This is an update from a BAFF member who returned recently from Afghanistan via Cyprus, Spain and HMS Albion from Santander to Portsmouth. Following his original report, someone else had asked on the Army Rumour Service: "Were the civilians who were brought back by Albion charged anything or encouraged to make a decent donation to service charities??" Our man replied:
There was a collection for H4H that was started by a group of Scouts. The collection buckets looked pretty healthy. The ship also sold t-shirts and so on to raise money for welfare on board.
I didn't hear any arsey civilians demanding anything; most were incredibly grateful for being rescued. A lot were very happy to be in the company of the returning soldiers and airmen, and full of praise and admiration for same. On more than one occasion I heard parents telling children why the 'brave soldiers should go first' in the food queue, and lots of the civvies were keen to talk to service personnel. The only cretins I saw were the yoof football team who's leaders failed to grip them in any way whatever until prompted to do so by some of the military.
Clearly some people were worried about there onward move, and clearly some were incapable of organising themselves. The ship produced a list of local accom and travel details, and when we docked the Sally Army and St John had teams waiting to deal with the bewildered and stupid.
I don't think anyone could complain about the crew, who were utterly professional. Not because everything was so well organised - separate heads and showers for pax (kept spotless throughout, incidentally) - not because they produced excellent food throughout, but because they were so - not because lots of them gave up their bunks so that families could use them, but because they were tirelessly professional as well as friendly, to everyone on board. The ship is something of a maze, but ask any member of the crew where the heads were and you were immediately taken there - not pointed in the right direction, taken. This wasn't just the people tasked with dealing with pax, this was every member of the crew. They were a credit to the ship and the RN.
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