Operation Cabrit is the NATO mission keeping the British Army deployed to Estonia for the last two and a half years.
Working alongside their allies in the Baltic States to enhance Euro-Atlantic security, the Queen’s Royal Hussars are the present battlegroup on the ground.
The British Army has a leading role in Op Cabrit and in NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence (EFP), where around 900 troops are combat-ready during each rotation.
The majority of the battlegroup live and work out of their base in Tapa, but overall operations are conducted at the defence headquarters in the capital of Estonia, Tallinn.
Col Paul Clayton is Commander of the UK contribution to the EFP mission in Estonia and Poland. He’s been in the role since April 2019. Speaking with Forces Radio BFBS' Jess Bracey he said:
“Our relationship with the Estonians is fantastic. The support that they give us is never-ending, and that comes from 100 years of us being very close.
“Our 10 years of hard fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan has cemented that bond, and you can see that every day with the soldiers based in Tapa who reconnect with people they’ve previously been on tour with."
LISTEN: Jess speaks to Col Paul Clayton
“That feeling of defence that they provide is absolutely tangible.
"Their perception of the threat in Estonia from across the border is real, you can feel it and smell it here.
"We provide them an umbrella of additional security which they are truly thankful for.
“The British Army is seen as a really valuable partner and ally, and someone to look to for training in specialist areas.”
Taking over from the King’s Royal Hussars in October 2019, the Queen’s Royal Hussars (QRH) are the current battlegroup who recruit from both the Midlands and Northern Ireland.
One of their most famous soldiers is Sir Winston Churchill who served with the 4th Hussars in India in the late 19th century.
Lt Col James Shan spoke about the two main roles of the QRH on Op Cabrit in Estonia.
“The first is to deter any foreign aggression, and the other is to reassure the Estonian population and our NATO allies of our commitment to the alliance.”
LISTEN: Jess speaks to Lt Col James Shan
“As a regiment, we’ve just moved back from Germany after 20 years so in many ways Estonia feels like a home from home."
For those on Op Cabrit everyday life is varied:
“Whether we’re out on exercise with our armoured vehicles, teaching English to local schools or running cross-fit classes, along with soldiers carrying out courses and training to make them better individuals. There’s always something different going on.
“Some of our success stories include seeing the soldiers out and about in the local community. Whether that’s to the east conducting battlefield tours or just understanding Estonian culture."
WATCH: Jess takes a spin in a Challenger 2 tank
Part of their vehicle arsenal is the Challenger 2 Tank, the Warrior and the Jackal 2.
Troop Leader for 2nd Troop, Lt Isla Matheson, shares what she enjoys about the job. She said:
“Tanks are just a lot more exciting especially in the field exercises being up at the front and striking forward.
“Exercise Furious Cavalry was the first time that I’ve worked with the Rifles. They work in very different environments, so how we use the infantry alongside the cavalry is a really interesting experience.
“Every day is so different. It’s either getting the tanks ready to go on exercise, organising a battlefield study, to mountain biking and shopping in the capital Tallinn.”
“The next couple of months are really busy for us. We’ll be down the ranges in Latvia and then we have another two-week exercise out of area where we finally get to work alongside our Danish counterparts.
“It’s great working with our European allies because you get to see how they work and what their strengths and weaknesses are.
“The Estonians have already shown us new ways of un-bogging a tank and different ways of working in their environment. It’s so different to what I’ve done before in BATUS where there’s literally no trees and its very open, whereas here we are more constrained with the hardwood blocks and bogs everywhere.”
Looking ahead to the rest of 2020, Col Paul Clayton said:
“We have got the US carrying out a huge exercise coming into Poland, but also the Baltic States.
“From our location here in Estonia and our support with a squadron in Poland, we’ll be taking part in a number of exercises with the US Army.
“We’ve also got Exercise Spring Storm coming up, the 1st Fusiliers will be coming out as the next battlegroup in March and I know they’re getting excited about coming out and taking part in some really big exercises throughout the summer.”