Unbelievable, yes, but true:
They are flying the flag for Britain in one of Iraq’s most dangerous hot spots – escorting generals and VIPs along the perilous route from Baghdad airport to the heavily fortified Green Zone in the city centre.
So, with Christmas just around the corner, soldiers from the Royal Irish Regiment wrote to five leading stores back home and asked for some stocking-fillers to give the troops next weekend.
But not only were they dismayed to get nothing more than a solitary teddy bear from Harrods, they have been told by Marks & Spencer that it cannot give them any gifts in case it is seen as support for the war.
James Norrie, the M&S customer services manager wrote: “We do appreciate that work like yours is very valuable but unfortunately it is simply not possible for us to support every request. Please be assured that community work is very important to us.”
But when contacted by the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Norrie insisted that the request had been properly considered, adding: “The letter I sent was what I had been instructed to send by my supervisor, who said we couldn’t send anything out as it would look like we would be supporting the war in Iraq. To my understanding, we can’t be seen to be supporting the Labour Government’s war.”
The response from Fortnum & Mason also vexed the troops. The Piccadilly emporium wrote: “As you will appreciate, there are thousands of registered charities in England and Wales, many of whom at some point or other write to us requesting our support. We cannot unfortunately respond favourably to every action.”
John Lewis and Harvey Nichols have yet to reply, even though the requests were sent in mid-November.
The 70-strong Royal Irish contingent is currently the only British Army unit serving in Baghdad. A source said: “Baghdad is a tough assignment so we wrote to the firms hoping that we’d get some high-class figgy puddings, mince pies, brandy butter and so on, just to make Christmas a bit special this year. In the letter, we said how much we enjoyed each firm’s products during Christmas back home, and that if they wanted to send anything postage would be free through British Forces Mail for parcels under two kilos.
Outraged? Here’s the contact info to send these companies a note to express what you think about this:
(Cross-posted at Blogs For Bush)