British Army, Royal Navy and RAF personnel around the world and their families have been thanked for their service and support in Christmas messages from the heads of the Armed Forces.
The nation has been asked to spare a thought for the thousands of serving members of the military on deployment overseas, many of whom will be away from their families during the festive season, as the heads of the services expressed their gratitude and thanks.
Theresa May added to the praise and wished a Happy Christmas to all Britain’s armed forces overseas as she opened Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons on Wednesday morning.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson paid a seasonal visit to members of the Household Cavalry who will be working over the festive period.
During a visit to Horse Guards Parade, Mr Williamson praised the commitment of the military personnel who will be carrying out their duties to keep the nation safe over Christmas.
Families of serving personnel have also been thanked for their part in supporting the military and told that, without them, our armed forces would not be able to serve with the same degree of confidence with which they carry out their duties throughout the world.
The words of thanks come at a time when many personnel overseas are sending their own heartfelt messages to families back home as they prepare to spend the festive season serving their country away from loved ones.
The military chiefs all gave their thanks and gratitude to their servicemen and servicewomen at home and around the world for all their efforts in serving their country.
General Sir Nick Carter, Chief of the General Staff of the British Army, told Forces Network that 2017 had been a very busy year for the Army both at home and overseas, saying that at any one day, there had been about 25,000 soldiers either committed to operations or ready to standby on operations.
Sir Nick said: “We’ve taken on some new commitments this year. We’ve got the battlegroup that’s deployed in Estonia at the moment, some 800 soldiers with a number of our more important allies.
"The French and the Danes now are going to be working with us there and we’ve had a hundred or so soldiers deployed on a similar mission in Poland and then we’ve been very busy with the UN in South Sudan - I’m sure people will have seen the television programme on that.
“We’ve had people in Afghanistan and Iraq, a huge number of training teams, over 200 deployed in Africa and the Middle East and then of course, nearer home, we’ve had people committed to being at readiness in the event of another terrorist incident.
“I think the characterisation I would say of the world at the moment is, the defining condition seems to be, instability, so for the British Army there’s always going to be an awful lot to do but we recruit people that want to do stuff, so that, in a sense is hugely rewarding.”
As the world heads into the festive season, Sir Nick said: “We will have about 3,000 soldiers deployed overseas and on operations, so I think spare a thought for them.
“Spare a thought for the families who perhaps aren’t able to be with them.
“A particular thank you to our families for all the support they’ve provided during the course of 2017 and I know will do in 2018.
“Without our families, frankly, the system wouldn’t work and our soldiers wouldn’t be able to do what they do with the confidence that they do it.
“So a huge sense of gratitude and I very much hope that most people will be able to put their feet up and enjoy the festive period with families when they’re together, and thank you for everything you do.”
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, Chief of the Air Staff, added his own message to members of the service, saying: “To those of the Royal Air Force across the whole force of our capabilities who are spending Christmas away from their families and their loved ones, I would just like to say thank you for your fantastic commitment.
“The job that you are doing on an hour by hour basis on operations is vital to our success.
“It continues 24/7 so thank you very much indeed for those efforts.
“I am acutely conscious though that you’ll be missing home and your families will be missing you.
“They will be reassured I hope to a degree of the importance of the job that you are doing, but you, like them, will be looking forward to a safe and speedy return home when the time comes.
“But for now, I’d simply like to say thank you again and a very Merry Christmas.”
Admiral Sir Phillip Jones, First Sea Lord, added to the messages for Armed Forces personnel in time for Christmas, saying: “It’s very important that we keep them in our thoughts and our prayers and our minds at all times.
“The Royal Navy is a 365 day a year operation and I have experienced that myself in my earlier sea going career, a number of Christmases spent away at sea away, away serving the UK’s interests and that will be equally so this year.
“Perhaps particularly my thoughts focus on the crew of one of our deterrent submarines lurking somewhere below the waters of the Atlantic pursuing the role they fill every day of every month of every year for the last 49 years.
“And I’m keenly aware that it’s not just the impact on the ships companies themselves.
“It’s their families and their loved ones who will feel the separation from them at Christmas.
“So they will be especially in my heart as they go about their duties and as they fulfil their commitment to the Navy and to the Nation this Christmas.”
Our Armed Forces make the sacrifice of serving away from family every Christmas and throughout the year.
Serving personnel on active operations around the world, including Estonia, Afghanistan and South Sudan, and personnel serving in Brunei, Germany, Canada, Cyprus, Gibraltar, Bahrain, Falkland Islands, the Gulf, Nigeria and Somalia, have been sending personal messages back home to their families to Forces Network as their service to the country separates them from their loved ones at this special time of year.
The Ministry of Defence has said that, overall, there are also more than 5,000 armed forces personnel overseas, with UK troops involved in 25 operations in 30 countries.
This includes 1,000 troops working to combat the so-called Islamic State in the Middle East by training local security forces, and, since 1969, British submariners have been on permanent patrol providing the UK's nuclear deterrent.