It has been announced that the Countess of Wessex will pay a visit to troops from 5th Battalion The Rifles in Estonia. The first vanguard of troops is just heading out there for what will be one of the largest recent deployments of British troops for some time, this is a NATO exercise, and the British troops will be joined by smaller contingents from France, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. On their website, Lieutenant Colonel Mark Wilson, Commanding Officer, 5th Battalion The Rifles said: “Our purpose is to reassure the Estonian Government and the Estonian Defence Force of our commitment to the defence of a fellow NATO member.”
The exercise is being undertaken with the full co-operation of the Estonian government, and the troops were welcomed when they landed in Estonia by Margus Tsahkna, the Defence Minister. They had flown to the Amari airbase from RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire. They will be joined by three hundred military vehicles from the UK including Challenger tanks and Warrior infantry fighting vehicles, together with tanks from France.
This will not be the first time that the Countess has visited the Battalion outside of England. Last year, she paid a visit to the 5th Battalion as they prepared to leave Alanbrooke Barracks in Paderborn, as reported on Royal Central. The battalion was moved to Bulford in Wiltshire from Paderborn, one of several battalions to be moved back to the United Kingdom from Germany following a restructuring of the Army.
It is also not the first time recently British troops on exercise in Estonia have received a Royal visitor. Back in 2014, Prince Harry visited members of the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment who had joined conscripts from the Estonian Army in a NATO Spring Storm exercise “Kevadtorm”. It was an occasion for Prince Harry to renew friendships with members of the Estonian Army he had served with in Afghanistan in 2008. Indeed, he met Captain Tanel Tarlap who he had shared a room with. I wonder if the Countess will meet any troops she met in Paderborn, we shall have to wait and see.