On the second day of her two-day visit to Estonia, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, visited the 1st Infantry Brigade's Tapa Army Base on Wednesday, where she met with British and French troops serving there as part of NATO's enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) battle group.
The countess was met at the base by Lt. Col. Mark Wilson, commanding officer of the NATO battle group stationed in Estonia, and Col. Veiko-Vello Palm, commander of the 1st Infantry Brigade, who provided her with an interview of the 1st Infantry Brigade and the CV9035 infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) used by the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF), military spokespeople in Tallinn said.
At the EDF's nearby central training ground, the countess also reviewed the NATO battle group's armored equipment.
The Countess of Wessex is Royal Colonel of the 5th Battalion The Rifles. In this capacity, she has regularly visited the battalion at their previous base in Germany as well as at their new base in Wiltshire and has on several occasions also visited the troops while on operational duties, including in Afghanistan in December 2011.
A full-time working member of the British royal family, the Countess of Wessex splits her time between work in support of the Queen and visits to a large number of her own charities and organizations. Her wide range of interests include supporting people with disabilities, the prevention of blindness in developing countries, agriculture as well as fashion. The Countess of Wessex is the wife of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and the youngest of four children of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
The battalion-sized NATO battle group stationed at Tapa and operating within the EDF's 1st Infantry Brigade consists of 1,200 allied soldiers from the U.K. and France. The U.K., the battle group's lead country, has contributed more than 800 troops and a range of combat equipment, including Challenger 2 tanks, Warrior IFVs, AS-90 self-propelled artillery as well as armored vehicles.
France's contribution to the battle group includes 300 personnel and various equipment, including Leclerc tanks, VBCI IFVs and VAB armored vehicles. The French contingent will serve at Tapa for the next eight months before handing over responsibility to a Danish contingent of a similar size.
Editor: Aili Vahtla