Thousands of soldiers, drawn from every part of the Army, will continue to protect the nation this Christmas with an extensive range of deployments overseas and at home. On Christmas Day 2021 around 3,750 soldiers will be deployed around the world.
They join the 2,500 soldiers who are ready to support the COVID-19 vaccine booster programme and more than 5,500 on standby to ready to assist civil authorities when required.
Around the world
In Estonia, more than 650 of our soldiers are leading a multinational battlegroup as part of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence. The UK Armed Forces play a leading role in the effort to enhance European and transatlantic security, reassure our allies, and deter our adversaries.
In Mali, soldiers are serving on two operations, in support of the French Operation Barkhane in a non-combatant logistics role, and as part of the Long Range Reconnaissance Group (LRRG) to contribute to the UN peacekeeping mission Op Minusma. They’re working to protect civilians, prevent conflict and terrorism, and enable diplomacy and stability.
In Somalia, there are soldiers currently deployed to support the Somali National Army as part of international efforts to promote long-term stability and security for the benefit of the Somali people.
Around 220 personnel from 1st Battalion The Rifles, will also be working to support the UN Peacekeeping force in Cyprus, known as Op Tosca.
Approximately 100 soldiers are deployed annually on Op Orbital, the UK’s mission to build military capability in Ukraine. To date, more than 20,000 Ukrainian Armed Forces personnel and nearly 4,000 military instructors have been trained in over 400 courses at the invitation of Ukraine.
In Gibraltar, 411 military personnel from all three services, including 230 personnel from the Royal Gibraltar Regiment, are providing defence and security to this British Overseas Territory.
This is just a small handful of locations where our soldiers are deployed around the world this Christmas.
Keeping their spirits high
As we described within our Christmas on the front line article, our soldiers may be thousands of miles away from friends and family, but they will be keeping their spirits high and will don Christmas jumpers and put up decorations where they can.
Although not everyone will have the same experience, most soldiers should get a Christmas dinner, even if it can’t be on Christmas day. Everyone will most likely receive a parcel, whether it’s from loved ones or charity.
In many locations around the world, Christmas Eve will see a Chaplaincy-led carol service followed by a Midnight Mass, offering a more reflective time for those who wish to attend. Christmas Day will start with Christmas stockings being handed out to the soldiers, more carol singing, then a Christmas Day dinner served by the Officers, Warrant Officers and SNCOs. It's a tradition going back many years, particularly for soldiers deployed overseas.
Fully focussed on their mission
Although the soldiers will be missing their friends and family this Christmas, they will be fully focussed on their mission. The Army remains ready for the many challenges it faces now and in the future. This is clearly demonstrated by the range of deployments from playing a leading role in the effort to enhance European and transatlantic security as part of NATO to being prepared to support authorities with flooding relief at home. The range of opportunities for our soldiers are endless and showcases our ability to operate across all domains with alliances and strategic partners.
On duty at home
At home there are over 2,500 soldiers standing by to help the NHS and the Government respond to the coronavirus pandemic. More than 120 soldiers, including medics and healthcare professionals, are deployed across the country to help the national effort to administer booster jabs.
There are around 5,500 soldiers on standby in the UK who can be called upon to support winter resilience, such as flooding operations at home.
In London, soldiers from the Coldstream Guards, the Grenadier Guards, and the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment will be on duty guarding Buckingham Palace, St James’s Palace, Horse Guards, the Tower of London, and Windsor Castle over Christmas and into the New Year.
It’s been quite a year
It’s been quite a year for the Army which recently culminated with the announcement of further details of Future Soldier, the Army’s most radical programme of transformation in over 20 years. Launched as part of the Government’s Integrated Review in March 2021, Future Soldier outlines how the Army will be organised and structured in the future and how it will deal with emerging threats across the World
The Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith, reflected in his Christmas message on the extraordinary achievements of the Army through 2021.
He said: “I want to thank all of you and your families for the remarkable performance that has characterised the British Army’s contribution to the UK and our overseas operations through the course of this year.”
Addressing all those for whom Christmas is going to be spent serving overseas this year, he added: “I want to thank you for what you are doing for the British Army and I want to remind you that you are very much in the minds of all the rest of the Army family.”