Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Friday 7 December 2007

Send a Parcel to our Boys/Girls in Iraq & Afghanistan

IMPORTANT - Please see update at end

Surprise Supplies is a scheme which aims to send parcels to every single member of the Armed Forces currently serving in operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. A lot of them receive little in the way of support parcels from home and they really do make all the difference. We are all aware of the disagreeable circumstances these soldiers are working in and this is a small way of our acknowledging what they do on our behalf.

The scheme is very simple and all you need to do is to put together a small parcel containing a few goodies and then send it in the post addressed to one of the addresses below. It will mean such a lot to these wonderful men and women serving so far away from home to know that people are thinking about them and that we value and appreciate the sacrifices that they are making.

It would make even more of a difference if you could organise for a group of people (your friends, colleagues or staff for example) to put together as many parcels as you can. Please forward this blogpost to all your friends and family and ask them to do the same. There are over 14,000 servicemen and women serving overseas in Afghanistan and the Middle East so the more parcels that we can send out the better.

How does it work?

All you need to do is to put together a parcel (or parcels) containing a few ‘goodies’ with a value of not more than £10, address the package to one of the addresses at the end of this post and then take it to the post office/put it in the post.

Royal Mail will deliver the parcel free of charge to the British Forces Posting Office who will then ship it on to the relevant BFPO number.

Padded jiffy bags and old shoe boxes are the best for packing things in but any kind of old cardboard box or packet will do. Use tissue paper, newspaper, bubble wrap and anything light to stuff the package and stop things rolling around.

Postage is only free of charge if the parcel weighs less than 2kg and they are very strict about this so we recommend that you weigh your parcels before taking them to the post office.

There are lots of women serving out there too so although the mailing labels says ‘a Serviceman’ if you would like to put a parcel together for a woman please just amend the label accordingly and it will be given to a female.

What do I put inside?

One of the main elements of this scheme is to provide a bit of variety. Therefore if you can, use your imagination to the full and think of a cross between Christmas stockings and tuck boxes and you will be on the right track. It is very hot in Afghanistan so please do not send things that melt such as chocolate. Alcohol (and pornography!) are forbidden but this still leaves plenty of goodies such as:

Biscuits, cake - homemade wonderful but bought wonderful too – but think long life like fruitcake, gingerbread or malt loaf. Anything in a tube, vacuum pack or tin to perk up their rather basic rations is great - toffee sauce, (M&S does a good range of savoury and sweet sauces in tubes) condensed milk, salsa dip and cheese straws, cream cheese, fish paste, chutneys, chorizo sausage, dried fruit and nuts, mint imperials, chewing gum and everyone loves Jelly Babies.

Soduko books and magazines – Nuts, Zoo and FHM we are reliably informed are the most popular but also the Week for current affairs and any kind of magazine will be very welcome, the more varied the better as there is lots of time for reading and magazines get swapped and shared around.

Candles (for illumination, not scent), lip salve, moisturiser, medicated talc, deodorant, toothpaste and cotton socks (M&S do a great range of cotton socks that are v. popular – black and olive green are good colours). They also have to drink vast quantities of water so any powder flavourings in a package like Berocca, Vitamin C sachets etc. would be both light and immensely appreciated. Finally old fashioned pick ‘n mix sweets are particularly recommended but please keep the contents within £10 for the sake of equality.

Who will get my parcel?

Your parcel is being sent to one of two addresses in either Iraq or Afghanistan. From there they will be distributed throughout theatre. You won’t know who has received your parcel but you can be sure that a deserving soldier will be very grateful. Please do write an encouraging message inside your card for your soldier but please sign with your Christian name only and do not give your address as we do not want the soldiers to feel obliged to write thank you letters.

What is Surprise Supplies?

Surprise Supplies came about because of an idea Lexi Douglas had whilst her son was serving in Afghanistan in 2007. She regularly sent him parcels stuffed full of cakes and other nice things and when Charlie wrote home he said how appreciated they were but that not all of the boys received parcels from home so he would share his out with them. Lexi told her friends and they volunteered to send parcels and the idea grew from there. You can read more about it HERE

Send your parcels to:

(For parcels to AFGHANISTAN)
A British Soldier
c/o Capt. S Beattie MBE
HQ Task Force Helmand
Lashkar Gah
BFPO 715


(For parcels to IRAQ)
A British Soldier
c/o JI Branch
Op Telic
BFPO 641

PS/ I sent off a parcel to each of the addresses today and now that I have assembled the 'goodies' for each, I know roughly what to buy for the other packages I plan to send over the next couple of days (I plan to send 4 more packages to each of the addresses, so that I will have sent 10 packages in all by the time I have finished). Each package with the contents below weighs just under 1 kilo (about 2lb) and the contents cost just a little more than the £10- suggested in the rules, but not so much more that I can be said to have completely ignored the suggested maximum; the contents listed below cost £12.45 for each parcel, with the cost of the 'Jiffy' bag, the Christmas card and the decorative bows and sticky 'Greetings' labels being minor extras. Each parcel I have sent/will send comprises (this is just my idea, you can vary it to suit your own tastes):

- Padded envelope ('Jiffy' size 3);
- Christmas card with a personal message inside, signed with forename only;
- a couple of small decorative bows (the kind you stick on presents); the package should be fun and colourful as well as useful;
- a small SuDoKu puzzle book (gift-wrapped: everyone needs to be able to unwrap at least one present, whether you're a child or an adult);
- small bag of 'Liquorice Allsorts';
- packet of almonds and raisins;
- tube of high-strength vitamin C 'fizzy' tablets (nice to drink and good for you);
- small tube of Lip salve;
- small bottle hand-cleansing gel (does not require water)(*);
- small tube of intensive hand cream (*) - you could instead send a small tube of foot cream.

(*) I got small 'travel' packs in the travel accessories section of my local Tesco superstore. I bought everything except the SuDoKu books in Tesco, the SuDoKu books came from Borders. No doubt other supermarket chains have the same or similar items.

If you can afford to send even one parcel it will I'm sure cheer up the brave soldier (male or female) who receives it. Please give as generously as you feel able.

PPS/ I have marked/will mark all my 'Jiffy' envelopes with the following: "Suitable for a male or a female soldier".

PPPS/ Most of this blog post is reproduced verbatim from here; I do not otherwise link to this blog because I have a personal disagreement with the writer, but I am happy on this occasion to link to and to acknowledge the source.

Note: The first link above is to a page on the Telegraph newspaper website, but for the past few days this seems to be completely unavailable (perhaps it is a DoS or simple excess activity over the festive period), so here is a .PDF link to the original source, with the main website address here.

Important UPDATE - the period for sending out parcels for Christmas to troops in Iraq and Afghanistand has now ended (on 7DEC07). I have myself had difficulty in desptaching the parcels I prepared as I have been told that the whole basis of this scheme was unworkable, because MOD regulations specify that parcels may be sent only to named soldiers. This is just a big a disappointment to me as anyone else, specially as I am now left with the contents of 10 parcels to make use of, probably by handing them to the Salvation Army or other similar charity.

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