SCORES of military families in the area will face Christmas Day without their loved ones this year who are serving overseas.
There will be empty seats for mums, dads, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters who are deployed with the Royal Navy, British Army of Royal Air Force.
Part of service life for military personnel across Portsmouth means being deployed on operations over the holidays and this year is no exception.
Crews from five Royal Navy vessels from the city are on missions overseas, with a further five ships on call here in the UK.
All in all more than 4,000 sailors and Royal Marines will be deployed across the globe, with 1,540 men and women deployed from the sands of the Gulf to the depths of the Atlantic, helping to safeguard the UK’s economic interests.
A further 2,485 are being held at immediate readiness for any defence or civil task that may emerge over the festive period.
Among those serving overseas at Christmas is Able Seaman Marcus Brame, 25. He is part of the crew of Portsmouth-based minehunter HMS Middleton which is based in the Gulf.
In a message home, the young dad said: ‘I’ve had an amazing deployment so far but will be missing my little boy and my family over Christmas.
‘I can’t wait to see them all in the New Year. Although I will be on duty on Christmas Day, I will still be able to Facetime my son Oscar and watch him open all his presents.’
Ships away over Christmas stock up with many of the things they needed to celebrate before leaving the UK – crackers, cards, presents, decorations, frozen turkeys – while British Forces Post Office has delivered parcels and post to the four corners of the globe to bring some welcome cheer on the big day.
They all end the year with a big ‘thank you’ from the man in charge of the Royal Navy, First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Philip Jones.
He said: ‘I am immensely proud of the efforts of the entire naval service as we enter this Christmas period. It has been a relentlessly busy year as the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and Royal Fleet Auxiliary have reached all corners of the globe to deliver humanitarian aid, protect the UK’s economic interests, and keep Britain and her people safe.
‘We have seen a series of milestones but underpinning all of that has been the hard work of every man and woman who has given their all to deliver. This delivery continues over the Christmas period with one in seven of our people deployed or on duty across the globe.’
Also on duty this year are the medics from Gosport’s 33 Field Hospital who are halfway through their deployment in South Sudan with the United Nations.
A team of 78 soldiers – some of whom work at Queen Alexandra Hospital – are based in the northern town of Bentiu providing healthcare to 1,800 UN personnel working in the war-torn African state.
Despite not being home this Christmas that hasn’t stopped the team from sending back video messages for their loved ones.
They have also decked the barracks of their base with festive decorations. Having deployed in August, the team is expected to return early in the new year.