How Estonia ‘Is Like Lapland’ For Troops On Operation Cabrit At Christmas

Deployed to Estonia over Christmas on Operation Cabrit, 1st Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment is spending the festive season as part of NATO...


Armed Forces deployed to Estonia this Christmas might be feeling a little more festive than many this season for one reason – the Baltic state looks a lot like Lapland.

Those deployed on Operation Cabrit with 1st Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment are already preparing for a festive feast which will maintain Christmas traditions with turkey, gammon, pigs in blankets and Brussel sprouts on the menu.

Warrant Officer Class 1 Andrew Morrison, Regimental Sergeant Major for the Battlegroup, gave an insight into what has been planned for the troops on Christmas Day, saying:

“Estonia is quite festive in its nature because it does look like Lapland at times.

“We’ve got a lot of decorations up and it’s dependent on all of us as leaders to make sure that we’re keeping people smiling as best as we can.

“The intention is to do a traditional soldier’s lunch and serve it as we would back in the UK with trains of tables.”

The troops are among more than 800 British personnel stationed in the Baltic state to deter potential aggression from Russia alongside their Estonian and Danish allies in the town of Tapa.

Deployed to Estonia over Christmas, the regiment is spending the festive season as part of NATO’s enhanced forward presence.

Chefs will be preparing not just one but two sets of meals.

The first for the 600 Danish soldiers who celebrate Christmas Day on the 24th December and then the second for the 800 strong 1 Yorks Battlegroup on the 25th.

Major Nick Breen Chief of Staff, who took over the operation in June, told how the environment during Operation Cabrit in Estonia can be challenging.

He said: “We’ve actually been handed a very good operation by The Royal Welsh, but just trying to understand how Op Cabrit works, our role within it and also our role within an Estonia Brigade is quite challenging understanding the mechanics and how to communicate with them does take time in itself.

“The establishment is quite mature now and has been here for some 18 months.

“It has been busy but it’s also been very challenging in a number of areas, such as the operational activity we’ve been doing out here.

“For example having to re-plan for different contingencies between countries when we go on exercise into Latvia.”

Set to be replaced by the King’s Royal Hussars in March, 1 Yorks have been preparing for the Baltic winter with cold weather exercises but have also been able to let their hair down with a number of events.

In the lead up to Christmas, personnel on Op Cabrit were treated to a performance by The Royal Artillery Band and a special CSE show to keep morale high with comedy from Nick Page, Barry Castagnola and music from the Dominos.

WO1 Morrison added: “We’ve got a lot of decorations up and it’s dependent on all of us as leaders to make sure that we’re keeping people smiling as best as we can.

“The intention is to do a traditional soldier’s lunch and serve it as we would back in the UK with trains of tables.”

 “We’ll then role into the Queen’s speech with a nice toast, and then we have a Tapa Does Talent in the evening with a karaoke contest.

“The Estonian’s have been very accommodating.

“Our Danish brothers and sisters part of the Battlegroup celebrate on Christmas Eve so we’ll be integrating with them and marking the occasion just as much as we will invite them to our festivities on Christmas Day.”

Being away from family and friends at Christmas can be a difficult time when deployed overseas.

WO1 Andrew Morrison reflects on spending this time of year with fellow soldiers.

“It’s very special and it’s very poignant for me because as my time as a soldier comes to an end, I’m starting to feel a little nostalgic about how appreciative I am of having the ability to spend time with some soldiers.

“For a lot of the boys and girls this will be their first time away from home, from their friends and family but with their military family instead at Christmas."

“It’s just making sure that everybody feels as good as they can at this time of the year, even though it will never replace being with actual family back home. It’s all part of the brotherhood and sisterhood that the British military are renowned for.

“The Army’s ethos is that we’re all part of the same family, it doesn’t matter where you’re from.”

Padre Alan Cobain will be spending his fourth operational tour away from home overseas and has an important role to play at Christmas for those on Operation Cabrit in Estonia.

 “The voice of the Christian tradition and that Christmas message of peace on earth and goodwill towards all men is indeed something we need to be reminded of and what we’re about here in Estonia.”

“It’s a change from the normal routine and a chance for a bit of cheer and camaraderie that lifts spirits.   

“For me Christmas is about family, friends and those relationships that are most important. But it’s also for the troops and making sure that they have a great day keeping their morale up.”

Listen to the Forces Radio BFBS Estonia Christmas Special on FM, online or via the free app on Apple of Android on Tuesday, December 25 at 1pm UK time. 

You can join us on December 24 for Totally Christmas, a festive two-hour show on Forces Radio BFBS and a one-hour programme on BFBS TV that will connect our military audience right across the forces world, from Germany to Gibraltar… Cyprus to the Falklands… and everywhere else in-between.

Forces Radio BFBS broadcasters Amy Casey and Warren Moore will present the programme, reading out messages to loved ones wherever they may be, in a Forces Radio BFBS and BFBS Extra live simulcast, which will also be shown on BFBS Sport and Forces TV - with live interaction here on forces.net.