In Royal Navy households this Christmas there will be empty seats for brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, mums and dads who are serving at sea.
Part of service life for sailors across the Portsmouth area means being deployed on operations over the holidays, and this year is no exception.
Around 2,400 Royal Navy sailors and Royal Marines will be on duty around the world tomorrow – while their families tuck in to a turkey dinner.
The Royal Navy has six Portsmouth-based ships away at sea over Christmas – HMS Dragon, Kent, Severn, Atherstone, Quorn and Clyde.
But months of planning has taken place to ensure those on board do not miss out on the festivities.
HMS Kent will spend Christmas in the Middle East this year.
However, a delivery of 180 bags of mail last week is keeping spirits high. The mail drop involved every member of the ship’s company, who helped to unload parcels and letters before sorting and distributing the post to the various mess decks, where the sailors live.
The whole operation took over two hours but the crew’s smiles proved just how much of a morale boost it is to receive something special from home.
The delivery also included something extra special – a gift for each member of the crew from the British public, who sent welfare boxes through the Support our Soldiers Scheme, which gives presents to sailors, soldiers and airmen serving on operations over Christmas.
Leading Writer Lynsey Haye said: ‘We were lucky enough to receive mail yesterday as we were carrying out operations in the Gulf.
‘On behalf of the ship’s company of HMS Kent, I would like to say a huge thanks to all those that took the time to put together a welfare box for Support our Soldiers.
‘Receiving these kind gifts raised the morale of each and every member of HMS Kent’s ship’s company and we cannot be more grateful.
‘It is amazing that members of the public think about their sailors, soldiers and airmen who are deployed over Christmas.
‘It really does help to make this time away from family and friends that little bit easier.’
Today 10 Royal Navy sailors have sent us their Christmas messages to their loved ones at home, which are published in the video with this story.