Picture the scene – on board a Royal Navy Sea King, the relentlessly beige Afghan desert zipping by below the aircraft. The ground so close you feel like if you lean out the door you might touch it with your fingertips. It’s so hot inside the metal hulk, your face, legs and arms (and in Cath’s case, her bottom) are on fire and even your knee-caps are sweating. Suddenly it lurches one way then the next and in a flash of light and with a loud pop, the counter-measures are deployed. Are we being shot at? Not yet, but you can never be too careful. The cargo net at the centre of the Sea King strains against the bulk of piled-up bergans, a generator and boxes of vital supplies for the troops on the ground. A small flash of red drifts into my field of vision, then a soupcon of silver. Bobbing around precariously alongside the warry desert-patterned kit is….a fan. A large 70s red and silver office fan. A fan worthy of a good sale on EBay.
A fan which with a lick of paint, would not look out of place in the vintage kitsch department of the Conran shop on Bond street in London.
For now though it’s destined for a campaign-crucial life in a small camp in Nad e Ali. The attentive Quartermaster apparently requisitioned the fashionable office item and had it transported from Camp Bastion all the way out to a remote Patrol Base for his very grateful Commanding Officer. It cramped the style of the Royal Navy pilots and their aircrewmen on the Seaking, and left a proud infantry officer less than impressed at being armed to the teeth… with office supplies – which to add insult to injury provoked jibes from, gasp, RAF officers.
With temperatures tipping 55 degrees in the Patrol Base, we can all rest easy that one Commanding Officer will go into battle with a cool head. And his troops should be feeling the benefit too soon – a further consignment of fans has been ordered so look out for them on your next flight around theatre.