Christmas

Christmas spirit: UK troops build ice rink and market in Estonia

Personnel from 33 Armoured Engineer Squadron spent a week working in Tatu.

British personnel on NATO duty in Estonia have helped to build a Christmas market and ice rink for a town's residents.

As part of the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence on Operation CABRIT, they are in the country to ensure combat readiness as the threat from bordering Russia develops.

Personnel from 33 Armoured Engineer Squadron spent a week working in Tatu.

Major Ben Attrell, Officer Commanding 33 Armoured Engineer Squadron, told Forces News: "We've been in country now for three months, but we've got three more to go so we're at the halfway point just as we approach Christmas which is quite a nice halfway point for us."

Major Attrell spoke of how one of the Royal Engineers' proudest moments so far was their invitation to support the build of the market and rink.

"It was a brilliant opportunity for us to work alongside our Estonian friends but also get to know the people quite a bit better," he said.

"I think it's fair to say that Estonian culture is slightly different from British culture and there's no better way to get to know each other and understand the broader purpose of the mission."

The major admitted the construction was "quite a challenge" but praised his "amazing team".

He added: "We got all trades involved, so my plumbers, my bricklayers and concreters, all sorts got involved and, ultimately, the whole team was just happy to play a part in making the local people's Christmas that bit more special than it otherwise would have been."

The team is going back on Christmas Eve, for the squadron to serve at a soup kitchen, and will take the opportunity to "jump on the ice rink," the major said.

OP CABRIT Estonia Royal Anglian Regiment soldier deployed on Op CABRIT firing a Heavy Machine Gun from a Jackal during a Live Fire exercise  010921 CREDIT MOD
A Royal Anglian Regiment soldier deployed on Op CABRIT firing a Heavy Machine Gun from a Jackal during a Live Fire exercise earlier this year (Picture: MOD).

He added: "I've got quite a few junior soldiers with me here, who, not only is it their first tour, it's also their first time away from their families at Christmas.

"What we're going to look to do is, rather than try and replicate what people would normally have at home, we're going to do it in our own special 33 Squadron way.

"I think the guys are going to appreciate a little bit of a lie-in, but then also we're going to give them an opportunity to call back home, check in with their families, but then also we've got a load of games lined up and socials, we'll be having our own unique Estonian Christmas dinner out here.

"Then we'll have a bit of a party in the afternoon where we can all celebrate."