In a British tradition that dates back to the very early days of travelling, after finally leaving Camp Bastion following 13 years of war in Afghanistan, British troops had to make an embarrassing u-turn and go back to the base to check they hadn’t left the gas on.
Everything had gone according to plan with a flag lowering ceremony attended by dignitaries in front of the world’s media, and then the last troops leaving the base in an operation involving 17 waves of helicopters and planes departing marking the end of our presence in the country.
However on the plane home someone asked the question ‘did you turn the gas off?’
“To be honest, we were so busy packing and saying goodbye I can’t remember if we had delegated that task to anyone,” one soldier explained.
“I’m sure John would have done it, but he says he thought Mike was doing it, but Mike left six months ago so it couldn’t have been him.
“After a few hours arguing about it but with no one knowing for sure, the only thing we could do was turn the plane around, go back and check.
“We could have just phoned the neighbours to ask them to check, but seeing as we have spent the last few years trying to kill each other they probably wouldn’t have even answered the phone.”
The troops returned, had a very quick ceremony to put the Union Flag back on the flagpole, checked the gas was turned off, then lowered the flag and started the long journey home again.
Although having to go back to check if the gas had been turned did add expense to the overall mission, defence secretary Michael Fallon explained the importance of the mission.
“All of the gas to the camp was supplied by British Gas. If we had accidentally left it in for only a year, we would have had a bill that would make the extra £1.7bn EU payment look like small change.”