5 Rifles heading to Estonia in 2017

Published: 18 Nov 2016

The British Army has announced that the 5th Battalion The Rifles Battlegroup will be the lead element for the UK’s enhanced forward presence, based in Estonia, in 2017.

The armoured infantry battlegroup - based on the Warrior armoured fighting vehicle - will support British allies in the region and will be a forward presence to confront threats to global security.

It will contain state-of-the-art defensive equipment and the unit’s 800 troops will have completed comprehensive and demanding training before being deployed.

Lieutenant colonel Mark Wilson [pictured], who is the 5th Battalion's commanding officer, said its purpose is to reassure the Estonian government and its defence force of Britain’s commitment to the defence of a fellow NATO member.

Over 200 troops from France and Denmark including main battle tanks and a company of infantry will join the UK troops, as part of a commitment expected to last beyond 2017.

The deployment will be defensive in nature and will offer experience and expertise to developing and supporting Estonian Armed Forces. The troops are also expected to learn an enormous amount from its allies.

Defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon said: “We’re looking at how we can strengthen security in Europe and looking at how NATO and the EU can work better together. While the UK will be leaving the EU, we are totally committed to European security.”

Armed forces minister Mike Penning added: “The men and women of 5 Rifles will play an important role in Estonia, taking their skills and professionalism from Salisbury Plain to the heart of a NATO mission that will help our allies.”

Late September saw the 5th Battalion The Rifles move from Paderborn in Germany to Bulford in Wiltshire - an exercise that involved relocating 700 soldiers and around 500 families.

Lieutenant colonel Mark Wilson said that the move had “not been without its challenges” and although it demanded a great deal of planning, it had gone well, thanks to the help of Wiltshire Council.

“We have settled in well and the families are very happy,” he commented.

“We are looking forward to putting down our roots in Wiltshire, in and around Bulford, a place which has always been extremely welcoming to the British Army.”

Since its formation in February 2007, 5 Rifles has won its spurs through a steady cycle of deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan and regular exercises to Canada, the UK and Germany.

Created from the First Battalion The Light Infantry, 5 Rifles has deployed on Operation Telic 1, 3, 8 and 13 and Operation Herrick 15 and 20, where it was the last fighting unit in Helmand province.

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