Paul Wright made the most of his last night of his leave at Westfield Community School, where he watched three-year-old Callum Stott on stage, just hours before being deployed on a mission to South Sudan.
The 42-year-old from Up Holland beamed with joy as Callum, who calls him “Pops”, played the North Star in the traditional play at the Montrose Avenue primary school.
Paul said: “I loved the chance to see him in his nativity play before I return to South Sudan in support of the United Nations mission.
“He was a little star as ever!”
Callum’s mum Kirsty Lally said of the pair: “They are really close, and Callum struggles to understand why he is away so often, and then coming back again.”
The 32-year-old, who has another child, six-year-old Amy, added: “He’s based in Catterick (North Yorkshire), so we only really see him at weekends normally.”
Paul is a Regimental Sergeant Major in the 32 Engineer Regiment of the Royal Engineers, and has been in the armed forces for 21 years, having signed up when he was just 21 himself.
When not overseas, he is stationed at Catterick Garrison in Richmond, North Yorkshire, the largest British Army garrison in the world with up to 13,000 troops based there.
He had been in South Sudan since the summer as part of the United Kingdom Engineer Task Force, assisting in a peacekeeping mission which has been ongoing since 2011.
Paul had only recently returned home for a two-week break, giving him the opportunity to watch Callum in action.
He will now return to the African nation until the end of January, meaning he will sadly spend Christmas away from his family.