RAFairman's Blog

An RAF Airman's Blog


Parcels. We all like getting parcels. They give us a buzz, they remind us that people are thinking of us, or are sending us something important.

But when you are deployed to a war zone, when you are thousands of miles from home, they mean even more.

And if they are sent with love, care, thought…then the effect that a simple box filled with some goodies has is immeasurable. And it’s all in the anticipation. It’s all in the having the box in your hands, on your bed in front of you…the morale boosting moment is just before you open it…it’s lovely yo have the stuff inside, but it’s not in having the stuff. It’s not in having treats and goodies sent from home, it’s in the actual box itself.

Someone at home, thought enough of you to go to the effort of choosing and buying some goodies, packing them, taking them to the Post Office and send them out to you. They went to all that effort. The content isn’t what a box is all about…

But I do often get asked what to put in a box.

After all, even if the content isn’t the most important thing, it’s still nice to send something out that will be used and will be useful and will be welcomed.

So IF YOU HAVE A FRIEND AND RELATIVE WHO IS DEPLOYED TO AFGHAN (and only if you know someone out there – I know that some people want to send parcels out to ‘A Soldier’ or ‘A Marine’ but these aren’t really recommended, as they can clog up the system particularly at a busy time of year like Christmas – if you want to help ‘someone’ out there then you can google charities that have deals with the MOD who send welfare parcels out there) what should you put in a parcel to be sent to them?

Well obviously the best person to ask would be that person themselves. Often they might want something in particular, but be unwilling to ask, thinking they are being a bit greedy, but it does well to ask them…you should have their address, so send them an ebluey to say that you are going to send a parcel and ask if they have any requests. It’s also a good idea to ask them what they DON’T want.

But if you want it to be a surprise…if you want that moral boosting moment to be even better, to get something that you weren’t expecting…then the sender should have a look at the archived BFPO WEBSITE at what shouldn’t be sent out, and HERE for the Frequently Asked Questions about sizes and such.

But what generic things are good ideas to put inside?

Well I can only really speak for myself, but I can also say what wasn’t used out there and what always seemed to end up in the Welfare Box of Spares in the Welfare Tent…

Stuff I liked:

Pringles, nuts, crisps, trail mix, dried fruit in pouches (like mango or apricots), flapjacks, cereal bars. These are the basics to put in. Always welcomed. these can be eaten back in base, and can be stuck into the daysack or pouch and carried on patrol. They also make nice ‘gissits’ to give to the local kids – some of the Afghan children’s parents were (rightly) complaining at the amount of chocolate that was being given out.

Super Noodles, Pot Noodles, savoury rice pouches. Good to send out, especially if the recipient is on rations all the time in a forward Check Point. But to have a check to make sure that they aren’t only for cooking in microwaves. There are a distinct lack of microwaves in patrol bases and check points….

Baby wipes, Zip lock bags, a nice shower gel, moistened toilet paper packets. There is no shortage of shower gels, deodorants, razors, shaving gels, tissues…but a really nice small bottle of something smelly to take to the shower is really, really welcomed. A small bottle of a blokey Moulton Brown shower gel would go down really well! And if you are poo-ing into a bag in a CP, then the value of some of that fancy moistened toilet paper can’t be understated!

Maoams, sherbet dips, sherbet fountains, swizzle lollipops. Blocks of jelly jellied sweeties, like the ubiquitous Hariboos melt into one big blob in a bag in the heat of the Afghan summer, but Maoams…they are the future…

Coffee sachets. Not just a couple of Nescafรฉ sachets you swiped for the office canteen – but some of those posh packets that you get in Starbucks, or even nicer, some of those instant cappuccinos that are popular now. Even some fruit teas would be welcomed.

Things not to bother with: (This might sound ungrateful, it’s not meant to be – its just better for your hard earned cash to be spent on something useful and not just shrugged off and chucked in the ‘Welfare Box’.

Shower gels, toothbrushes, toothpastes, deodorants, rolls of tissues. This sort of stuff is either very personal or else will be sent by close family. Don’t bother sending it out, it’ll really, very likely, just get tossed. At one stage I had four bottles of shower gel stocked up. I ended up donating them to the local Afghan interpreters when I left.

Hariboos, chocolate bars, cereal bars with yogurt or chocolate bases. These just melt. Don’t bother. They’ll just go in the bin. Sadly.

Cup-a-soups. Most people just don’t fancy having a soup in the heat of the Afghan summer, they are a good idea to send in the winter, but but don’t bother in the summer.

Like I said, this list isn’t exhaustible. It’s based on my personal preferences, and what I saw always ending up in the Welfare Box or even in the bin. The things not to bother sending isn’t about being ungrateful, even if it sounds it – I just don’t want you to waste your money on something that will be wasted. And please remember only send a box to a named person THAT YOU KNOW…please don’t send unsolicited boxes out there…if you want to help and support the troops there then there are charities that have special links with the MoD that you can donate too. There’s a link from this page on the British Army website.

The items listed are meant as an idea of what to send to someone who is deployed to a Forward Operating Patrol Base or Check Point. If you have any ideas of other stuff to send out then why not leave them as a comment below?

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19 thoughts on “Boxes…

  1. Sally Barber on said:

    Make sure any nuts/cereal bars have no almonds in them as sniffer dogs can mistake them for explosives! I found small bottles of either piri piri or reggee reggee sauce to brighten up ration packs were welcomed and last summer, small blow up paddling pools, beach balls or small outdoor games helped to pass the time when not on duty/patrol.

  2. Helen on said:

    My son loved a big bag of …..pork scratchings!

  3. Kerry maria Lawson on said:

    Alex, Tnx 4ur tip 4haribo, toothpaste etc I’ll get Paddling pools Recently sent my 18th adoptasquaddie ‘son’ his 1st parcel x

  4. boxes of ice poles were always welcome with my outfit.
    they are cheap to buy and once you put them in the freezer a real treat , it was 40/50 degrees I was working in..

    • Martin, I remember getting an IRG run to a new CP we were establishing and after a days sandbagging and Hesco filling the Q-man brought us some ice pops on the IRG. Just one each, but the very best thing.

      I also had a deal with the medic to keep some I’ve pops in her drugs freezer…

  5. My husband always asked for tinned stuff to add to meals, big breakfast and the likes of. He asked for dried and cured meats, salami etc.- all food to ad to ration boxes when in a fob.

    Tinned fruit always went down a winner too.

  6. anne green on said:

    I am going tp put a box out at work and get everyone to put a little something in it….
    do you have a postal address of where to send the box of goodies..x

  7. My husband love the oats so simple pots that you must add water to . And loves a packet of baby wipes in every box

  8. There is a lot of talk on the sniffer dogs picking out anything with almonds in…. because they mistake it for explosives. I do wonder at the validity of this statement, because everything is scanned at BFPO depots before sending on to the RAF to airbridge over.
    I send boxes out via a welfare group of which I am the welfare box co-ord, and to date after 4 Op H, I have only ever had 4 boxes returned.. The ones with christmas cake, sugared almonds and cherry bakewells went through. The boxes returned had pump action anti-bac, hand lotion, hair conditioner in … requested by my squaddette, the only reason that I can think, is the scanner picked it up mistakenly as aerosols without the cover and nothing contained almonds! I re-wrapped the box and sent it out again… It was delivered.

  9. patricia on said:

    does anyone have an address for service penpals please, thanks very much xxx

    • Kathryne on said:

      Do you mean to send boxes and letters to? Try http://www.adoptasquaddie.co.uk/ who will match you up with named service personnel. Don’t forget, they don’t always have the time to reply (mine are working crazy hour shifts and their off time is purely to Zzzz) but the joy is in the sending and the very occasional bluey you might just get back ๐Ÿ˜‰

  10. dontcallmebetty on said:

    I’ve copied all that and printed it off, as I’ll be “box” shopping today.
    Thanks for the tips, and the biggest thank you for serving our country Hero ๐Ÿ™‚ x

  11. Kirstean on said:

    Had a friend who sold his soul for packets of olives and curry pot noodles! ๐Ÿ˜€ I also send Dioralyte sachets to stave off heat and sun stroke.

  12. dontcallmebetty on said:

    Hi Hero, I’ve copied and printed all of that as I’ll be box shopping today for a soldier. It helps to know what’s getting used and what isn’t.

    A big thank you to you and all of your colleages for keeping us safe and serving our Country ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. Thanks for your tips, The bloke that I sent boxes to was to polite to ask for anything so l sent lots of sweets at first then basically anything individually wrapped biscuits, cakes, sweets. powdered drinks. packets of Jelly, in the winter you add hot water, in the summer cold.

  14. Nicky on said:

    When my friend was on tour I would send the usual wet wipes, tictacs, things he had requested etc but in every box I would also put one of those random Lego men bags inside. It would give him something make and keep hold of.

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