I do so love the British military.
It was dusk in Helmand. And as the sun set over the baked earth, commandos wearing Santa hats gathered round the war memorial and began a simple chorus of carols.One sober note about the British in Afghanistan this Christmas ...
Then the Taliban attacked.
There was no time for the troops to think or even to take off their festive hats.
Any hopes of a Christmas truce, when hostilities cease and foes become friends for a few precious hours, were dashed in an instant.
It is a tradition that stretches back to the trenches of the First World War, when British and German soldiers shared drinks, sang carols, exchanged gifts and even enjoyed an impromptu game of football in no-man's-land.
But things are different in Afghanistan. At the first sound of enemy fire the Royal Marines of 40 Commando threw down their hymn sheets and sprinted to the mortar lines 200 yards away. Within a minute, they were returning fire.
For three-quarters of an hour, they battled with the insurgents, ear defenders over their festive headgear - the only reminder of the peace the evening had promised.
Then, as the skirmish ended and darkness fell, the servicemen and women returned to the memorial at Forward Operating Base Inkerman, and resumed the carol service, thankful there had been no British casualties.
Since Nov 1, 14 British soldiers have died compared with six Canadians, three Americans, five Danes, two Spaniards and one soldier each from Australia, France and the Netherlands.The full casualty figures for the forgotten war is here. Let them have their fun.
Hat tip Mark and Jules.