Friday, July 30, 2010

Frontline bloggers has moved!

Frontline Bloggers has moved to a new location!

The new look Helmand Blog has consumed this site. All the posts on here have been migrated and there are new posts going up regularly.

Thank you very much for your support and we look forward to seeing you in our new home at

Friday, May 21, 2010

Afghan Diet Club: free membership for all

Captain Stuart Thomas is the Main Troop Commander of 204 Signal Squadron, based in Lashkar Gah for his six-month tour.

Main Troop monitors all communications into Task Force Helmand Headquarters based in Lashkar Gah. We also have Information Systems Engineers (computer geeks) and technicians who look after the repair and maintenance of the numerous computer and radio systems.

The Troop has been bolstered significantly, with two operators flying in from Catterick Garrison and a couple returning from their adventures on the ground.

We’re trying to raise £10,000 for ABF – The Soldiers’ Charity. To kickstart the charity drive, we have been organising the Lashkar Gah 10km race which will take place this weekend (23 May 2010). A route around the camp has been cleared and competitors will run 12 laps across sand, stone and shale. So far about 80 people have signed up and pledged $10 each to run. Some of the troop have been training harder than others and some not at all!

Now two months into the tour it’s working well as a weight loss programme for some. No need for gastric bands here. The heat, the weight carried by those out on the ground and the good gym facilities have allowed the guys to tone up in an attempt to get beach ready (beached whale perhaps?) for their loved ones back home. One of the Troop has lost over two stone so far (equivalent to a medium sized toddler?), and by the end of the tour we are going to get one of those photos of him holding his previously tent-sized trousers, and he can wonder how he ever fit into them.

The general election was followed closely, and much like the Olympics, everyone became an expert on all things they previously knew nothing about. If you don’t believe me wait until 2012 and listen to your parents discuss synchronized swimming, and shake their heads in disappointment when a diver attempts a triple pike and double back flip and makes too much of a splash on entry.

I have been explaining over and over again what a Hung Parliament is. After the excitement we had that stewards enquiry (I know horse racing is not in the Olympics!) to find out the winner, and now everyone has lost interest.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Longing for a good Bordeaux

Captain Jeremy Hahn, an Armoured Vehicle Commander with the Royal Dragoon Guards, is based in Kandahar.

Sometimes the most innocuous of comments, in the most curious of environments, delivered by the most incongruous people, trigger pangs of longing and bouts of home-sickness or frustration. And so it was one balmy evening this week when I found myself in downtown Kandahar talking to a bearded Scotsman, who had been working in private security here for the last eighteen months. I was picking his brains for some local ‘knowledge’ and a download of insurgent activity. He was regaling me, in front of a map, with the various bombings, kidnaps, murders, fire-fights etcetera, when he used the phrase ‘and there was claret everywhere’, and suddenly I lost concentration and drifted into a Bordeaux-craving reverie.

Maybe for five minutes afterwards my thoughts turned to the produce of those clever little men of the Gironde and my excellent and kindly vintner, Simon Wrightson who gifted me a delicious Chateaux Beaulieu for a last drink before I departed a month ago. What I wanted at that moment, more than any other earthly pleasure, was to be sat in an English garden, with the Darling-Betrothed enjoying a bottle, or two, without a care in the world. Sadly the apparition quickly passed and it was back to the task in hand. Writing this has in no way slaked that thirst.

Getting a close-up view of the streets of Kandahar

When moving around Kandahar, either in our armoured vehicles or on foot, it is hard to travel more than a street without passing flowering oleanders, either long swathes or solitary plants. The majority are of the cerise variety which lines the byways of Tuscany and Umbria. It is a striking concurrence of the natural beauty of these handsome flowers and the urban degradation and bullet holes, that allows you to glimpse briefly into a world that might have been, had the region endured prosperity rather than war, hosted with a fierce and depressing frequency.

There has been much media coverage in recent years over an alleged systemic failure of our military/government/whoever to provide the Army with the ‘kit and equipment’ it requires in order to execute its missions effectively, and with minimum loss of life. There have been instances where coroners have returned verdicts of unlawful death and where people much more knowledgeable than I have criticised the equipping of soldiers.

I have nothing but good things to say about the equipment at our disposal in Afghanistan. It is all good quality, there has been no shortage of it, and as an end user it fulfils my needs and criteria for the job I am performing. The armoured vehicles that are my trusty steeds are excellent, offering protection, urban mobility, and a variety of firepower that is apposite to the situation and terrain. We have new helmets, ballistic eye protection, and personal body armour.

The night vision and thermal imaging systems are state of the art. We have other equipment which I do not understand as it has been designed by people in lab-coats, with all manner of science related post-nominals, who eat plenty of fish. But this stuff helps to stop bombs going off around you, and is the envy of the other members of the coalition force here in Afghanistan.

The view from my gun turret

I suppose the truth is, several years ago when I first deployed to Iraq I purchased bits of kit that I needed to supplement what I was to be issued. Now however, I have bought and brought nothing to aid me in my deployment. Further to that, since I have been here, I cannot think of anything I could have self-purchased that would have benefited me on the ground.

One of the most trivial hurdles to jump when on operations is that posed by the problem of getting a haircut. A quick fix solution would be to shave the lot off, but I am disinclined to burn the old onion anymore than is entirely necessary. Standards, both those of the Army and those of a gentleman dictate that growing the mop is also a non-starter. So I plucked-up the courage to go to a dingy place at the airfield run by dour middle-aged Russians.

My heart was in my mouth when I saw the only English words on the price list were ‘flat top $5.25’. Anyone who has seen any war-movie featuring the US marines will understand my horror. Keen not to be sporting a ‘jarhead’, I mentioned this, but the hairdresser spoke no English and so the upshot was I had no idea what was about to happen. My panic, much like my writing, was a lot of fuss about nothing, for, like every time I have had my haircut for the last thirty two years, the result has been astonishingly underwhelming. And this was no exception.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Chocolate and pens: meeting the locals

Major Mark Suddaby, a Company Commander with 1st Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland (1 SCOTS), writes about meeting the Afghan people.

My forward operating base is home to not only the 1st Kandak, but also 1st Battalion, The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, known as 1 LANCS. They are the ISAF Combined Force for Nad-e’ Ali, who work in partnership with the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP) to provide security for the farming communities of this district. All I have to do, with my four Advisor teams collocated with Afghan Tolays, or Companies, is provide the Kandak with some British Army expertise and advice.

The Afghan Warriors (soldiers) are brave and willing, but it is a new revamped army and you can’t grow an army overnight. It’s taken the British Army (and I serve in its oldest line infantry regiment) nearly four hundred years to develop and we are still learning! The officers try to keep up with us but lack the training and experience of a Western military machine. So, good soldiers but lacking in key skills. This is a country ravaged by over thirty years of near continuous conflict. It is poor and the people resigned to being the ball in a tennis match of political and religious rivalry. It does not help that Afghanistan sits in such a strategically vital location where East meets West, with almost no natural resources, but that’s history and I’m drifting off the point.

It was clear that I needed to improve the living conditions of the Warriors and help them get equipment through their own logistics chain. So, me and my small team of utterly determined men (and a woman – our medic) are now setting about the Kandak like a whirling dervish, peeking into every process and under each procedure to get the Afghans what they need to fight and defeat the insurgents, or enemies, as the Afghans call them (there is no word for insurgent in Dari).

I get out with my six man company headquarters, mounted in two Jackal patrol vehicles, pretty much every other day, to visit my teams or attend shuras, or meetings, with the local population. The Jackals ride high but are open which I like as you can interact with the locals. We drive slowly, so as not to kick up too much dust into the faces of the locals on bikes, and I realise that this little piece of Afghanistan is not so different from the wheat fields of home. Clearly the people are dressed a little differently and there is very little traffic, but squint and I could just be back home.

But you know what, it’s the children. It always is; as it was in Bosnia and Iraq. They have nothing. The older girls are “mums” to the younger kids. They have nothing; no toys, no mobiles, no Game Boys. But whenever we come along they rush out of the fields or compounds, dropping water cans or rakes, waving and jumping around as if we are something special. It’s no surprise that one of the only English words they know is ‘chocolate’.

But the other, used far more often is ‘pen’. They need them for school and the schools, along with ISAF and the Afghan Army, have returned. For these children school is a blessing; a path to a life free from oppression and poverty, and pens, books and bags are prizes to be cherished. But it is the smiles of delight on their innocent faces when the exotic and other-worldly men in their big noisy, funny-looking truck-things appear that is priceless. They are the future and that future hangs on a pen. Or two. This is Advizer 10A off to steal some pens from the Battalion Headquarters stationery cupboard.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The worrying wait

Lance Corporal Ashley Jones REME blogs from Afghanistan for Channel 4 News about the stress in dealing with the unknown while his fellow soldiers are out on patrol.

I was initially meant to be on an op going into Sangin, but then the day before we were to be deployed, I was told I was going to be staying behind. This was because I am a rifleman and they needed other assets for this particular situation.

I was quite disappointed at first but then I came to terms with it and decided I needed to just contribute as much as I could and become proactive. Not everyone can go every time and sometimes you just have to be patient and throw your weight behind the others.

Besides, there was a lot of stuff that needed to be done back at Bastion before the op began. We’d also been warned off for the next job which was coming up and which we needed to prepare for. Being the vehicle mechanic, I went around all the vehicles just to make sure they were all prepped, ready and working.

We assisted with the re-supply, getting everything together, making sure the Quartermasters’ staff didn’t have any difficulties picking up the kit and they could take it immediately to the air head to go straight to the guys out on the ground when they left.

It was pretty hard work back here. But it was the stress, I think, of knowing we weren’t going out with the lads and not knowing what was happening all the time which was the most difficult.

The lads got up at 3 o'clock in the morning ready to deploy. I got up, had breakfast with them and went down to the aerial reconnaissance detachment to watch them land.

It was quite awe inspiring watching them on the large screens, stepping off the helicopter – all in real time. Everyone seemed to know exactly what they were doing when they got off, straight into formation.

From there, I went back to the vehicle compound and straight back to equipment maintenance. That was the main issue. When we are using vehicles out on the ground, some of them are prone to breaking, so if I can go and prevent that now, it saves a lot of time and hassle on the ground. Prevention is better than cure.

All the time we were thinking about what they were doing and if they were all ok. I felt like a worrying mother, whose children were out playing after dark.

I was still asleep when everyone came back in again. But we got up, and because I hadn’t been out, I was someone they could talk to, and download all their war stories on me before they themselves got their heads down for a few hours worth of rest before the routine started again.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Frustrations of the stag

Lance Corporal Richard Savage QRL blogs for Channel 4 News from the frontline in Afghanistan, where on his first operation in Sangin he is put on sentry duty - "stag" - at squadron headquarters.

As a force, we pride ourselves on our ability to win the hearts and minds of the local population. It is one of our main tactics in the attempt to defeat the insurgency. But having completed our first op, it is clear we are not the only ones trying that approach.

We had been tasked to go into the Sangin Valley and patrol around an area where ISAF troops hadn't been seen since the Rifles were there right at the beginning of Herrick 11.

We went in to see what the locals felt about ISAF, to see if we could help them with any projects and see if there were insurgents operating in the area. There was.

At first it looked as though I would be staying at Bastion whilst the rest went out on the op. But then our Colour Sergeant came in and asked if anyone else wanted to go up to Sangin.

Everyone put their hands up because they wanted to be with the lads. My hand went up as well and I was picked. Only then did they tell us it was to go and stag on in squadron headquarters (SHQ).

It later emerged that they could get a Chinook rather than a Merlin, which meant more space was available, so everyone got to go out - but I still ended up having to stag on in SHQ.

I realise now why they say: "Never volunteer for anything".

I was gutted. It broke me being back in SHQ and all the lads being out on the hill. I really wanted to be part of the first op. But then someone has to take their turn with these sort of roles.

We went up to FOB Inkerman a few hours before the rest of the squadron, to set up all the radios. The rest of them flew in early the following morning.

I watched them all come in over the aerial footage. It was incredible to watch. The Chinook was hovering over the ridge line and dropped the ramp down, with the wheels still off the ground, and all the lads just piled off.

There were lots of insurgents buzzing around the place and we found out they had planned an attack within ten minutes of the boys being on the ground.

It showed just how organised some of the Taliban are; the speed with which they could get themselves organised.

They had planned all the different ways of getting to our troops, but then they decided not to attack, because the locals were still harvesting poppy.

It was interesting that they held back because of this. Whether they were doing it for the hearts and minds of the locals, or because they needed the poppy crop to be harvested so that they could tax it, we might never know.

The second day of the op however, they didn't hold back.

We were warned that they were getting the RPGs ready to fire at us.

Some 10 minutes later we were contacted and it continued on and off for almost 12 hours.

I was logging all of the contact reports over the radio.For me, it was gutting listening to them and not being able to be part of it. What was worse, it was happening only about 1.5km from us and I could hear all of the warning shots and the returned fire.

They finally got the situation under control, completed their patrol and managed to get picked up by helicopter early the following morning.

It was a successful operation because it identified some key insurgency leaders.

It was fascinating watching all the different agencies working together and working well. This is the advantage of working in the HQ, you get to know what’s going on.

But then it was just frustrating knowing what was going on, but not being able to be part of it directly.

We came back about midday because we had to take down all the radios and wait for a Chinook to fly out. We got back to Bastion, had the afternoon as admin time and then started to prep for the next op.

FOB (Forward Operating Base) Inkerman is different to the last time I was there, because they’ve got more Hesco Bastion and protected accommodation now.

But it didn't get contacted as much as it did last time. It's calmed down in the area big time and shows we are improving the situation.

It’s still just a FOB though, so it still has dodgy showers which just spray water at your face and the toilets are basic, that sort of stuff.

The food was good though. It was really good.

The FOB has an amazing view of the green zone. You can see these amazing colours like the blue water of the Helmand river which was like a Mediterranean blue.

This would be a really amazing country if there weren't so many insurgents around trying to kill you.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Corporal Matthew Olsson, Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT)

The Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT) is based out of Camp Bastion. We are a multi-disciplinary trauma team which is deployed forward to the point of wounding to commence resuscitation and stabilise patients using advanced techniques not available to medics on the ground. Our team consists of Tri-Service Specialist Doctors, Royal Air Force Emergency Nurses and Royal Air Force Paramedics who have extensive training and experience in all aspects of trauma management gained through pre-deployment military training and civilian placements. Some of us are also members of the Reserve Forces.

I am Matthew Olsson, a MERT Paramedic working with the Royal Air Force out here.

We respond to and continue treatment for our injured personnel on the battlefield. Our aims include the quick and safe transfer of the injured by helicopter, to definitive care at hospital. In some cases these may be Afghan civilians. Co-ordination between the MERT and Camp Bastion Hospital allows patients to be assessed in the air thus enabling a tailored response in the Emergency Department or surgical operating theatre.

MERT members are all capable of working independently if required and administer intravenous pain relief to casualties. The doctors are trained and experienced in giving anaesthetic drugs, intubating and ventilating patients in flight and managing major trauma and medical emergencies. A full range of blood, plasma and blood warming equipment are carried to stabilise patients during the flight prior to surgery.

As Paramedics and Practitioners we are all registered and accountable to our respective governing bodies. The clinical governance system in place allows for continuing education, appraisal and audits of patient care. We work full time in our clinical roles when not on deployment and maintain our clinical skills in the NHS and military by treating critically ill and injured adults and children. Additionally we have all passed the following courses and hold the following competency based qualifications:

Battlefield Advanced Trauma Life Support
Advanced Life Support
Advanced Airway management
Advanced Paediatric Life Support
Pre Hospital Trauma Life Support
Major Incident Medical Management Systems
Survive Escape Resist and Extract
Helicopter Dunker Drills
Medical Emergency Response Team practical course
Aero Medical Evacuation Training (Ground and Air Phase)
Rotary and Fixed Wing aircraft familiarisation
Hypobaric chamber and altitude training
Enhanced Individual Reinforcement Training – Deployable Military Skills
HOSPEX (hospital exercise)

MERT is made up of medical personnel but there are also a number of other key players, without whom we could not perform our duties. This starts at the point of injury with the team medic out on the ground who initially deals with the wounded patients.

Those other players include the Ops Room, ATC, the RAF Regiment, Signallers, ground crews, helicopter technicians, armourers, pilots and aircrew. When we touchdown back at the hospital there are also the ground receiving crews who actually transport the patients from the helipad to the hospital. Ambulance medics, Fire fighters and all of the Hospital staff play a huge part when we arrive at their doors and complete handover of the patients to them.

The vast majority of the military and civilian casualties we transport have been injured as a result of hostile action (i.e. roadside bombs, explosions or gunshot wounds) but we also respond to what we call ‘non-battle injuries’ such as road accidents, falls and acute medical cases such as appendicitis.

An explosion recently injured a number of Afghan civilians including children. They were all cared for by ground medics, lifted and treated by MERT and United States call signs and handed over at the hospital where they received ongoing care.

The MERT also received a letter recently from one of our recovering wounded servicemen. He spoke highly of the care he received on the ground, from the MERT and his continuing specialist hospital treatment. This brave soldier has now been flown back to the UK and is making a remarkable recovery.

In summary, the MERT is a team of military emergency practitioners. We work continuously on and off deployment in our respective medical capacities. The level of skill we have achieved in trauma resuscitation is extremely high.
Working inside a moving helicopter, in the dark, in a confined space can be challenging at times but we all hope to make a positive difference during our respective tours out here.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Cricket woes: Afghans beat us at our own game

Private Daryn Liddle, a South African national serving in the British forces with 1st Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland (1 SCOTS), explains how he’ll be exchanging Afghanistan for the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst this Autumn.

Private Daryn Liddle with soldiers from the Afghan National Army

I am spending my last few months as a private soldier in Afghanistan.

No, I am not giving up the Army.

I am going home from here to Sandhurst to train to become an officer.

I always wanted to join the ranks first, just like my Dad did. And I am glad I did. But now I am ready for a new challenge.

Being in Afghanistan is hard but amazing. I am South African so I am used to the heat. But it can even get to me when I have thirty to forty kilos on my back.

We trained all over the world to get here and it was invaluable. But you never know how you are going to handle it until you do it for real.

Playing cricket with soldiers from the Afghan National Army

I live in a patrol base in the Sangin valley with 7 other 1 Scots soldiers, about four dozen ANA soldiers, or “warriors” as they prefer to be called, and the only girl amongst us, our female medic, Michelle. It is pretty basic but we have tried to make it home. We work, cook, eat and sleep in one huge room which is a bit like a mechanics depot. We sleep on camp beds under mosquito net pods (malaria is prevalent here).

We do have a really big yard inside the base walls which is great because we can play football and cricket all together.

The Afghan soldiers are really good at both.

We have all become good friends.

When we go on patrol we are lucky enough to have with us the guy who has found the most improvised explosive devices Helmand-wide. He’s called Ajab. He was featured in the papers back home. He has been in Helmand for nearly three years and is our resident expert. It makes us feel pretty confident when we go out with him.

I learned Dari before I came and I can now chat with the Afghan soldiers. I am learning more and more all the time. We go for tea every evening and I try to understand all their stories.

They do have a really good sense of humour, especially for men who have been fighting for so long.

I will have to go home early from this tour in time to go to Sandhurst. I know already I am not going to want to leave. This place gets under your skin.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Round Two in Afghanistan

Corporal Caroline Storm, from 34 Field Hospital (34 Fd Hosp), has returned to work in Bastion and explains her role on Operation HERRICK 12.

Hello. Let me introduce myself formally as Corporal Caroline Storm. Everyone knows me as Storm or Stormy (like the weather). I’m here in Afghanistan for round two, as I deployed here back in 2006 on Operation HERRICK 4. Things have altered significantly since then!

The Role 3 Hospital has been transformed from a tented camp to a fully-functioning medical treatment facility, providing assessment, stabilisation and aeromedical evacuation back to the UK.

As a registered nurse in the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps I am very proud to contribute to this multinational mission in support of the Afghan government and the people in order to facilitate a stable and peaceful country.

Back in the UK I am part of 3 Medical Regiment, where we are tasked to provide medical support to military exercises and on deployed operations. I am currently working in the Emergency Department (ED) in the Bastion Hospital and it is certainly a dynamic and rewarding working environment. We see everything from minor ailments to major combat trauma. It is truly unique, and with our US Navy contingent we operate like a well-oiled machine and are so proud to be part of it.

Do read my blog in the coming weeks to see what happens during my time in Afghanistan.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Heat and dust: First impressions of Afghanistan

Captain Jeremy Hahn, an Armoured Vehicle Commander with the Royal Dragoon Guards, is based in Kandahar for Operation HERRICK 12.

County Durham, Oxfordshire, the Gulf Region, Helmand and finally Kandahar constituted my rather circuitous route to what is to be my home for the best part of the next seven months. (I know, I know, carbon footprint and all that! But I simply had far too much luggage to cycle with.) And so, having feigned sleep in order to avoid the airline meals, I arrived in Afghanistan as hungry as an Ox, but far too excited to be able to eat, and tired, but my head too full to sleep.

The first few days have passed in a whirlwind of disorientation; new faces, names (most of which instantly were forgotten) and heat. The pre-tour training in North Yorkshire, Norfolk, Wales and Wiltshire, whilst very good in most respects, has not attuned my sweat-glands to the continuous hard graft they are going to have to put in over the upcoming weeks. The mercury is bouncing around in the mid-thirties and whilst a touch too warm for some tastes, it is at least bearable and should help me acclimatise before the summer sun sets in and I have to carry out my work in the ‘high forties’.

Before entering a country for the first time one’s pre-conceptions are constructed from a disparate cocktail of the opinions and stories of others, any media coverage and one’s own experience in similar climes. And so for me (in my head at least) I have been using my experiences of Iraq as a benchmark for misconceptions and erroneous judgements. There are some similarities. It is hot, there is a lot of sand knocking around, and the country is littered with all manner of unexploded ordnance. Whereas Iraq had itself and the Iranians to thank for the proliferation of legacy explosives, Afghanistan can doff its cap to Russia for its sub-surface treasure-trove. Some eagle-eyed historian will no-doubt be able to credit other factors to the above statement. I, however, am in no way a historian.

A view across the city of Kandahar

The differences I have noticed so far have been both subtle and geographically obvious. I have a pleasant mountain view of the north of the province and some flora, thanks to the river Tarnak. Irrigation here would appear to be much more difficult as the volume of water does not compare favourably to that of the Euphrates and the Tigris. Iraq had huge wealth poorly distributed, and my guess at first sight of Afghanistan is that it has huge poverty well distributed.

Over the coming months I hope to be able to elaborate on the culture, society and the nuances of serving here. For starters though one of the first happenstances to grab my attention is the use of nail varnish by some of the younger men. This does not occur in the ‘action-transvestite’ Eddie Izzard sense, or indeed the Soho drag queen tableaux, but is merely an adornment of the hands, possibly to impress others or possibly as a part of taking pride in their own appearance. The male ‘friendships’ are much more public than in other Arab Nations I have visited. There is a touch of the courtesan here.

Kandahar is Afghanistan’s second city and is a bustling, if small by European standards, low rise connurbation, almost all of which nestles at two storeys or lower. It has a similar feel to the outskirts of somewhere like Gwalior or any other town in Muhdra–Pradesh. The roads are flanked by fruit-sellers (a lot of which would not make it onto the shelves of our national supermarkets – the bananas being a touch too umber for the English palette), bicycle and tyre vendors, road-side food stops and gaily coloured general stores. One competes for space on the tarmac with a veritable assortment of ‘jingly trucks’, livestock, tuk-tuks, battered cars and that perennial favourite, the Toyota Hi-Lux. Anyone who has driven around L’Etoile in Paris, or attempted to navigate their automobile through Athens on a busy market day will have a good grasp of the level of road etiquette, and the level of application of a clearly defined highway code, assuming such a thing exists at all.

Out in my vehicle on patrol

Many of the locals smile and wave as we pass in our armoured vehicles, but it would be an untruth to suggest that all do. This dichotomy of reaction from the population is perhaps no different to the one I garner when travelling around Yorkshire, and is probably three-quarters more genial than the general public in London. I suppose the key is how superficial this amicability is?

Animal life will be a running theme over the next few months, and so I’ll kick off with a couple of ignorant generalisations. The livestock I have encountered are about half as big as those on England’s lush pastures. That is to say the cattle, sheep, donkeys and horses look roughly the same shape as they do in the green and pleasant land, but it just looks like they are standing further away. Most could fit comfortably into the size ‘S’ bracket and the goats would have no problem squeezing into kid’s clothing.

To address this balance, the Creator has compensated by making the average insect unfeasibly large. The ants are gargantuan, and had Queen Cleopatra known of their existence, she could have enlisted the help of a good half-dozen or so to carry her and her throne to Rome for her rendez-vous with old Julius, and given the rest of Egypt a well-earned day off. You would struggle to squeeze more than three of the native bumble-bees into an Airbus without a liberal helping of goose fat, and the moths have a wingspan comparable to that of Brighton’s seagulls. If any enthusiastic naturalist has the misfortune to read this, an explanation for this phenomenon would be greatly appreciated.