Cyprus

Coronavirus: 2 Mercian's Cyprus Tour Extended Due To Pandemic

The extension means 480 soldiers will remain in the Mediterranean until the end of the year.

Soldiers from 2nd Battalion The Mercian Regiment deployed to Cyprus have had their tour extended because of the coronavirus crisis.

Personnel from 2 Mercian were due to return home this summer after two years on the island as part of the Regional Standby Battalion.

Instead, the 480 soldiers, including 109 families, will remain on the island until the end of the year.

Sergeant Ross Hallam told Forces News: “It’s not the end of the world. The lads are more than adapted to the fact that they are going back in the winter instead.

“Me personally, being honest, I don’t really mind.

"The whole experience of Cyprus as a whole for me and the girls has been fantastic, something that especially the wife and my daughter have relished."

Despite enjoying life in Cyprus, the move has scuppered Sergeant Hallam's plans to move into his new house in the UK which he bought last year.

Instead, he said he and his family are "looking forward to making the most of the island" and "getting on the beach".

His wife, Roxy, said: "I think we are, as I say, just going to embrace it and just make the most of the time we’ve got left here.”

Sergeant Hallam playing at home with his daughter.

Although 2 Mercian's tour is coming to an end, the battalion is already looking ahead to its next tasks.

Lieutenant Colonel Mark Davis, Commanding Officer, 2 Mercian, told Forces News: "We’re due to go to Kenya next January/February time on Exercise Askari Storm, so we’re thinking about that, preparing for that.

“It’s a bit harder to prepare for that out here sometimes – we don’t have some of the sort of kit and things we have back in the UK.”

Lt Col Davis also said his soldiers are preparing for upcoming support work in Kabul, Afghanistan, and are looking at how they can "prepare and get on the front foot to get ready for that operational tour".

"A lot of that’s driver training, for example, so quite a lot of our soldiers are still doing their driver training out here and we can do pretty much do everything except the protective ability training out here and just get ready so that we are ready to go next year,” he said.