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British officer honoured for leading Estonians in Helmand

May 29, 2011

The Commanding Officer (CO) of 2nd Battalion The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment (2 LANCS) has been awarded a top Estonian military honour for his part in leading the ISAF partner nation’s forces in Afghanistan.

Lieutenant General Ants Laaneots presents Lieutenant Colonel Robbie Boyd The Estonian Meritorious of Service Cross

In August 2010, 2 LANCS, dubbed the ‘Lions of England’, and an Estonian Army unit served alongside each other as they established a new Combined Force in northern Nad ‘Ali.

That tough and arduous four-month tour came as part of the 2 LANCS’ mammoth 15.5 months as the Theatre Reserve Battalion, based in Cyprus. During this time, six of the battalion’s soldiers were killed and 24 injured over six deployments; a stark statistic that underlined the sheer scale of the challenge.

Yesterday, Monday 23 May, 2 LANCS’ CO, Lieutenant Colonel Robbie Boyd, was presented with a prestigious and rare Estonian Defence Forces Meritorious Service Cross by the Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces, Lieutenant General Ants Laaneots, in honour of his contribution to leading nearly 700 ISAF soldiers and around 300 members of the Afghan National Security Forces during the battalion’s time in Helmand.

The Lions of England and The Lions of Estonia serve alongside each other in Nad-e Ali (North), Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

Combined Force Nad ‘Ali (North) formed up on 5 August 2010. In addition to the attached arms of artillery, engineers, military police, logisticians and Afghan partners, the Force comprised a Rifle Company Group from 2 LANCS, one from its sister battalion, 1 LANCS, and an Estonian Rifle Company, serving side by side.

The Estonian Rifle Company, Group 10, quickly won plaudits for their tenacity and professionalism, and they were soon dubbed the ‘Lions of Estonia’ by soldiers of 2 LANCS. Lt Col Boyd said:

“We deployed as the first troops tasked by the new coalition government to establish a Combined Force in northern Nad ‘Ali, central Helmand, with international partners.

“It was the longest operational tour as the Theatre Reserve Battalion in contemporary history,” he added, explaining that this was due to repeated extensions.

As part of that Combined Force, Lt Col Boyd says that he was ‘lucky enough’ to lead 150 Estonians under his command in Afghanistan for four months before handing over to 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment.

To read the rest of this report by Lorraine McBride, click HERE, or on the images above.

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