British troops in Afghan war toast wedding with BBQ

29th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

Hundreds of British troops took time off from war on Friday to celebrate the royal wedding with patriotic bunting and flags in one of Afghanistan's most hostile provinces.

Joined by their Afghan and American brothers-in-arms, troops at Camp Tombstone in the southern province of Helmand put out red, white and blue bunting plus flags of Prince William and Kate Middleton to mark the occasion.

They took a rare break from frontline duties to watch the pomp and ceremony from London on a big screen while toasting the marriage with alcohol-free beer and hunks of barbecued steak and chicken.

For some, it was a chance to honour the future king and their country; for others, it was a great excuse to relax and have some fun.

"If you were going to say the politically correct thing, it would be it's a great thing but if you were to say (the) real thing, it's a cracking day off," said Able Seaman Kieran Glynn, a 22-year-old from Edinburgh, Scotland.

The wedding also provided the opportunity for many troops who have spent months away from home to share an experience with families back in Britain.

Army Corporal Christopher Lyons, a 24-year-old from Tidworth, southwest England, said, looking around the tent: "I reckon my wife's house looks a bit like this at the moment -- she'll be going nuts about this."

The event took place in 35-degree (95 degrees Fahrenheit) heat at the camp, attached to the giant Bastion Joint Operating Base, home to some 20,000 troops.

Helmand is one of the most dangerous provinces in Afghanistan and the scene of some of the worst fighting with the Taliban.

Senior Afghan officers, for whom Friday is a holy day, attended the event, some in ceremonial dress, after receiving invites from the British contingent.

For them, it offered an opportunity to experience something of Britain other than its military, which has been fighting in Afghanistan since the 2001 US-led invasion that brought down the Taliban regime.

"We showed up to watch and understand something about another nation's culture," said Lieutenant Colonel Mahbobullah, who like many Afghans uses only one name. "The tradition and design of London looks excellent."

Some cultural nuances were somewhat lost in translation -- a couple of Afghan troops seemed particularly bemused by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams's lavish ceremonial robes.

But Major Jeremy Crossley of 1 Rifles said the event was a great opportunity to build bridges.

"They were delighted when they got their invites," he said.

"It's nice to have something we can invite them (the Afghans) to. They've been asking about it all week, who's getting married. I think they thought they were coming to an actual wedding initially."

© 2011 AFP

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