| 31 December 2013
As the clocks toll midnight this evening, some members of the Armed Forces will have already celebrated the start of 2014. For many of those serving, New Years Day is like any other day on operations, whether mentoring the Afghan National Army in Afghanistan, on ship in the Indian Ocean, or in the United Kingdom providing 24-hour search and rescue service.
Around 12,000 UK Armed Forces personnel will be deployed on land, air and sea operations across the world as we enter the New Year in locations including Afghanistan, the Middle East, Bosnia, Djibouti, Somalia, Libya, Cyprus, Sudan, Mali and the Congo, and in standing national commitments to the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Cyprus and Diego Garcia.
The first personnel to see in the New Year at 1600 GMT (31 Dec) are those on board HMS Daring, the first of the British Royal Navy’s six £1bn Type 45s, currently in Singapore. The ship was taking part in an international exercise when she was re-tasked to the Philippines to deliver aid after Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines on 7 November 2013.
HMS Daring searched 32,200 square nautical miles and visited 50 islands over the 11 days she spent in the Philippines. With aid supplied by the Department for International Development (DfID), the ship provided villagers with 500 family shelter kits; 500 hygiene kits; 500 food baskets which can feed a family of four for a week; over 7.5 tonnes of water (in water containers of between 4 and 10 litres); 223 kitchen sets; and repaired school roofs, generators and boat engines. Specialist sailors also built a desalination plant for a local well and gave medical aid with the assistance of an embarked team of 14 medics from the UK.
From tropical waters to the sands of Afghanistan, personnel from all three Services will be celebrating New Year at 1930 GMT (31 Dec). For most, New Years Day will be like any other, particularly for The Royal Air Force’s famous "Dambusters", 617 Squadron, who are providing armed overwatch and vital aerial reconnaissance for Afghan-led ground forces. It is the last operational tour for 617 Squadron as a Tornado GR4 unit; as the squadron will disband in 2014 and reform in 2016 to fly the RAF’s new Lightning II aircraft. Elsewhere in the country, UK Armed Forces across Afghanistan continue to build up the capability of their Afghan colleagues through vital mentoring and training, which has allowed the Afghans to take the lead on their national security since 18 June 2013.
And it’s not just Service personnel overseas who will be working on New Years Day. Royal Navy and Royal Air Force Search and Rescue crews will continue to provide a 24-hour search and rescue service covering the entire of the UK and waters within the UK search and rescue region, putting their own lives at risk in order to save others during challenging rescues often in appalling weather conditions.