Amid the magnificent surroundings of Dover Castle, soldiers from across Kent received a royal seal of approval from HRH The Princess Royal for their commitment and dedication whilst deployed in the fight against Covid-19.
HRH Princess Anne, along with her husband, Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence paid a visit to Dover to thank Kent’s emergency services, agencies and the military for their help and support over the past 12 months during the Coronavirus crisis.
“We set up many sites at motorway service stations so that the drivers could be tested. At the end of our 16-day duty we had tested over 45,000 drivers at 35 sites.” Lance Corporal Ujiwolman Gurung,
1st Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles
Hosted by Lieutenant Colonel Charlie Field from 11 Infantry Brigade, Her Royal Highness was shown around and introduced to troops on a number of stands representing: 1st Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles (1RGR) from Shorncliffe, 36 Engineer Regiment from Maidstone, 11 Infantry Brigade and Army Reservists from 3rd Battalion Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment.
These were just some of the troops who deployed on Operation Rescript and Operation Rose, the military’s response to the United Kingdom’s fight against the Coronavirus pandemic.
Op Rescript was the overall operation that tackled the pandemic which saw soldiers running community Covid-19 test centres, providing general duties manpower to assist NHS staff in hospitals and collecting test results from care homes across the county.
However, it was Op Rose where the focus was very much on the county of Kent. This was the initiation and setting up of mass testing of the cross Channel continental lorry drivers. Every driver heading towards the Channel tunnel or the ferry port at Dover had to be tested before they could make the crossing. It meant that tens of thousands of drivers needed to be shown how to take their lateral flow tests and then administer the actual procedure, collect and distribute the resulting data.
For the soldiers it meant long days and working through the night in freezing conditions on the M20 and the windswept Manston Airfield, first to clear the backlog of thousands of lorries and then to ensure a steady throughput.
It was the Gurkhas of 1RGR who were given the job of setting up testing sites up and down the UK so that the drivers were already tested before reaching the channel ports. As Lance Corporal Ujiwolman Gurung explained, “we set up many sites at motorway service stations so that the drivers could be tested. At the end of our 16-day duty we had tested over 45,000 drivers at 35 sites.”
With the castle location for this special visit, perched high on Dover’s famous white cliffs, the sense of pertinence was certainly not lost; its commanding view of the ferries plying back and forth from the port below reminded the soldiers present of the critical role they played in keeping the country running at the end of last year.