Leave valuables at home, soldiers warned

Military personnel have been warned not to post anything of value to comfort them overseas after a shipment of treasured photographs and mementos were ransacked while en route to East Anglian soldiers in Afghanistan.

Military personnel have been warned not to post anything of value to comfort them overseas after a shipment of treasured photographs and mementos were ransacked while en route to East Anglian soldiers in Afghanistan.

The Ministry of Defence has said it cannot accept liability after a container destined for the Royal Anglian Regiment in the Helmand province was broken in to and stripped of expensive items.

As reported on Monday, the comfort boxes were filled by soldiers from Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex ahead of their deployment and contained reminders of home, as well as extra toiletries, sweets, and items such as computer games, DVDs and iPods for when they are off duty.

An MoD spokesman last night said it had not ascertained where the theft had occurred, or the number and worth of the items taken, but advised all servicemen to take out insurance before their box leaves the UK.

"This is an extremely unfortunate situation and one which the MoD takes very seriously," she said.

"We can confirm that the Royal Military Police in Afghanistan are investigating a number of complaints from personnel in the Royal Anglian Regiment that items are missing from their comfort box.

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"Military personnel are advised not to send expensive items in comfort boxes, as the MoD cannot accept liability for loss, damage or theft of them.

"However, all troops are strongly advised prior to deployment to take out insurance for their personal possessions, and personnel can claim a total of £83 to cover the cost of insuring those items."

Avril Randell, of Coltishall, who has several friends in the regiment and is contact with many soldiers' wives, was outraged by the MoD's response and accused them of ducking out of the issue.

"This is the MoD weaselling out of their responsibilities and attempting to avoid the fact that they have been totally incompetent in shipping these boxes.

"It is also avoiding the security implications."

She said one soldier's wife had forked out almost £400 to replace goods in her husband's comfort box, not including the "expensive" postage.

All troops are entitled to carry 55kg of personal kit with them when travelling by aircraft, plus 3kg of hand luggage, excluding body armour and helmet.

The optional, additional comfort box can be used for extra personal items and is transported by civilian sea freight to Pakistan before being transported over land by civilian contractor.