TOMORROW people around East Lancashire will be celebrating Christmas with their loved ones.

But there are many people who won’t be able to see their friends and family, who are bravely serving their country in Afghanistan and other parts of the world.

Here they give their messages of love, support and best wishes to those awaiting their safe return.

INSTEAD of tucking into Christmas dinner at home this year, weapons engineer Tom Handley will be at sea on board the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Edinburgh.

The 23-year-old from Knuzden will be spending his first Christmas away from his one-year-old daughter Scarlett while the ship is on a six-month deployment of the South Atlantic supporting counter narcotics efforts in the West African region.

This year his festive season will be spent with his 259 shipmates instead of at home with wife Julia and baby daughter Scarlett.

Tom and Julia usually see his parents, Tony and Tracey Handley, who live in Blackburn, or grandparents Jean and Steve Handley, who live in Blackpool, over the Christmas period.

Tom, who attended Our Ladies & St John’s School before joining the Royal Navy in 2006, said: "It is going to be really hard. Not only am I missing celebrating Christmas with them all but it’s also my wife’s birthday, my birthday and Scarlett’s birthday while I’m away.

“My wife and I said we would do presents when I get back and go away somewhere together. I have ordered presents online as well have sent them home for Julia to give out for me to family and friends.

“We’re going to make the most of it on board – we’ve got a Christmas tree and we’re going to put all our presents under it and have a turkey dinner served to us by the officers for a change. It will be good fun and there’s also going to be a Secret Santa so we’ll do our best to get some Christmas cheer going.”

Christmas messages from soldiers serving on the front line in Afghanistan have also flooded in for friends and family.

Guardsman Sam Gray, from Accrington, is currently woking in Forward Operating Base (FOB) Oulette. He said “Hello everyone, just sending you a message to say have a great Christmas and New Year, I will see you in January.”

Guardsman Robert Haworth, from Burnley, who is woking in Forward Operating Base (FOB) Oulette, said: “I would just like to say a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to my gorgeous girlfriend Rosie and beautiful little girl Maisie Amelia, mum, sister Nicola, Gemma and boys and Ken.

“Missing you all loads and can't wait to see you all.

“Hope you have a good Christmas and New Year, love you all lots, Rob.”

Kingsman Conner Leighton, from Rossendale, who is serving in Patrol Base (PB) Hayatullah, said: “A Merry Christmas to all my friends and family.”

And Corporal Ben Simpson, from Clayton-le-Moors, sent a festive message from Lashkar Gah. He said: "Merry Christmas Harrison, love Dad.”

Corporal Jon Bennett, from Burnley, serving with 1 SCOTS in forward operating base (FOB) in Sparta, said: "Happy Christmas and New Year to all my friends and family and i'll see you when I'm home.”

Kingsman Kythe Rowbotham, from Accrington, from Forward Operating Base (FOB) Attal with 1 Lancashire Regiment, added “Merry Christmas to all my family back home and to my girlfriend Chelsey.”