Celebrating my birthday in Afghanistan!

Captain Jeremy Hann writes about birthday celebrations, or the lack of them, in war-torn Afghanistan.

It was thirty three summers ago that ‘The Minstrel’ underneath Mr Piggott won the Derby; that Elvis left the building and that I arrived in the world to much celebration and ward-wide plaudits (except from my darling mother who complained to the Doctor that ‘he cannot be mine, he is far too ugly”).

Today is my birthday, and to the best of my knowledge it is the first time I have celebrated by a good day’s work.

The usual modus operandi of having champagne poured into myself and forgetting to say when, and generally over indulging, was replaced by an ice-cream and a ungentlemanly amount of sweating.

Amongst many kind emails that I have received, the one from an old friend in Brighton hoping ‘that you get totally messed-up’ was surely the strangest to send to someone in a war zone. I get the sentiment Toby, but I am glad the day is drawing to a close without the aforementioned eventuality becoming a literal reality…..

Someone with a much greater gift for memorable writing than I said that being on an operational tour is 99% boredom, punctuated by 1% extreme violence. It is to the boredom that I wish to turn. Guarding against the complacency that inevitably accompanies the repetition of the daily grind is one of the hardest tasks of remaining professional whilst on operations. It can be difficult to keep morale high whilst staring into the abyss of monotony, and how one occupies oneself outside of the patrols and other bits that make up the daily workload, defines how one deals with the unglamourous side of being away.

This is doubly hard when returning from mid-tour leave. Going from summer in England to Afghanistan is like going to bed with Marilyn Monroe and waking up with Susan Boyle.  On the whole it has been a very quiet week in Kandahar, which has meant time has dragged for us, but we should be thankful that the operation is now starting to yield a positive outcome for the people of this city.

Over the course of an operational tour, unless one has an online auction addiction, a sizeable sum can be squirreled away. This is where SOUPs (Single Officer Unnecessary Purchases) start to grab the imagination. These can run the gamut of extremes from a Malacca cane with rapier inside, to 1960s sports cars, a monocle to an ivory-handled riding crop. The key is they must be entirely unnecessary. Suggestions are most welcome and shall be passed on to the wider Royal Dragoon Guards Officer community. The most original or best idea will be presented with a baboon skull penholder; no writing bureau can ever be called complete without one.

Wildlife update….. The gargantuan ants are conspicuous by their absence and the goats are still merrily going about their daily graze, although I can’t imagine that the sand is particularly delicious or nutritious. The new guys on the scene are lizards. August is obviously the month that the Afghan lizard community carries out its business with gay abandon. They are in plentiful numbers and seem unperturbed by events leading up to the Afghan elections.

38 thoughts on “Celebrating my birthday in Afghanistan!

  1. Hey Jeremy..
    I LOVE Susan Boring.. err I mean Boyle lol

    For all it’s worth, Happy Birthday and very best wishes to you. Keep those good thought in your mind and enjoy the day when you get to come home x
    Take care and a big, big thanks..


  2. Happy birthday, this is a brilliant blog made me laugh out loud! Love the SOUPs have a good rest of tour and a safe one x x x


  3. That is one very funny blog – it is wonderful to read that you can do a very serious, professional job and still enjoy watching the lizards!


  4. hi jeremy…..good to see a high moral with you on your Birthday!! i can only volunteer first aid skills locally but if I could aleviate any pressure for even 24 hours..I would in a jiffy…!! take care…and be safe…Happy Birthday!1


  5. hi there, happy belated birthday. Sounded like u had a quite one which meant all was well. When u get home i’m sure u can make up 4 lost time and have a drink or 3. Keep well, keep safe, god bless.


  6. Hi Jeremy, Happy Birthday. May the universe keep you safe and sound and return you home to celebrate your birthday with friends and family. Thank you for sharing a snapshot of your life with us, we should all be grateful to you and your comrades. I am returning home to Kent in 5 weeks time, after 5 years in Australia nursing and really can’t wait but I haven’t had to endure anything like you have. Worried about the Marilyn Monroe thing maybe kylie or beyonce would have been better as they are alive. best wishes from Lesley. btw jewel encrusted sunglasses. x


  7. Belated Happy Birthday! great blog and great to see the humour still there…..it’s what makes life bearable at times! Off to wrack my brains for soups! 😀 Take care


  8. It is good to see you have kept a sense of humour in such a place as you are in with so much death & destruction around you. That will get you through your tour I am sure and help those in your command though as well.

    My son joins the forces next year and I hope that I can find the strength to cope while he is out there.

    Hope your birthday is as good as it can be and that there are some cold beers in the mess!

    Happy Birthday and God speed your safe return.



  9. Hi Jeremy

    Firstly, a much meant belated ‘Happy Birthday’. Hope you have an amazing celebration with your friends and family once home.

    Your blog was fantastic, funny, heartwarming, real. Made me laugh but still brought a lump to my throat. You most definately have a way with words. I think i could easily read a daily blog written like that.

    Take care Jeremy and i hope you can find a way to let us know when you and your boys are all home safe and well.

    With the utmost love, respect and admiration for all our Armed Forces both home and abroad

    Georgie x


  10. Belated birthday greetings. Loved your blog, it’s great to see that you can keep your sense of humour when things around are going to pot.

    Just want to say thanks for all the hard work and hope you all come back safe and sound. All our thoughts and wishes are with you at this time.

    The only SOUP I could come up with would be a gold plated blackberry!



  11. Hope the birthday went well. May You and all your team (and everyone of course) remain safe and I hope you enjoy sleeping with Susan Boyle!!


  12. Hi Jeremy

    Belated happy birthday. I think you absolutely need a pair of vintage waders out there!! Stay safe, you and your colleagues in all three services (speaking as an ex-matelot’s missus) have my undying respect.

    Alida x


  13. Hi Jeremy!
    Thanks for such an amusing blog!!
    May I take this oportunity to wish you a very happy belated birthday. I am sure you will celebrate when you come home to you friends and famiy.
    The best gift you can give to us all especialy your loved ones and friends is to take great care of yourself.
    I have a nephew in the RAF who is due out there for the first time next year. I’m dredding it! However I don’t let him know as it is his chosen career as yours is to you. Just be careful Hun!
    Love the SOUPS!
    Ali xxx


  14. Jeremy,

    An interesting read and a happy belated Birthday.

    This snapshot of your life and those around you really puts it all into perspective. Really hope you can write again as it made brill reading.

    To you all, stay safe.

    With respect,



  15. Love your blog. Gives you a peek at what life must be like in a war zone. And of course, sleeping with susan boyle (questionable!)
    Happy, happy belated birthday..
    Take care and get home soon…..
    Nic x


  16. Hi Jeremy

    Happy belated Birthday!!!

    Thanks for sharing this – laughed out loud!!!

    Best wishes to all and come home safe!!!

    We’re all so very proud of OUR British Forces and what you’re doing!! Thank you!!



  17. A birthday wish to you, we cannot thank you guys enough for all you do, and hope you all stay safe and happy and celebrate many a birthday back in Blighty with champagne! Thanks so much x x x x


  18. hi Jeremy-great blog!-can almost hear the howls of boredom shout through every pore! I am desperately after a baboon skull pen-holder,as,being a vegetarian(leper!),i must face my fears!…..and,alas i couldn’t find one on E-bay! Where did you get yours from?? I hope the vast amount of(non) alcoholic beverages found their way to you,but if they didnt,hope you had a happy bithday anyway.
    I hope the money that gets squirreled away may be spent wisely,perhaps a champagne ice-bucket for the middle of the desert is not such a good idea?? no.
    Keep safe and well.
    Tracey Adams( non-SOUP) xx


  19. Susan Boyle here…..(crazed Scottish accent: “and yer point is??” lol

    Great diary entry – belated hippy birp day (messed up or what?)

    It’s so reasuring to know your sandhurst training has not been misplaced or misappropriated so you next compulsory useless purchase has to be 500 tiny yellow bath ducks. Who knows….maybe on your return you could have a baby duck hot tub party???

    Soldier on my friend – the country is there with you!

    SB xxx


  20. Hi Jeremy,

    Just wanted to say, as have so many others, that I loved your blog – came across it via Twitter a moment ago.

    I too laughed out loud at the SOUPs and have been sitting here trying to think of one… will have to get back to you on that but maybe you could use the suggestions you’ll get for your next blog? Would be great to see the all weird & wonderful ideas!

    I hope your birthday was memorable for the right reasons and that you enjoyed yourself despite being where you are and not being doused with champagne – hopefully it will taste all the better once you’re back home.

    Today you’re not missing much of an English summer – remember when the rain used to fall downwards? Not today! Lashings of the stuff coming in sideways and even our five, normally intrepid, spaniel pups are cowering on the doorstep…

    Here’s hoping you stay safe and well and get back home before long.

    All the best,

    Sophia xx


  21. Happy Birthday, enjoyed your blog, Toby must have Army sense of humour too. Take Care of yourself and others under your watch.


  22. You’re doing a great job mate, as are all your colleagues…..I wish you all well, we’re all very proud of you here!! BM


  23. Brilliant blog Jeremy, really funny yet it makes you think about how it really is for you and our boys and girls over there. We’re all so proud of you here back home in Blighty, so make sure you look after yourself, stay safe, and come back soon.
    Oh, a belated happy birthday to you, may you have wonderful celebrations with your family and friends upon your return xx


  24. You’d only be hungover if you were anywhere else!! Happy belated birthday wishes and thank you for cheering me up (what’s up with that!!).

    By the way, are afghan lizards long haired like the hounds???


  25. Hope you enjoyed your birthday Jeremy.
    I really enjoyed your blog – keep up that standard and you’ll be in demand as a newspaper columnist or sketchwriter. Or you might write a really funny best selling book!
    Very best wishes for a safe return home.


  26. hopefully not too late to say happy birthday, that God will provide everything you need to return home safely


  27. On first reading I thought the reference to ‘the minstrel under mr piggott’ was some worrying parental explanation of your conception. Glad to quickly realise I was mistaken!


  28. Happy Birthday!

    Good to know what passes for birthday presents out there – and to think I was agonizing over which dvd to send the son for his birthday!

    Great blog! Keep safe!


  29. Just a quick question can you or the other guys allowed to use games consoles out there if so i would be happy to send out my old xbox 360 games, my way of saying thanks for all you are doing out there.


  30. Gastro,

    Blog still v funny, old thing. Home team cooling the champers and heating the canapes (Despite Mess Staff attempts to do the opposite) in preparation for your return. Who knows the Pluvvers might even be laying late for you this year.

    Ta Ra



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