Free Post for Christmas, Kent on Sunday

Support from the grass roots!

MP calls for free Christmas parcel post for Armed Forces

MP Roger Gale
Christmas parcel post should be free for members of the Armed Forces on active service, according a leading backbench MP.

Thanet North Tory MP, Roger Gale, made his call in written Parliamentary Question to the Defence Minister.

He asks the Government to make Christmas parcel post free of charge to the families of "all Army, Navy and RAF personnel serving in British Forces Post Office areas covering war zones and adjoining areas on active service".

Mr Gale a member of the Parliament and Armed Forces Scheme, said: "We know that all of our Armed Forces, and particularly the Army, are faced with growing numbers of men and women who wish to leave the service.

“We know that our troops are faced with overstretch as a result of our commitments not only in Iraq and Afghanistan but in other locations around the globe.

“We know that issues such as service taxation, the right to vote and, most particularly, leave time with families, have proved corrosive.

“Christmas is an emotive time for those facing danger far from home.

“I feel that the very least that a grateful nation can do - and I appreciate that there is a not inconsiderable cost involved - is to say, immediately, that Christmas parcel post will be free so that gifts from families at home to those in the hotspots can be sent now, without cost, and delivered in time for Christmas.

“We have it in our power to say a simple ‘thank you’ and we should do so."
From DefenceNet:

Free Christmas Parcels for Service Families

Service families are being urged to take advantage of a free parcels service this Christmas.

The festive season is traditionally a time for families to come together and celebrate. But for many of the UK’s armed forces, Christmas will be spent on the front line of military operations. That is why the MOD is funding the service which will allow families and friends to send gifts and parcels to their loved ones – and it won’t cost them a penny.
A free mail Service (part of the Operational Welfare Package (OWP)) has been authorised to operate from Friday 10 Nov 2006 to close of play 8 December 2006. Unfortunately, mail will not be accepted before or after these dates. The Maximum weight limit for this service is 2 kg and the service is one way only - UK to a theatre BFPO or HM Ship.

Defence Secretary Des Browne said:

"Being separated from friends and family is always difficult for those serving our country abroad on operations, especially at Christmas. I am delighted that our free packet service for Christmas, which is part of our Operational Welfare Package, will once again help our service men and women and their friends and families to keep in contact."

Service men and women on operations will also receive an extra 30 minute phone call to anywhere in the world over the Christmas and New Year period. This is in addition to their weekly 30 minute phone call.

Friends and family in the UK can also use the popular E-Bluey system to write a letter to their loved one from the comfort of their own home computer, including a photo if they want to, and send it electronically. It normally takes 24 hours to be delivered, with each letter printed confidentially and delivered to the individual in their unit. This is a popular way to keep in touch, with around 7,450 E-Blueys printed in Afghanistan each week.

Brigadier Mike Hickson, Chief Executive of the British Forces Post Office, spoke of the task of getting all Christmas post to the Forces overseas:

"We expect to dispatch between 6-8 tons of post a day to the Gulf and Afghanistan during the free post period, to allow us to get everyone's presents to them in time for Christmas; I would stress that this Free Service is only for family and friends sending packets to named individuals, not for commercial or other organisations."

The following operational locations are authorised to receive the Free Mail Service:

Op TELIC Iraq, Bahrain, Qatar & Oman 632, 635, 639, 641, 643, 645, 647, 661, 657, 684, 686 & 767

Op HERRICK Afghanistan (Lashkar Gar) (FOB Price) (Kabul) (HQ ISAF) (Kandahar)(Camp Bastion)
715, 755, 758, 764, 772 & 792

Op TOSCA Cyprus 567

Op OCULUS Bosnia 543 & 553
Kosovo 555 & 559

Falkland Island South Atlantic 655, 492 & 494

Ascension Island South Atlantic 677

Diego Garcia Indian Ocean 485

HMS Blyth 221
HMS Dumbarton Castle 274
HMS Echo 275
HMS Enterprise 276
HMS Edinburgh 277
HMS Endurance 279
HMS Gloucester 289
HMS Lancaster 323
HMS Ramsey 368
HMS Scott 381
HMS Sutherland 398
RFA Oakleaf 445
RFA Wave Ruler 431
RFA Bayleaf 434
RFA Gold Rover 443

Relatives and friends in the UK and at British Forces Post Office (BFPO) addresses worldwide may send packets. Packets from commercial firms and those from support groups will not be accepted; this service is intended specifically for friends and relatives to send items to people on operational deployments over Christmas. For this reason, packets must be addressed to a named person using the appropriate BFPO number. The service does not cater for packets to be sent out from an operational theatre. There is no limit on the number of packets that a person may send.

The MOD will again be working with the specially formed charity uk4you thanks! to ensure that everyone who is operationally deployed on 25th December receives a surprise Christmas Box. Organisations and individuals who feel they would like to contribute to the Christmas cheer for personnel deployed abroad on operations can contribute through their website.

There's also a Freepost parcel service for Service personnel admitted to RCDM, JSMRU Headley Court and MDHUs. It does not apply to hospitals served by BFPO (except any listed above) i.e. NI, Cyprus, Gib and BFG.
The hospital Freepost concession is a new one. I'll post the reference to it (and the new hospital welfare package) tomorrow).

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