Lonely Afghan soldier wants to hear from girls

A lonely-hearted Norfolk paratrooper who will be spending Christmas in Afghanistan is appealing for local girls to write.

Arron Richardson, 26, has been at Camp Bastion with 3 Para since October and his father Melvyn says he and his friends would dearly love to hear from girls back home.

'It would really boost their morale,' said Mr Richardson, from Church Street, Cromer. 'When they heard they wouldn't be coming home for Christmas, they got a bit down.

'Arron is desperate for a girl to write. He said to me: 'The only letters I get are from my grandma. I want a girlfriend.''

And, as an added incentive to would-be female penpals, Pte Richardson comes with a glowing character report from his dad, who describes him as caring, respectful, good at sharing, someone who would do anything for anybody - plus he's an award-winning chef.

Messages from girls were sometimes tucked into welfare parcels sent to the troops but by the time the packages found their way to Pte Richardson and his friends, the letters had already been snapped up, according to Mr Richardson, 67.

He and his wife Linda, 53, well-known former restaurateurs in Cromer and Sheringham, are not expecting to hear from their son on Christmas Day. Mr Richardson said: 'He'll be working - he told us that the Taliban don't stop for Christmas. He said he wouldn't ring so that he's not blocking a phone which one of the married soldiers might be waiting to use.'

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Pte Richardson, who went to Mundesley Junior School and North Walsham High School, trained as a chef at City College, Norwich, and joined the army two years ago after a successful career in some of the region's most prestigious kitchens, including the Hoste Arms, at Burnham Market, and The Swan, in Southwold.

He joined the army two years ago and took silver in a cooking contest against top chefs from the RAF and navy. 'They didn't award gold,' said Mr Richardson. 'Arron would have got it but he lost marks for licking the spoon when he was tasting something!'

Pte Richardson was also a regular chef at Cromer and Sheringham's Stanley's restaurants, run by his parents until 2001.

They now divide their time between a home in Cromer and their olive farm in Mazarron, near Alicante, Spain. Pte Richardson has one sibling, older brother Jadie, 28, who works in Spain.

Mr Richardson said his son was working in the stores in Camp Bastion but had been to the frontline making deliveries, and on patrol: 'We worry about him all the time,' he said. Arron was allowed a weekly 30-minute phone call home. 'If he doesn't phone once a week, I worry, because we can't contact him.'

His parents are looking forward to welcoming him home to Cromer for a fortnight's rest and relaxation break in mid-January before he heads back to Afghanistan until April.

Anyone who would like to write to Pte Richardson and his friends should send letters to:

Pte Arron James Richardson, 30090541, 3 Para B Coy stores, Camp Bastion, BFPO 792.