Gallery: Memorial service marks British naval squadron arrival in Tallinn

A memorial service was held on Thursday, commemorating the centenary of the arrival of a British Royal Naval Squadron during the Estonian War of Independence. The service was attended by President Kersti Kaljulaid, UK ambassador Theresa Bubbear and representatives of both nations' defence forces.

''Estonia emerged victorious from the war of independence for two main reasons,'' said Ms Kaljulaid in a speech at the ceremony, which took place at the military cemetery in central Tallinn.

''First, thanks to thanks to a self-belief in a seemingly hopeless situation, on the part of the people, the military and the leaders of the state, and second, as a result of military, material and moral support from its allies – the UK, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, the US and others. This is still the case today; our independence and security is based on the principle of both independent defence and international cooperation and a collective defence,'' the president continued.

Wreaths were also laid at British war graves dating from the Estonian War of Independence, and World War One, which immediately preceded it, by the representatives. Personnel from the newly arrived HMS St. Albans, a Royal Navy frigate moored in Tallinn harbour from Wednesday, and representatives of the defence ministry, the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) and the volunteer Estonian Defence League, all partook in the wreath-laying, as well as UK military personnel stationed at Tapa as part of the NATO commitment to Estonia.

The contribution made by the Baltic Squadron, commanded by Rear Admiral Edwyn Alexander-Sinclair and other British defence forces, saw close to 300 ships being committed A total of 111 British servicemen fell during the conflict, principally from the Royal Navy and the newly formed Royal Airforce.

Men and materiel arrived from the UK following lobbying by Estonian politicians, and in the wider theatre of the Russian Civil War. It included 6,500 rifles, 200 machine guns and two field guns coming to Estonia. That and continued supplies, artillery and flank support, played a vital role in maintaining Estonian and Latvian independence through to 1920.

Rear Admiral Sinclair had in the month prior to the Baltic expedition led the surrendered German fleet into internment at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands (these ships were subsequently scuttled on the orders of the German naval leadership).

The HMS St. Albans is in Tallinn harbour until 15 December and will be open to visitors on the last day of its sojourn.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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