Mo and Jo, pensioners from Somerset, are legendary figures in the British Armed Forces. With little more than shoe box sized care packages, they work tirelessly to give front-line soldiers the home comforts and ordinary items that we take for granted, but are valued so highly on the front line. In return for their inspiring work, Mo and Jo have been celebrated by high-ranking officers and, more importantly, the men on tours of duty in heartfelt letters of thanks. Two of these letters were selected by Andrew Roberts in his book Love, Tommy and here, Mo and Jo tell us about their amazing work.
'Let us introduce ourselves, we are Joanne (Jo) and Maurice (Mo), and we are the Mo and Jo Team of Curry Rivel Somerset that for the past five and half years have been sending welfare parcels to our boys and girls in Iraq and Afghanistan. Up to date we have sent 10,790, and we are hoping that by the time Herrick 17, which has just started on their deployment, ends we will have reached the 11,00th.
It started with a phone call from a friend whose daughter, a doctor in the Medical service, was in Iraq – actually in Hussein’s Palace after his downfall. Our friend said that she did not have any bandages to wipe the minor injuries of the serving men and women, and as we have grandchildren who are in the military, we decided to start a cause for people not to give money but to give things that we know our troops miss when they are situated in Forwarding Operating Bases, such as babywipes. We put posters out, advertised in the local newspapers and literally went around begging for help. In order to get the names and numbers and also addresses of the troops we had to write to all of the regiments that are being deployed, sometimes going to the top man of the regiment in order to get the details. We sent out letters, sometimes sending 20 to 30 letters to sergeants, who are actually the best placed to get the parcels to the boys and girls, especially to anyone who has no family. We would get 10 to 11 answers, and then the work starts with the tagging and sending of the parcels, which are thankfully sent free through Royal Mail (up to 2 kilos). The parcels are packed by Mo who sends them with forethought, knowing himself what it is like to be in a foreign country, miles away from home and family. And each parcel has a four page letter included, written by Jo, which is sent to the boys and girls telling them how our contributors get their gifts to us or how many miles we go out to collect them. We then of course get the lovely letters back from all of them and then more stories can be told.
If we had to go over the last five and a half years of our cause, either the letters or parcels, it would literally take days for me to cover all the news and all the Herrick’s we have been through. From the time our troops were first in Iraq right through until Herrick 17, which has just deployed, we have seen and heard lots of our brave men and women detailing how war is going for them and how they feel about it. Although during these years we have known quite a few of the soldiers who have paid the ultimate price, their colleagues always reply that ‘we are doing our jobs’, and carry on. It is the families that grieve, and only when the boys and girls finish their tour do they take time to grieve for their fallen friends.
All that Mo and I wish to do while they are out on front line is to send a parcel and let them know that we support them. As many have said, ‘If we do not have support we do not feel like fighting’, which is understandable.
Mo and I go to various events and are asked by a lot of people to bring displays (photographs and letters etc) so that contributors can see the smiling faces of the soldiers, and see that their special packet of tea or biscuits have been received. As we have always said, ‘Getting a bluey is better than winning the lottery’.
This week we have heard of the ultimate price paid for by a young Royal Marine of the 40th Commandos. Their base is close to us, and we have been in touch with the Marines on every tour, we have been invited to their homecomings and also their medal parades. We have met the young girls and boys personally and see the faces of the people we have been in contact with. This morning we received an email from a captain who knew the medic that was taken from us, having trained together on Salisbury Plain. Speaking highly of a brave soldier once again.
We hope that when people do see what we do, perhaps they will understand that our forces, wherever they are, must be supported. They are out there to protect us so that we can enjoy walking on the streets safely. We had a letter from a sergeant who has just returned from Afghanistan. At the bottom of his letter he says, ‘Whenever I think of Britain, which is great, I think of your two, and it has been an honour to serve you.’
Now that does speak for itself! They all feel honoured to serve us.'