Videos and Gallery: Prime Minister visits Suffolk

THE dedication and hard work of the service personnel and support staff at a Suffolk military base were yesterday praised by the Prime Minister as playing a huge part in the Afghanistan offensive.

Graham Dines

THE dedication and hard work of the service personnel and support staff at a Suffolk military base were yesterday praised by the Prime Minister as playing a huge part in the Afghanistan offensive.

Gordon Brown was visiting the Army air base at Wattisham, near Needham Market, home to the Apache attack helicopters which are currently in theatre.

Accompanied by the Chief of the General Staff General David Richards, he was greeted by base commander Colonel David Turner and then saw for himself some of the Apache helicopters and their equipment which will be sent to Afghanistan.


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He said British commanders in Afghanistan had personally assured the Chief of the Defence Staff Air Chief Marshall Sir Jock Stirrup that they had all the equipment they needed for Operation Moshtarak before it began this week.

“We are better equipped than ever we have been as armed forces. Before we had this latest exercise where we are working with the Afghans, the Chief of the Defence Staff phoned the commanders on the ground asking them if they were absolutely sure they had what they needed to do the work.

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“They have got the equipment they need for what they are doing.”

The Prime Minister praised the work of the “brilliant” young helicopter pilots and also the back-up support staff, who were truly impressive. Wattisham was playing a “huge, huge” role in making sure that the troops in Afghanistan were properly equipped.

Mr Brown said he had “great pride” in the work troops were doing during this week's Operation Moshtarak

He told journalists that he wanted to pay tribute to soldiers who had lost their lives in the latest surge against the Taliban. Their sacrifices would be understood throughout the whole of the UK and appreciated by every single citizen.

“My thoughts are with their families and with their friends. They are serving with our armed forces at a very critical time as we mount a new campaign to win the support of the people of Afghanistan, particularly in Helmand province, by ensuring that we can defeat the Taliban.”

On a lighter note, the Prime Minister shared jokes with Corporal Leah Coxon, telling her: “It is good to have women among us - it keeps us civilised.”

PRIME Minister Gordon Brown delighted parents, children and staff at a children's centre in Ipswich yesterday as part of his tour of the county.

Mr Brown spent around half-an-hour at Hillside Children's Centre in Maidenhall Approach, talking to children and their parents, asking them about the support and services they receive while also taking the opportunity to thank staff and volunteers for their hard work.

One mother, Miriam Spall, whose 20-month-old son Alex has hearing difficulties, said the centre was vital.

“It was nice for him to come around and acknowledge the great the centre is and the work they do,” she said.

“I have been coming here ever since Alex was six months old. He has hearing loss and the staff here offer me such great support - they are amazing. The people who work here care about the children, it is really genuine support.”

Anna Shaw, manager of the centre, said it had been an “absolute pleasure” to have the Prime Minister visiting.

She said: “It was so lovely to see him spending time with the families. It was great recognition of what we are doing here, showing his support for the Sure Start programme and realising what it means to families.

Sure Start is the Government's programme to deliver the best start in life for each child, bringing together early education, child care services, health and family support.

There are currently 35 children's centres in Suffolk. Graham Newman, Suffolk County Council spokesman for young people's services, said 13 new centres were set to open soon.

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