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Military kit a ‘game changer’ for British troops braving the cold in Estonia

Press Association logoPress Association 13/02/2018 By Georgina Stubbs, Press Association, in Tapa, Estonia
Soldiers from 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh set up their tents for the night during Exercise Winter Camp (Joe Giddens/PA) © Provided by The Press Association Soldiers from 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh set up their tents for the night during Exercise Winter Camp (Joe Giddens/PA)

British soldiers revealed they have received some of the best kit in their military careers whilst deployed in Estonia, with some items proving to be “game changers”.

Currently there are more than 800 UK troops stationed in the Baltic country as part of Britain’s Nato commitment to the Enhanced Forward Presence.

Soldiers from the 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh are based in the town of Tapa, but have been carrying out exercises and training in the surrounding forests, often braving sub-zero temperatures.

Related video: British troops arrive in Estonia for Nato mission to deter Russian aggression

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Acting platoon sergeant Corporal Christian Long has been in the Army 12 years and described working in temperatures which plunge as low as minus 19C as a “unique experience”.

To counter the cold, the soldiers have been provided with a raft of winter kit, including overboots that cover their own so they do not freeze, specialist four-man tents so they can sleep outside, as well as sleeping bag and glove layering “systems”.

“I have been quite shocked actually, I think we all have. When we left the UK for Estonia we didn’t think that we would get a lot of the kit,” he said.

Describing the overboots, Cpl Long said: “These have proved to be very, very effective out here … these have been a really big game changer.”

Following a cold weather operator course recently taught to them by the Royal Marines, Cpl Long said they have since used this information and adjusted their techniques to suit.

Related Slideshow: These Baltic Militias Are Readying For War With Russia (Provided by The Atlantic)

a man wearing a uniform: Vitautas Kairys, head of the city of Jurbarkas' section of the Lietuvos Šaulių Sąjunga (the "Lithuanian Riflemen’s Union"), is a survivor of Soviet-era deportation. These Baltic Militias Are Readying For War With Russia

Some of these tricks include taking the insoles out of their boots at night and putting them inside their sleeping bag, alongside other damp items of kit such as gloves and hats.

The 30-year-old, from Porthcawl in South Wales, said the low temperatures change how they operate and that the cold does slow them down – forcing them to allow more time for tasks.

He admitted that due to the cold, he and his colleagues will wake up “groggy” and have to “kick in” and get their administration (such as eating and washing) done, otherwise they will get cold easily first thing in the morning.

“If we can administrate and survive out here then we can take this back to the UK and it will only make us more effective,” Cpl Long added.

Fusilier Addison Lightowler, 19, from Llanfyllin, told the Press Association that he is on his first big deployment, which he is enjoying.

“(But) you don’t get cold like this in the UK – it is hard to deal with,” he added.

Major Nicholas Zorab, from Edinburgh, is the officer commanding A company in the Royal Welsh and said so far the deployment has offered some “fantastic” training opportunities, but that the weather has presented them with “some unique challenges”.

“I think the highlight for me is the opportunity we have had to work with our Estonian and Danish allies – learn from them,” the 35-year-old said.

“At the end of the day this is the Estonians’ country, they’re used to this weather, we are not used to it, so they have been able to give us lots and lots of information to help us operate out here.”

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