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MoD: Frontline troops must have silent Xmas crackers

Exploding planes yes, exploding cargo no

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

Friends of the UK forces seeking to send a bit of festive cheer to troops fighting on the front line have almost been thwarted by bureaucracy. Volunteers were forced to defuse 650 Christmas crackers before the British Forces Post Office would accept them, on "safety" grounds.

"Christmas crackers are classified as dangerous air cargo and therefore require special handling," an MoD spokesman told the Telegraph today.

"The troops will just have to go 'bang' themselves when they pull them," said Ian Dalzel-Job of the Scots Guards Association, the organisation sending the seasonal packages out.

"Christmas cracker snaps are forbidden from being transported on RAF planes," the paper added.

That last bit isn't quite true, actually. It is possible to get the RAF to haul loads classified as explosives; especially if they get to drop them on someone at the other end. They will also carry ammo and so on for the army, if the right paperwork is done. The red tape becomes fairly extreme with things that aren't listed in the RAF's official list of exploding things they have decided are safe to fly with, though. This is probably what defeated the Scots Guards Association.

Even so, the MoD's tight-as-a-gnat's-chuff attitude to exploding air cargo contrasts strangely with its curiously laissez-faire attitude to aeroplanes known to sometimes explode on their own.

Your correspondent always found commercial air freight easier to use back in the day. During the early days of the UK involvement in Afghanistan, this would have been a good option for Mr Dalzel-Job. At that point most of the British forces' air cargo into the country went by chartered Russian Antonov planes, as the situation was seen as too dangerous for RAF C-17s. (The RAF didn't have anti-missile countermeasures then. Nor did the Antonovs, to be sure, but the Russians were willing to accept some risk as part of doing business.)

Anyway, Blighty's servicemen and women out in Iraq and Afghanistan just now are probably fairly sick of things going bang. They probably won't mind about all this too much. ®

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