It may be Afghanistan but bored children still give soldiers a problem

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Their life may be completely different to that in the UK, but soldiers in Afghanistan are still faced with problems seen on the streets of Britain – people stealing road signs.

Troops at one forward base in Helmand Province have been plagued by the problem of important signs being stolen as local children snatch them for scrap metal.

While Royal Engineers based at Patrol Base Lashkar Gah Durai deal with a whole range of tasks, a regular one is putting up new signs outside the base.

The signs are used to direct local people to a specific area where searches and checks can be carried out to avoid the dangers of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) carried to the base. But the signs and the pickets they were mounted on have regularly been swiped by local children, either out of boredom or to use the scrap metal.

Each time this happens, a team of Royal Engineers stationed at the base has to remount the sign, protected by colleagues from 3rd Battalion The Mercian Regiment.

In a bid to fight the problem, the signs are now being put on high beams of wood, rather than pickets.

Corporal Andy Lumley, 28, from the Royal Engineers, said: “Some children help themselves, and when they do that we have to go and replace them.

“The signs used to be on pickets, I think they use the pickets for scrap metal. So we came up with the idea to put them on high beams of wood which seems to fix the problem.”

And while his men fix new signs outside the base, they have to be guarded by a quick reaction force (QRF) made up of troops from Warrior Fighting Group 3 Mercian.

Lieutenant Stu Lowe, a platoon commander in 3 Mercian, said: “Lots of signs have been made and put out there and the kids come and take them away.”

The 23-year-old, from Nottingham, went on: “I think they’re a little bit bored, probably similar to what kids do at home when they take things.”

He said the signs were put in both to make sure people did not accidentally approach the base, but also to direct those visiting or making deliveries to the specific search area.

“It’s for their safety, and it also assists us. Keeping the signs up is for everybody’s benefit and for the smooth running of the camp.”

Lt Lowe said his platoon rotates between guard duties, patrols, and the QRF, which provides protection and is also sent to help with any incidents in the area.

The 23-year-old, who has been in Afghanistan since September, said: “It’s been really good, we’ve been busy going out and getting around the area. We’ve been talking with the locals a lot and they have been giving a positive reaction. I thought they would be a bit more hostile towards us.”