Cumbrian guides send their support to John Armstrong on milestone birthday

2nd Cockermouth Guides and Joanne Thomlinson
2nd Cockermouth Guides and Joanne Thomlinson

A group of Cumbrian Girl Guides have become the latest to send their support to a man imprisoned in India.

The youngsters of 2nd Cockermouth Guides have sent messages of support and even birthday greetings to John Armstrong.

The Wigton former Paratrooper is currently 18 months into a five-year prison sentence, imposed after he and five other Britons were found guilty of illegally possessing firearms in Indian waters.

John has always strenuously denied the charges - which were initially quashed, nine months after their arrest in October 2013, only to be later reinstated.

Despite a fierce campaign calling for the Britons' sentence to be revoked and conviction overturned, John last week marked his 30th birthday inside the Chennai jail where is serving his sentence.

John's sister Joanne Thomlinson, who lives in Blennerhasset, is among those leading the campaign to raise awareness of the men's plight and call for their freedom.

"I went and spoke to the guides group about John and the men and their case," she told the News & Star, "and they then decided to do a collection to send parcels and write letters to John.

"They posted the parcels and mam took the letters over to India with her.

"It's overwhelming that this group have taken time out of their busy lives to write to John and send him food and toiletries, and for them to show such concern for his plight."

 John Armstrong

John Armstrong

Joanne, 32, continued: "John massively appreciates everyone writing to him and he really enjoyed reading all of the letters, especially as he received them around his birthday."

While the milestone birthday may have been spent behind bars, John's mum Helen flew out to ensure he was not without family.

She and other family members visited him in prison, spending several hours together.

Joanne said: "They sang happy birthday to him in the jailer's office and took in lots of cards from friends and family, with many also arriving directly through the post.

"John is so grateful and overwhelmed that so many people have remembered him on his birthday.

"Birthdays (and especially birthdays marking a milestone such as 30) are a time to sit back and ponder what has gone before and contemplate what lay ahead - not an easy thing [for John] to do.

"But through messages, cards, parcels and well wishes, everyone has managed to ease what could potentially have been a very difficult day for John and for that we are truly thankful."

The Britons - known as the #Chennai6 - are among 35 men sentenced in January 2016. They were arrested on board the Seaman Guard Ohio, while working for Amercian anti-piracy firm Advanfort.

John and the others have always maintained their innocence, insisting they had the correct paperwork - as issued by the British Government.

The case was recently raised by Prime Minister Theresa May with the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, at the G20 summit.

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