British troops join Nato training exercise in Poland
A training exercise involving more than 900 British forces alongside Nato allies in Poland will have been noted by Russia and will have given reassurance to the host nation, the commanding officer has said.
The Army moved its Lead Armoured Battle Group across Europe to join Exercise Dragon 15 on the plains of North East Poland, 60 miles from the border with the Russian state of Kaliningrad Oblast.
By road, sea and rail, it sent trucks, troops and tanks to join 6,000 Poles, Germans and Canadians on the seven week training exercise, which looked at improving the way the allies worked together.
A highlight was the demonstration for visiting dignitaries of the fire power available to the allies.
On the dusty Orzysz ranges, armoured vehicles from the UK, Poland and Germany loosed off rockets and shells in a simulated attack, with red tracer fire ripping through the chill north east wind.
British troops fired two Javelin anti-tank missiles, at £100,000 each, in the demo which was keenly reported by the Polish media.
Challenger II tanks also took part in the demonstration, moving at speed over the rough terrain to their firing positions.
Afterwards, Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Garner, Commanding Officer of the First Battalion, The Yorkshire Regiment, said Exercise Dragon 15 was designed to reassure Nato members.
Asked if he thought the Russians will have taken note of the exercise, he said: "I think our proximity to the Russian border will be noticed, but I think the exercise is really all about exercising closely with our Nato allies and the assurance that that brings, especially to our Polish allies - obviously for them, the threat is very real and credible.
"I think it shows the UK is committed to Nato.
"It shows with our high readiness forces, now, we can deploy readily around the world at short notice."
Exercise Dragon 15 involved a high degree of planning and logistics to allow the battle group to sustain itself with equipment, food and fuel over almost two months, often in sub-zero conditions. Many of the troops slept under makeshift cover next to their vehicles.
The first phase of the exercise took place on the other side of the country, before switching to North East Poland.
It involved 350 British Army vehicles, around 135 of which were armoured.
Earlier this month Defence Secretary Michael Fallon announced Britain was to station troops in the Baltic states amid growing tension with Russia in the wake of President Vladimir Putin's military intervention in Syria.
The deployment of a company size detachment - numbering around 100 personnel - was part of a "more persistent presence" by Nato forces in eastern Europe, Mr Fallon said.