Celebrating Christmas in the Lebanon

Christmas 2011 was viewed from a different perspective for the troops of the 105 Infantry Battalion this year.

Christmas 2011 was viewed from a different perspective for the troops of the 105 Infantry Battalion this year.

The 105 Infantry Battalion maintained its intense programme of patrols and security duties through out the festive period. As the cooks of the 105 Infantry Battalion worked feverishly from the early hours of Christmas morning to prepare what was a Christmas dinner of note for over 400 troops.

The troops of the 105 Infantry Battalion went about the business of preparing weapons, equipment and Mowag Piranha III Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) for several patrols into the Irish Battalion Area of Operations (AO). It is a sobering moment for any soldier in South Lebanon when on Christmas morning he/she draws their personnel weapon from stores to go on patrol at 6.30am, a time where they may normally be exchanging gifts under the Christmas tree with loved ones at home. As the Christmas morning patrols depart Camp Shamrock with the threat from roadside bombs or rocket attacks ever present, even on this of holy days.

For the two Irish Platoons serving on the Blue Line in UN Post 6-50 and UN Post 6-52 after contacting home to loved ones dinner was their next highlight of the day as they returned from their patrol duties along the Blue Line. The troops on the Blue Line positions received mass from Reverend Father Tom Brady after which they enjoyed their well earned Christmas dinner. The troops on UN Post 6-52 who enjoyed this small respite were saved little time to allow their Christmas dinner settle as they were called out to an incident along the Blue Line.

In Camp Shamrock, UN Post 6-5 home of the Irish troops in South Lebanon the troops rotated through dinner at different timings allowing the patrol schedule to be maintained without interruption. Christmas dinner had all the fanfare of a traditional Christmas with Turkey, Ham, Brussel sprouts and of course Christmas pudding. Lt Col Philip Brennan addressed the troops of the 105 Infantry Battalion wishing all the troops and our loved ones at home, “the real soldiers” a Happy Christmas and a safe New Year.

As Irish people celebrated Christmas mass at home and overseas, the troops of the 105 Infantry Battalion marked the special occasion with the people of South Lebanon and members of the Malaysian contingent in Tibnine Christian Church. The people of Tibnine will forever be remembered for this most generous invitation to celebrate our Christmas together in their beautiful Church. Reverend Father Tom Brady, Chaplain with the 105 Infantry Battalion delivered a truly heartfelt and memorable mass, supported by a local choir, 3 bagpipers and members of the 105 Infantry Battalion band. Through the articulate and moving accounts from Fr Tom Brady and Lt Col Philip Brennan we remembered those who could not be with us, those who we all dearly missed and cast memories back to the highs and the lows that is the reality of serving as a soldier in South Lebanon. All taking stock that as we celebrated the joyous birth of Christ not 2000 years ago, not an hours drive South from where we were, there is a monument 100 metres from the church door with the 47 names of the brave Irish soldiers who paid the ultimate price. The Irish Defence Forces have suffered the largest amount of UN peacekeeper losses in South Lebanon. Commandant Max Karpala, our medical officer cast our thoughts also to the 5 Polish soldiers who lost their lives on duty in the service of peace in Afghanistan only days previously. We as Irish people have served through the good times, the bad times with the people of South Lebanon and it was a truly moving ceremony on a wet cold December in South Lebanon where we further tied the bonds of eternal friendship with our friends, the people of South Lebanon.