Soldiers turn up heat at a snowy Leconfield
AS SNOW fell over East Yorkshire, rays of sunshine parted the clouds at the Defence School of Transport, Leconfield, at a special Caribbean celebration.
Almost 1,000 soldiers based at the site turned out during their lunch break yesterday to mark Commonwealth Day.
They were treated to an array of traditional Commonwealth foods from across the globe, including battered Mars bars, Sri Lankan fish curry and Canadian beaver tail pasties.
The idea of the event at the Defence School of Transport was to give the soldiers the opportunity to learn more about their fellow soldiers' origins and to experience the varying cultures of countries throughout the Commonwealth.
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Captain Mark Thompson, who has been based at Leconfield for two years, said an event like this helped raise morale in the camp.
He said: "We recruit so many people from different backgrounds and cultures and that provides some great opportunities for us all to learn something that we may not have known before.
"In work, it also allows us to draw on lots of different expertise and abilities which can only be a positive thing for everyone.
"The idea of today is, first and foremost, to celebrate Commonwealth Day but also to give something back to the soldiers here for all their hard work and provide them with something a bit different to the day-to-day routine of their training programmes."
As temperatures dropped below freezing, outside the heat was turned up in the restaurant thanks to a spicy selection of dishes from countries including India, Fiji and Singapore.
The soldiers had the chance to sample ten different dishes from various countries, all home-made by Corporal Ashley Wight.
Cpl Wight, originally from Scotland, said preparation for the feast started on Friday and she ensured a little Scottish treat was part of the menu.
"A choice like this is not usually something we can offer here so it has taken quite a bit of getting ready," she said.
"There is a huge variety of different food and I have even included battered Mars bars because I wanted to give them a wee bit of a taste of my own culture.
"Food can help bring people together and that is what this day is all about so, from a chef's point of view, to be able to cook dishes from lots of different countries and help people develop at the same time is brilliant."
While the soldiers' tastebuds were tantalised, the sound of cutlery was taken over by Caribbean music from Leeds-based Paradise Steel Band.
Corporal Nicole Wedderman, originally from Jamaica, has been in the British Army for ten years and took to the dance floor.
The 38-year-old said: "It is a fantastic idea to have so many people of different backgrounds coming together and learning about each others backgrounds and cultures.
"There is a really diverse community within the Army and that is one of the things that makes it so enjoyable.
"The culture here is a lot different to back in Jamaica but I enjoy learning new things all the time."
Commonwealth Day is celebrated in many countries and this year marks the 60th anniversary of its forming.
Devon Housley-Jones, who has recently started a training course at Leconfield, said: "There are lot of different nationalities and ages within the Army and I think it is important to get to know as much about your colleagues as possible.
"It is really interesting to hear about the different cultures and background plus the food is great too."