You may think it's the last place that needs refrigeration, but our soldiers are thankful that one Swindon firm is helping to keep their meals fresh. LEIGH ROBINSON reports.

WHEN you're a British soldier 6,000 miles from home on the Falkland Islands you have every reason to be thankful to a Swindon company.

If it wasn't for Carlton Services then our squaddies wouldn't be eating hot food or having iced drinks after a yomp across a place which is recognised as one of the most windswept, barren places on earth.

Carlton, which operates from Signal Way on the Central Trading Estate, has just won a £90,000 MoD contract for the upgrading of cooking and freezing equipment.

Not bad for a company which started life in a garage 27 years ago and now has a turnover heading close to the £2m mark.

Gary Carlton was just 27 when he was made redundant by Prestcold, the fridge makers, in Swindon.

As he knew something about fridges, he started his own business.

The irony is that his company is thriving, while Prestcold has long gone.

Gary, who is 54, soon outgrew his garage, and his spare room, and his company now employs 17 people.

Then there's the sub-contractors who are used as and when.

His wife Ellen has been right behind him over the years with total support and their two sons are very much part of the business.

Tim is the elder at 25, while Adam is 19 and doing an apprenticeship, and great things are expected of him this year in his training. And also a key member of the team is Mike Reeves, 57, who has been a friend of Gary's for many years.

He worked on the Central Trading Estate for another company and merely walked over the road to join Carlton's, who actually then bought the place where Mike worked. It is now their workshop.

As Carlton became better known, other companies also took an interest in their progress.

"Electrolux and Zanussi, which are pretty large companies, asked us if we would be their agents because they were sick and tired of seeing our servicing stickers on all sorts of equipment," said Tim.

"So that's two great companies to be linked with and being their preferred partners has a certain kudos with it."

While the company works mainly in the Thames Valley and the M4 corridor they have plenty of blue chip accounts, with the Prudential probably the top of the tree.

Then there's Honda, Tyco Electronics, Lucent, Woolworths, the MoD and a host more, including the well known hotel The Lords of the Manor in the Cotswolds.

So when it comes to air con, refrigeration, heating, ventilation or whatever in that line, Carlton will sort it out for their clients.

And over the years they have developed a reputation which is second to none in the commercial world.

When they won their contract with Interserve Facilities Management for the Falklands, Gary and his family thought it might cause a probelm because two engineers will have to be away for at least a fortnight.

But now there's a scramble for the places and it hasn't been decided who will actually make the trip.