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Troops on Sierra Leone water duty

British soldiers have been working to help save lives in Sierra Leone - improving the supply of fresh water in the war-ravaged country.

A team of British Army engineers are drilling and installing 11 water pumps at Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) bases in remote locations across the country where water is scarce.

The pioneering drilling project will deliver fresh water to more than 6,500 people and it is hoped it will reduce the threat of illnesses such as cholera, caused by people drinking from contaminated rivers and puddles.

The £250,000, two-month project involves 15 soldiers, mainly from 521 Specialist Team Royal Engineers (Water Development).

The team, based in Chilwell, Nottinghamshire, is the Army's only water development and drilling team and has been routinely used in Afghanistan. It includes two Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineer soldiers to maintain the drill rigs, vehicles and equipment; two Royal Engineer specialist drivers; a welder; and two combat medics.

They are drilling six new boreholes and refurbishing five existing wells with new pumps, with the last of the 11 pumps due to be installed by March 30, and so far have travelled more than 6,000km (3,728 miles) across Sierra Leone to fit the first eight .

It is hoped the wells will make a huge difference to both RSLAF soldiers and the wider community.

Sapper Ben Seaton, 25, from Middlewich, Cheshire, said: "We take running water for granted in the UK, so being here and installing these pumps to give the RSLAF soldiers a continuous supply of water is very rewarding, but they've also showed us a trick or two when it comes to brickwork, block work and rendering."

Lance Corporal Patrick Crowe added: "It's quite nice to come out to a different country and work on a humanitarian project." The 28-year-old, from Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, has previously served two tours of Iraq, as well as tours in Northern Ireland and Afghanistan. "This is an opportunity to help them improve their general water infrastructure and generally just improve their standard of living."

The project is being done at the request of the International Mentoring and Training Team (Sierra Leone), known as IMATT, whose aim is to help develop the RSLAF into a democratically accountable and sustainable force. Its mission will end at the end of this month, when the International Security Assistance Team will take on the role of giving continued support on a smaller scale.


From Belfast Telegraph