VETERANS in Abingdon are dipping into their pensions to parcel up provisions for bomb disposal experts fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Members of the Friday Club, who meet at the town’s Royal British Legion , have sent more than 280 parcels to troops from 11 EOD Regiment’s Vauxhall Barracks in Didcot. The group has been sending parcels to the bomb disposal experts, known as ‘the real Hurt Locker’, since July 2010.
The seven friends, mainly ex-servicemen, send everyday items including toiletries, snack bars, sweets, Marmite and magazines in two parcels every week.
In return, they have had letters from soldiers, with some even popping into the legion to thank the group in person.
One of those soldiers was Warrant Officer Class 2 Adrian Myatt, who returned from Afghanistan and presented them with a shell case , which was engraved with a message of thanks.
Father-of-one Bob Griffiths, 76, from Culham, said the Friday Club started meeting for social occasions about eight years ago.
He was in the Royal Navy for 27 years until he retired as a warrant officer in 1982, and said: “We have been sending out parcels for the past three years – at first we sent them to the Royal Marines in Camp Bastion but when that arrangement finished we decided to support a local base.
“Dalton Barracks already had their own arrangement, so we contacted staff at Vauxhall Barracks and they said they would appreciate our support.
“The soldiers at 11 EOD Regiment are incredibly brave and do one of the most dangerous jobs.
“Some of the toiletries we send are used for packs that go to soldiers in hospital when they have been injured, and some soldiers use the sweets we send to hand out to children when they’re out on patrol.”
Last month the Friday Club sent parcels to Lance Corporal Claire Edwards, 34, and Sergeant David Acarnley, 30.
They now have the names of two soldiers flying out this month so they can send them parcels – Corporal Sebastian Aprea, 27, and Lance Corporal Kevin Lacey, 29.
The friends send parcels out 11 months of the year, only stopping at Christmas to allow the soldiers’ personal parcels to get through.
The group members are not funded by donations to the RBL. Instead they buy the items themselves and post the parcels at the Post Office. Mr Griffiths said the goods in each parcel were worth about £20.
If the parcels do not weigh more than two kilograms, they can be posted free of charge to Camp Bastion, he added. The group chooses which soldiers should receive the parcels after liaising with the regiment.
Capt Jayne Reynolds, adjutant at the base, said: “Because there are only a small number of troops involved, the number of parcels being sent doesn’t overload the system.
“We are proud of our links with the local community and feel very humbled by this group’s generosity.
“They are putting their hands in their own pockets to say thank you to the troops who really appreciate what they are doing.”