BBC weatherman Simon King returns from Camp Bastion

Simon King in uniform Simon King was deployed to Camp Bastion as part of the Met Office

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As if delivering his baby girl wasn't dramatic enough, BBC weatherman Simon King has recently returned from a stint as a Royal Air Force reservist in Afghanistan.

He was at Camp Bastion in March, providing forecasts for the armed forces - only five months after his second child arrived earlier than expected following a spicy curry.

King has been at the BBC since 2008 but he's been attached to the RAF for longer.

After studying meteorology at university, he joined a specialist unit of Met Office forecasters, who are also sponsored reserve officers in the RAF.

"That means we are weather forecasters in peacetime, with a normal day-to-day job in the UK, but then we get called up into uniform and go on operations or exercises," he explains.

Sunshine and storms

Flying Officer King, as he is known on duty, has already been to Iraq twice, and his latest trip to the Helmand Valley was his second tour of duty in Afghanistan.

He headed out for four weeks after the torrential rain that hit Britain earlier this year.

"For a few days, the temperature got up to 26C so that made a nice change from the horrible UK wet weather. But we did have some thunderstorms, which had an impact not only on aviation but also on the ground.

"Because Camp Bastion is in the middle of the desert, underfoot, it's dirt, it's sand, it's dust, and then when you introduce a lot of water, it turns everything into a bog - it's disgusting, everything is muddy and it's just very unpleasant."

No days off

The British-run base is nearly 3,000 feet above sea level - to put that into context, many peaks in the Lake District don't even reach that height.

As a landlocked region, Helmand's weather is also affected by nearby mountains. It can range from snow to highs of 45C. But its climate is still more predictable than that of coastal UK.

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You've almost got to forget about home because you're working in such an intense environment”

End Quote Simon King Weather forecaster

Confined within Camp Bastion, which is the size of Reading, King found the work "intense" - partly because he didn't have a day off. He alternated from day to night shifts every four days.

"The work on a day-to-day basis could actually be interesting because the weather changes daily but, in terms of being there and what you're doing, it's quite routine.

"They've got gyms but, to be honest, I was so knackered after a 12-hour shift that I went back to bed and then got up the next morning and did it again."

In his day job with Radio 5 live and 6 Music, King will often have on-air banter with presenters but that attitude had to change once in Helmand.

Speaking at the Salford offices, he explains: "Here, broadcasting to the nation, telling them what the weather's going to do, I have to use a completely different tone and detail than I would do with the military, and that's what I like about it - it's the same job but you have such variety of who you talk to.

"You're speaking to commanding officers so you've got to be more formal and fall into the discipline and rank structure."

5 live link-up

But whether in Afghanistan or the UK, he's still using the same system to forecast the weather.

That's why, towards the end of his tour, he linked up with 5 live for a special broadcast from Camp Bastion, where he presented a forecast for the UK.

Simon King and Nell Simon King's daughter Nell was born last year

"I could technically sit here and do tomorrow's forecast for Camp Bastion, but obviously being there you've got a lot more local knowledge and interaction with people."

However, being in Helmand also meant that King missed his baby daughter getting chicken pox and sitting up for the first time.

"Huge respect for any forces' wives who have to deal with kids on their own - it's a tough gig."

He considers himself fortunate that he was only in Afghanistan for a relatively short period, when many go for up to six months.

"I've got a lot of respect for them because it is tough. You've almost got to forget about home because you're working in such an intense environment and, if you start thinking about home every day, it'll make your life miserable - you've just got to get on and do the job."

He hasn't been the only BBC weather forecaster working as an armed forces reservist.

Radio Cornwall's Kevin Thomas spent two months with the Royal Navy in Oman earlier this year, while network presenter Philip Avery and BBC Spotlight weatherman David Braine have also been in the Navy reserves.

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