The Royal Welsh take the lead for NATO in Estonia

1st Battalion The Royal Welsh has taken over as the lead unit of the NATO enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battlegroup in Estonia, following a formal ceremony held in Tapa Camp today.

Taking over from the Royal Tank Regiment, the event ensures a smooth transition of command and is marked by a ceremonial parade that includes the soldiers and officers from both Regiments.

The traditional ceremony marks the end of the Royal Tank Regiment’s six months as lead battlegroup, during which they have completed a variety of exercises, including Winter Camp and Bold Panzer.

Continuing to operate under the command of the Estonian 1st Infantry Brigade, the 1 Royal Welsh Battlegroup will be made up of around 1,200 soldiers from the UK, France and Denmark as the main combat force. It will be supported by logistics and planning elements and will also feature armoured capabilities, such as the Challenger 2 main battle tank and the Warrior Armoured Fighting Vehicle plus engineering and artillery elements.

The battalion previously deployed to Estonia in 2017 for a nine-month tour and recently completed Exercise Tallinn Dawn in Germany, helping them to prepare for their 2022 deployment to Estonia. The Royal Welsh Battlegroup constitutes the tenth UK rotation into Estonia since early 2017. 

Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh, Lt Col Rupert Streatfeild said: 

“It is an honour to be back in Estonia and deployed as NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup. We were last here in 2017 and this time we return as a larger battlegroup with both a Danish and French contingent, where operating alongside more NATO partners is the cornerstone of effective deterrence. 

“We have completed extensive training before our arrival into Estonia ensuring that the 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh and all accompanying units will be fully integrated within the 1st Estonian Brigade, prepared to deliver the mission expected from a NATO Battlegroup. 

“We very much look forward to working alongside our British counterparts from the Royal Tank Regiment and exchanging knowledge and expertise from our Estonian partners.” 

The Royal Tank Regiment arrived in Estonia in September 2021 and have served as the lead unit for last six months, deploying on high profile exercises across the Baltic states as the ninth UK rotation.

As the oldest tank regiment in the world, the Royal Tank Regiment will now continue to be based in Estonia supporting their Estonian counterparts and the new Battlegroup. 

Commanding Officer of the Royal Tank Regiment, Lt Col Simon Worth said:

“Deploying to Estonia has provided our Battlegroup with an enhanced understanding of our NATO fighting capabilities and the ability to operate in a challenging and dynamic environment. 

“Working under the Estonian 1st Infantry Brigade, we have developed our expertise and skills sets across a range of training scenarios that will stand us in good stead for future deployments. 

“From integrated exercises with our Estonian and French counterparts to leading community construction activities, I am extremely proud of all that we have achieved as the enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup in Estonia over the last six months.” 

For the first time since its inception in 2017, the eFP Battlegroup will consist of forces from the UK, France and Denmark, working alongside their Estonian counterparts. Around 175 Danish soldiers from is the Viking Company, the Jutland Dragoon Regiment and 200 mountain-specialist personnel from the 7th Alpine Hunter Battalion, an Infantry combat team. 

NATO's enhanced Forward Presence Battlegroup Estonia is led by the United Kingdom, with France and Denmark traditionally providing forces on a yearly rotational basis. Iceland also contributes to the eFP mission within the headquarters. 

The eFP Battlegroups in Latvia, Lithuania and Poland are led by Canada, Germany and the US respectively. All NATO Battlegroups have been integrated into their host nations' brigades to ensure maximum cohesion between Allied forces.