Saturday, 29 August 2015

Proud mum and dad pack parcels with home comforts for Carlisle soldier son

Teabags, Jaffa cakes and thermal socks have been regularly winging their way around the world, bringing comfort to a soldier serving in Afghanistan.

Karl Bell photo
Karl Bell

Karl Bell, 19, from Carlisle, is on his first tour of the country in conflict – but it seems his parents may be finding it tougher than he is. The teenager signed up to 21 The Royal Engineers when he was just 17 years old, after being inspired by his uncle Barrie Carruthers.

Mr Carruthers, who now works for Stobarts, served in Rwanda and Bosnia and used to tell his nephew tales from the front lines.

Karl’s dad Kevin, 49, recalls: “Karl was really young, and Barrie used to tell him little stories – I don’t know if they were true or not – and Karl got really engrossed. Barrie got an MBE – although no-one knows what for – and he gave it to Karl, who was fascinated by it.”

Engineering also runs in the family, as Karl’s brother Ian, 25, works as an engineer in Newcastle.

The former Trinity School pupil left for Afghanistan on September 13, a date engraved in his parents’ minds, and is not scheduled to return until January. Kevin admits to sending up to three parcels a week to his son, full of the essentials – including the News & Star’s sister paper, The Cumberland News.

“All his mates read it, even if they’re not from Cumbria,” Kevin, a mould engineer at Pirelli, says. “He asked for tea bags and thermal socks, because it’s so cold at night.

“I bought some Jaffa cakes and Pringles last night while shopping. I saw them and thought of him.”

Karl’s mum, Tina, 44, adds: “He probably gets more parcels than anyone. But if he can have a biscuit with a friend, or look at a parcel and think of home when he’s having a down day, then it’s worth it.”

His parents miss him desperately – and live in permanent fear for his safety.

“The first time he rang, I asked if he had a gun and he said he had it with him. I asked if he’d actually fetched it to the phone, and he said it was always with him – he told me he was in Afghanistan and they need to watch their backs.

“I told him to talk about something else.”

The fear is natural, but even this is outweighed by something far greater.

“We are so proud of him,” Kevin says. “We know a few lads who have gone and we are proud of all of them.”

“We know boys in both Ian and Karl’s years at school who are in prison,” Tina continues. “But Karl focused on something and is doing something special.”

  • Over the coming weeks in the run-up to Christmas, the News & Star wants to tell more tales from the front line and remind our readers of our soldiers fighting overseas. If you or your loved one is currently away serving on operational duty, please e-mail or call 01228 612653



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