British Army members finish winter exercise with ice plunge drills

British soldiers taking part in ice hole escape drills.
British soldiers taking part in ice hole escape drills. Source: ERR

British Army personnel based at Tapa with the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) got a taste of a real Estonian winter on Friday, after conducting ice escape drills. The cold plunges were the culmination of a three-day winter training exercise focusing mainly on navigation and survival, ETV news show 'Aktuaalne kaamera' (AK) reported Friday night.

The instructors were primarily Royal Marines, AK reported; the bulk of the British contingent at Tapa consists of personnel from the Royal Tank Regiment's (RTR) Dreadnaught Squadron, though soldiers from support elements such as the engineers, the logistics corps and the Army Air Corps are or have been at Tapa on the same rotational basis.

While the British Army and Royal Marines have long been known for their winter exercises in Norway, winters in Estonia also often afford cold weather experience, as here.

Training team leader Maj. Mark Dowds told AK that: "This morning, the soldiers conducted a 7km march, having conducted either the tactical phase last night, or some of them were on the survival phase, teaching them how to build emergency shelters and how to kill and cook live chickens."

The climax of the exercise, the ice plunge, saw instructors telling those in the water to control their breathing and to maneuver themselves back to the same side of the ice hole they had entered it. The soldiers then extracted themselves using the spikes on ski poles to aid them.

One participant (surnames given; ranks and units not reported by AK-ed.), Tanner, said that: "It was cold, takes you breath away a bit, but it's good."

Another, Jones, said: "I wouldn't say I liked it, but I got in and it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it could be. It was a lot better, and a lot warmer than I though I would be," while Gilmartin said that, now the exercise had been completed: "We're going back in today, I'll clean my kit, do some admin, hand the tents in and that's it."

"I wish," she added in response to interviewer Vahur Lauri's question as to whether a party would follow on from this.

British soldiers take part in winter training in Estonia similar to those conducted by their Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) counterparts.

EDF recruits are based at Tapa, east of Tallinn, also, while Danish and French contingents, and in the past Belgian units, regularly contribute to the eFP, which has now been in existence for five years.

The original AK report (in Estonian and English) is here, while readers with Estonian can also check out British Ambassador to Estonia Ross Allen's interview, given in Estonian, to ERR's Arp Müller and broadcast by Vikerraadio Friday, which also touches on the eFP.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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