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Defence and Security Strategy

Vigilance can report TV Presenter and journalist Lorraine Kelly recently joined members of the Royal Marines on a zip wire from Wellington Arch in Central London, to launch the annual Christmas Box campaign for the Armed Forces, run by the charity uk4u Thanks! The campaign saw 22,500 boxes full of festive cheer sent to Servicemen and women right across the world who are working away from their families, and to members of the Armed Forces recuperating in hospital this Christmas.

To launch the boxes – affectionately known as “square stockings” by the Armed Forces – Lorraine Kelly joined members of the Royal Marines Commando Recruiting Troop in performing a zip wire from 80 feet at the top of Wellington Arch down to the ground below. They were greeted at the bottom of the wire by Father Christmas, who gave everyone a 2012 Christmas box painted in the colours of the Diamond Jubilee Medal ribbon. Also present were other members of the Royal Navy, the Army and Royal Air Force who have received a Christmas Box while serving on operations on Christmas Day.

uk4u Thanks! works with the Armed Forces to send the boxes, containing some 20 items, out to locations such as Afghanistan, the Falklands, and ships and submarines across the world for 25 December. They do not use the British Forces Post Office system, so as not to delay parcels from families and friends getting through.

Lorraine Kelly said: “I’m delighted to be showing my support once again for such a worthwhile cause as the Christmas Box appeal, and I had a great time with the Royal Marines on the zip wire today! You can join me in wishing a Happy Christmas to all our Servicemen and women away from their families at this time of year by donating to the charity uk4u Thanks! who’ll send each of them a fantastic box full of goodies.”

Defence Minister Mark François said: “Christmas can be difficult for many of our Servicemen and women who are deployed on operations away from their families when it matters most. We can all therefore show that we are thinking of them by donating to charities such as uk4u Thanks, which delivers a box of Christmas cheer to personnel without putting extra pressure on the supply chain and Forces Mail system.”

Sergeant Bobby Scott from Nottingham, part of the Royal Marines Commando Recruiting Troop who helped Lorraine Kelly zip wire down from Wellington Arch, has served on Operations at Christmas in previous years. He said: “I served over Christmas in Afghanistan in 2008, and received one of the special boxes from uk4u. Being so far away from family and friends at Christmas can be hard, so it’s a great idea for the charity to send everyone a box of treats, ensuring that no-one feels left out.

“You can tell that the charity thinks hard about what goes into the contents of the box, and about the design of the box itself, which is very practical for operations. The stand-out item for me from the box that year was a very good razor, which I used for the rest of the tour and when I returned home!”

Sally Little, uk4u Thanks! trustee said: “At Christmas time, it is really important that those members of the Armed Forces serving overseas or away from their family know that we’re thinking of them. We at uk4u Thanks! are very grateful for the fantastic support we receive from individuals and organisations each year, enabling us to send a box of presents and treats for Christmas Day. From the many messages of thanks we receive from Servicemen and women I know that this really is a worthwhile cause.”

Along with donations from the public, the charity is supported by a number of companies including BAE Systems, Finmeccanica, the Nuffield Trust for the Forces of the Crown, the Westminster Foundation, Marks and Spencer, Sodexo, and Lockheed Martin UK. People wishing to donate to the Christmas Box campaign can do so at www.uk4u.org or by sending a cheque payable to "uk4u Thanks!” to uk4u Thanks!, The Old Granary, East Street, West Chiltington, West Sussex RH20 2JY