British soldiers deployed to Estonia have gained an insight into how troops from the host country celebrate Valentine’s Day differently to most other parts of the world.
In both Estonia and Finland, Friend’s Day on 14th February, called Sõbrapäev in Estonian, is more about remembering friends, rather than a romantic occasion for couples.
Children make cards and gifts for those they care about, and adults also exchange gifts. Friends meet up for meals and shared sporting activities, like skating and sledding.
This celebration of platonic love ensures that everyone, single people and couples alike, is included and made to feel special.
In Estonian there is a saying: „You will know a true friend in need“. Our NATO allies and UK friends are there for us not only in times of need, but at all times, and we are proud to consider them true friends. Captain Taavi Laasik, Estonian Defence Forces Headquarters
Captain Taavi Laasik, Estonian Defence Forces Headquarters, explains more:
“Friend’s Day for Estonians is a good opportunity to remember and thank those people who play an important role in your life and are there for you when you need them most.
"It is mostly a day to give small gifts and say kind words, as they show appreciation and will make relationships stronger.
"In Estonian there is a saying: 'You will know a true friend in need'. Our NATO allies and UK friends are there for us not only in times of need, but at all times, and we are proud to consider them true friends.“
During the demanding Exercise Winter Camp, which recently finished, Estonian soldiers had to put their friendship with military partners on hold as they played the part of enemy forces.
Soldiers from NATO’s UK-led enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battlegroup trained with the 1st Estonian Infantry Brigade during the two-week-long exercise which demonstrated the combined arms capabilities of UK, French, Danish and Estonian forces.
Since September 2022, the King’s Royal Hussars have led the eFP Battlegroup, which has also consisted of an anti-tank company from 1st Battalion Scots Guards, two battery sub-units from the Royal Artillery’s 19th Regiment and 26th Regiment and 3 Armoured Engineer Squadron from 22 Engineer Regiment.
The British Army units have been deployed alongside a Danish tank squadron from the Jutland Dragoon Regiment and the Les Verts company from the French Army’s Mountain Infantry Brigade.
Exercise Winter Camp also saw a further surge of troops, including a platoon of chemical, biological, radioactive and nuclear (CBRN) specialists from the French Army, Chinook (CH47) helicopters from the Royal Air Force’s Aviation Task Force and the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) belonging to the US Army’s 1st Infantry Division.
During rare lulls in training in the freezing, dense forests and bogs at Tapa military camp, British soldiers relaxed with their Estonian counterparts and other countries’ troops.
Exercise Winter Camp and other forms of training that the British troops have carried out over the last few months, alongside Danish, Estonian and French troops, will only strengthen the bonds of friendship and shared knowledge between British soldiers and our NATO allies.
This helps ensure that British Army troops can work seamlessly, shoulder to shoulder with soldiers from NATO allies and partners and are operationally ready for deployments.