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'Thanks for the coffee…unfortunately you are captured'

All’s fair in love and war including impersonating the enemy as soldiers from The Royal Lancers (Queen Elizabeth’s Own) proved on a recent NATO exercise.

The regiment’s C Squadron took part in the multinational cavalry exercise while deployed on Operation Cabrit, the UK deployment in Eastern Europe where British troops lead a multinational Battlegroup as part of the enhanced Forward Presence (eFP).

Between 31 August and 11 September, a mounted detachment of The Royal Lancers left their base as part of NATO’s Poland Battlegroup and deployed to NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence in Latvia to take part in Exercise Titan Shield.

Following a two-day, 500km road move between 31 August to 1 September, The Royal Lancers moved with a police escort across Poland, Lithuania and Latvia to the Canadian Army-led camp in Adazi, Latvia.

Moving in Jackal, Coyote and Panther armoured vehicles along with MAN Support Vehicles, soldiers from The Royal Lancers, Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers (REME), Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC), Queen’s Gurkha Signals, Royal Yeomanry (RY), Royal Horse Artillery (RHA), Royal Engineers, and Queen’s Own Yeomanry (QOY) travelled through the Suwalki Gap between Belarus and Kaliningrad (Russia).

Upon arrival into Adazi, the soldiers moved straight into the field to begin preparations for the exercise. Joined by Slovakian Artillery, using Zuzana 155 mm Gun Howitzer, British Forces played enemy to the local Latvian Battlegroup made up of Canadian, Spanish, Italian, Albanian, Polish, Czech, Latvian, and American soldiers. Despite being outnumbered 12 to 1, the British Forces fought with offensive spirit using specialised reconnaissance and light cavalry tactics.

The British soldiers fought using SA80 A2 assault rifles and General Purpose Machine Guns (GPMG) both in mounted and dismounted roles. They were supported by Joint Terminal Attack Controllers from 3 Royal Horse Artillery, who called in support from Eurofighter jets assigned to the Baltic Air Police.

One of the best chances I have had to use reconnaissance skills..." Lieutenant Nick Bennett, Royal Lancers

Lieutenant Nick Bennett led a dismounted reconnaissance patrol behind enemy lines and described the exercise as “one of the best chances I have had to use reconnaissance skills in a large multi-nation exercise context.”

He said: “We were given a lot of autonomy by our chain of command. At one point, while doing a night time close target reconnaissance, we pretended to be Canadian reinforcements to an Italian hideout. They kindly gave us teas and coffees before we told them we were the enemy and while their coffee was delicious, they were sadly now dead.”

The exercise culminated in a final attack on 7 September, in which all the British soldiers mounted and attacked the multinational Canadian-led lines. Using Jackals and Panthers, British forces moved round the battlefield quickly and efficiently. Eventually Polish PT91 Twardy tanks came up to reinforce the NATO lines and the British Forces were defeated.

A brilliant lesson in how to wreak havoc on an enemy force.” Squadron Sergeant Major Ryan Smith, Royal Lancers

Squadron Sergeant Major Ryan Smith described the exercise as “a brilliant lesson in how to wreak havoc on an enemy force.”

Staff Sergeant James Bowers, the exercise coordinator, added that while the exercise had been a big challenge to lay on, all the participants had learned a lot over the course of it”.

One of the key takeaways from the British Forces, led by Major Guy Parker, the commander of the British forces on the mission, was that his troops’ efforts had “a disproportionate effect at night” when the disparity in cohesion and tactical flexibility was most apparent.

Commander of the Canadian Forces at NATO’s Forward Land Forces Canada, Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Vincent, said he had been impressed by the overall cohesion of NATO troops under the circumstances

He said: “All of our armies have been involved in counterinsurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan for so long that we’ve unfortunately got away from this type of exercise.

“We’ve got to get back into that defensive mindset, to kind of rediscover how we do defensive operations in a conventional setting.”

The Royal Lancers left Op Cabrit in Poland recently and have been replaced by the Queen’s Dragoon Guards.

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