Irish Guards bandsmen stand by Royal Hospital Chelsea Christmas Tree

Where Are UK Military Personnel Deployed This Christmas?

A total of 6,400 British servicemen and women will be deployed at home and overseas this festive season.

Irish Guards bandsmen stand by Royal Hospital Chelsea Christmas Tree

Christmas is all about spending time with loved ones.

Every year, however, members of the military sacrifice their festive period in order to protect their country.

This year, 6,400 sailors, soldiers, airmen, and Royal Marines will be deployed on operations throughout the festive period.

They are deployed in multiple continents on 39 operations in 46 countries across the globe – from Somalia to Mali, from Ukraine to Estonia.

    While families at home celebrate Christmas, troops will be working around the clock in many time zones to keep the nation safe and protect the UK’s interests.

    In total 11 Royal Navy vessels will be at sea over Christmas.

    These include River-class offshore patrol vessel HMS Medway, which is protecting UK Overseas Territories in the Caribbean, and HMS Forth, which is spending Christmas in the Falkland Islands.

    RFA Cardigan Bay is currently in the Gulf providing protection to international shipping lanes and she will be joined by HMS Montrose, HMS Shoreham, HMS Brocklesby, HMS Chiddingfold, and HMS Penzance.

    Royal Navy vessels will also be held at very high readiness, prepared to respond when needed.

    Since 1969, the UK has also had a submarine on patrol for every minute of every day in the year, providing the UK’s nuclear deterrent – and this Christmas is no different.

    Blues and Royals Lance Corporals by Royal Hospital Chelsea Christmas Tree
    Two Blues and Royals soldiers at Royal Hospital Chelsea two years ago (Picture: MOD).

    The Armed Forces will also be busy at home.

    The squadrons of the UK’s Quick Reaction Alert will be on duty at RAF Lossiemouth and RAF Coningsby, many of them ready in their green flight suits waiting for the call to scramble and protect UK airspace.

    Similarly, Royal Navy ships will also be on-class to guard British waters.

    Also on duty at home will be soldiers from Nijmegen Company Grenadier Guards, keeping guard outside Royal residences in London and Windsor.

    F Company Scots Guards will take over guard duties at all locations over the New Year.

    The Armed Forces' support in the fight against the coronavirus will also continue over the Christmas period.

    Together with the NHS, military personnel are on standby to roll out a COVID-19 mass vaccination programme.

    About 14,000 personnel are being held at graduated readiness as part of the MOD's Winter Preparedness Package and are on standby to assist local authorities with coronavirus needs over the winter period.

    Personnel from the British Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Navy will also be working from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus, in Iraq and across the wider Middle East as part of the ongoing fight against Daesh.

    About 437 personnel, including 280 from the Royal Gibraltar Regiment, are based in Gibraltar to provide support to the British Overseas Territory.

    In the South Atlantic, about 1,200 personnel from all three services are stationed in the Falkland Islands.

    Just before Christmas, the Defence Secretary visited personnel deployed to Estonia (Picture: MOD).

    In Europe, 150 UK personnel of the Queen’s Dragoon Guards and Royal Yeomanry Reservists are deployed in Poland and about 800 British personnel from 5 RIFLES are deployed in Estonia on NATO's enhanced Forward Presence (eFP).

    About 100 personnel from 3 RIFLES and 4 SCOTS will also be in Ukraine to provide training to Ukrainian Forces.

    Servicemen and women will also continue their peacekeeping duties in Cyprus, where 260 personnel will be supporting the UN peacekeeping force.

    Troops will also be on peacekeeping missions in Africa during the festive season.

    In Mali, RAF Chinook helicopters from RAF Odiham are supported by about 100 British troops to support French counter-terrorism operations.

    Three-hundred UK military personnel, led by the Light Dragoons, also recently deployed to Mali on a UN peacekeeping mission to counter instability.

    A further 65 British service personnel are also deployed to Somalia to support peacekeeping and help train Somali Forces. 

    Cover image: Irish Guards in the grounds of Royal Hospital Chelsea in 2018 (Picture: MOD).