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Newlywed Military Couple Spend Honeymoon In Helmand

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A newlywed couple are enjoying a novel start to married life - with a honeymoon in Helmand.

Squadron Leader Rachel and Lieutenant Commander Gareth Mawdsley enjoyed a fairytale wedding at a Georgian manor house last year.

But they were only able to spend a few nights together before pre-deployment training began for their tours of Afghanistan.

The couple, who met through their roles in the military and live in Bath, both began a six-month spell at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan's Helmand province in November.

While they admit a war zone would not be their first choice of honeymoon destination, they still find time for romance.

Rachel, 35, from Newbury near Reading, is in the RAF while Gareth, 32, from Liverpool, is in the Navy.

They recently marked their six month anniversary in a steak house on the desert base.

Gareth said: "There's no alcohol on base so we each had a can of pop instead of a bottle of wine.

"As we shared some nachos, we were surrounded by US marines and everybody was carrying weapons.

"But when we looked at each other it was possible to imagine it was a normal romantic night back home."

The couple live in separate communal quarters and rarely have time alone.

Rachel said: "I suppose the hardest thing is we are always surrounded by people but we try to go for a coffee or a run together so we have some time just for each other."

The couple, whose jobs involve co-ordinating flights in and out of Camp Bastion, took part in the base's half marathon on New Year's Day.

They recently returned to the UK on an R&R break and took Gareth's eight-year-old daughter to CenterParcs.

Rachel said: "We both always knew that we would have to complete operational tours and to be honest we are lucky to be in the same place at the same time.

"The worst scenario would have been one of us returning from a six month tour just as the other was leaving.

"There are people out here who are away from their loved ones for months on end so it is nice to be here together and for each of us to understand what life is like in Afghanistan.

"We've been able to share the experience for all the good and bad parts."

"It's not our perfect honeymoon but it's worked surprisingly well."

Rachel and Gareth will return to the UK in May and have already planned a proper honeymoon in Rwanda and Tanzania.

Gareth said: "We plan to go on safari, do a bit of trekking and most of all lie on a beach together."