British Army tank crewed entirely by reservists for the first time since Second World War

A Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank crew from the Royal Wessex Yeomanry have made regimental history whilst serving in Estonia as part of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP).

The four soldiers – normally based in the South West of England – are believed to be the first fully formed crew from the British Army’s Armoured Reserve Regiment to serve on Operations since the Second World War.

The last time a reservist tank crew from the regiment’s antecedent units deployed was almost 80 years ago in 1944, when the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry were deployed to Italy and took part in the advance on Rome.

It’s been a privilege to be deployed out here in Estonia on our regiment’s anniversary year, but also for The Yeomanry 150, and Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee year as well.” Lance Corporal Wirgman, Royal Wessex Yeomanry

The historic milestone was achieved by four Junior Non-Commissioned Officers who deployed with the Royal Tank Regiment Battlegroup on Operation Cabrit.

Operation Cabrit is the British Army’s contribution to the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP). The eFP is built upon four multinational battlegroups stationed in Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Estonia, with British contributions in Estonia and Poland. The presence of Allied forces assures allies of NATO's ability and determination to provide collective defence and a united approach to countering aggression.

The tank crewmen, made up of commander, loader, gunner and driver, have been working alongside the Danish, French, and host nation Estonian forces.

Lance Corporal Dwight, who drives the 62-tonne tracked vehicle, has another skill which has been a great asset in the Baltic:

“I’m also a French linguist, which means I’ve been able to work with our French counterparts and help out on the different French battlegroups that we’ve been working with.”

The UK’s only part-time tank soldiers have been providing reinforcements for regular army regiments who field the Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank. Tank Commander Corporal Farley, who deployed for 6-months, has been on multiple exercises all over the world. He said:

“It feels good to be given the opportunity to come and do this, I’ve enjoyed the challenge. It’s not something the Armoured Reserves have had a chance to do for a long time, so it’s good to be out here training.”

The Royal Wessex Yeomanry formed in 1971 through the amalgamation of the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry, the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars, and the Royal Devon Yeomanry. They were joined in 1999 by the Dorset Yeomanry and in 2014 by A Squadron of the Royal Yeomanry.

In the regiment’s 50th Anniversary year, Lance Corporal Livingstone – whose day job working in the theatre is as far removed from that of a loader – said:

“To serve on operations is something I’ve always wanted to do. To serve on operations as part of the first Reservist tank crew to be on operations since the Second World War – that’s something special. To do it as part of our regiment’s anniversary just adds to the significance of what we are doing out here.”