Jesus was born to a laughing crowd in Afghanistan’s Camp Shorabak, Mary had a five o’clock shadow and the donkey was short a couple of legs! The Irish Guards are not known as amateur thespians but made do and, in festive spirit, adapted the Christmas story into military idiom.
Hark the Helmand Angels: Irish Guards stage Nativity
In the absence of any primary school children in the Afghan National Army base they call home, the Irish Guards hammed up their weekly Church Parade, with Officers and Guardsmen playing all the major parts of the Nativity with an added counter-insurgent theme.
The Padre, Captain Alexander Battey, adapted the play, more commonly seen performed by soldiers’ children than the troops themselves, to include intelligence briefs, roadside bomb detection, Shepherd callsigns, patrol skills, and Wise Men following the “ISTAR” – that’s Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance - while watched over by the Almighty.
Keeping some traditions, the hilarious play retained favourite carols, albeit sung by dusty voices on a cold Helmand morning. And in true primary school style, the light hearted play brought out many individually-designed costumes, with unexpected professionalism tempered by more enthusiasm than skill, as well as bellyaching overacting.
Mary - more hair on his chest than on top'Humorous break'
The production was kept a secret by the ‘actors’ until curtain-up, and the opening narration had a few wry smiles when it announced in pure military Jargon: “Intelligence Brief: 1 BC, The Roman Army is conducting an ongoing counterinsurgency campaign in Judea in support of local forces and the undemocratically non-elected government, headed by Herod. In a town called Nazareth here live two Local Nationals, a young woman called Mary and a Judean male of fighting age known locally as Joseph. Mary is expecting a baby.”
A teenage Mary was played by a Company Quartermaster with more hair on his chest than on top and it was downhill from there. An almighty cheer went up upon the birth, assisted by the Innkeeper who, in his real job as the Battalion Doctor. Baby Jesus was Paddy McBear, the Irish Guard’s Welfare Mascot who travels around Helmand posing for photos with the dads in the Irish Guards and writes letters back to their children in the Home Front.
Lieutenant Jonathan Boardman, who played the Imperial Roman Messenger, said: “The play was a humorous break for the Irish Guards and members of the other units attached to us, from our usual work training up the Afghan National Army. We spend most of our time taking our jobs extremely seriously so a bit of light relief was very welcome. ...
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