DAILY TELEGRAPH UK troops prepare for Christmas in Afghanistan By Tom Coughlan, in Camp Bastion, Helmand Last Updated: 6:47am GMT 24/12/2007 Christmas morning will start early for British soldiers facing the Taliban in the First World War-style trenches that criss-cross southern Afghanistan. About 7am at Garmser, the most southerly British frontline positions in Helmand province, the sandbagged fighting positions are likely to receive their first incoming fire of the day. It is something of a ritual, for at this point the rising sun sits directly behind part of the Taliban lines a few hundred yards of desert away and the Taliban fighters can blaze away while the British gunners squint into the glare. The British troops, a mixture of Royal Military Police, Royal Gurkha Rifles and members of the Household Cavalry, are not expecting any let up for Christmas. "We'll be 'stood to' until they decide to have a go," said Sergeant Kraig Whalley, a 29-year-old Royal Military Policeman from Macclesfield, who will spend much of Christmas Day looking down the barrel of a heavy machinegun. For the Royal Military Police contingent the only concession to the season will be three local chickens, procured for $7 (£3.50) apiece from a helpful Afghan policeman, and served roasted on a spit with tinned potatoes and baked beans. advertisement"We were thinking of challenging the Taliban to a game of football on Christmas Day, but I'm not sure they'd get the joke," said Sgt Whalley. The trench systems around Forward Operating Base Delhi are a place of daily exchanges in static positions, which Sgt Whalley compares to the First World War, and the famous Christmas truce of 1914 in which British and German soldiers laid down their arms to play football. Though he says that morale among the British troops is high, there are regular British casualties and for many of those serving in Helmand thoughts will inevitably turn to the 39 British soldiers who have died in the country this year, and to their families. The last of them was Trooper Jack Sadler, a 21-year-old Territorial Army soldier from the Honourable Artillery Company, killed by a mine on Dec 4. "Jack's death has made me a lot less naive," said Trooper Lorna Kelly, 30. "There are only six of us from HAC in Helmand. To be honest I never thought it would happen to one of us. It has been very hard, though it's nothing compared to his family's suffering." A highly paid investment banker for Credit Suisse in civilian life, Trooper Kelly is one of several soldiers from the City of London-based unit to give up a year of handsomely remunerated work in the Square Mile for training and deployment in Helmand. At the main British base, the sprawling Camp Bastion, tinsel glinted in the desert sun and every effort was being made to put aside thoughts of war. As well as church services in the camp chapel, the Church of St Michael and All Angels, which is really just a tent, there are preparations for a pantomime performance of Aladdin and a Christmas dinner with turkey in relays, at which, by tradition, officers will serve the troops. The camp postal service contains the only people with reservations about a surge in parcels posted by the British public following calls from Army commanders to offer greater public support to British forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yesterday 3,000 bags of mail arrived, many containing boxes simply addressed to "a soldier serving in Afghanistan". There have been enough such parcels to give every one of the 7,200 men and women in theatre two each. "It has exceeded all expectations and it shows people care," said Cpl Dave Arkel, 35, knee deep in parcels in the mailroom. "But it's a lot of pressure on us."