day saw the troops get a lie in and their only day off and, of course, a turkey Christmas dinner, served by the officers. My day was spent on duty — the privilege of command. Truth be told, I enjoyed being the only person in the ops room for the day and it was a long time since I’d been duty officer.
Cumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Peter McCall