Thousands of Armed Forces personnel will be working across the globe this Christmas to help keep Britain safe, so people at home can enjoy the festive season.
The Armed Forces are on duty 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, and Christmas is no exception. This year, around 6,400 sailors, marines, soldiers, airmen and airwomen will be deployed on operations.
From Somalia and Ukraine to efforts to protect British people against coronavirus and threats here in the United Kingdom, the Armed Forces will be deployed across all corners of the globe taking part in 39 operations across 46 different countries.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
“2020 has been a truly historic year for our Armed Forces . In a year when we marked the 75th anniversary of the free world’s victory over fascism, our Armed Forces came to the aid of our whole nation in the battle against coronavirus and our brave personnel once again worked day in, day out around the world to keep our people safe.
“It is no surprise that in times of crisis, when you need something done right and you need it done right now it is our Armed Forces we turn to for support. We owe them more than words can say and I want to thank them and wish them a very Merry Christmas.”
11 Royal Navy vessels will be deployed overseas this Christmas, whilst others will be held at high-readiness ready to respond when required. HMS Medway will be providing support to Overseas Territories in the Caribbean, whilst HMS Forth will be in the Falkland Islands. HMS Montrose, HMS Shoreham, HMS Brocklesby, HMS Chiddingfold and HMS Penzance will also join RFA Cardigan Bay in the Gulf providing protection to international shipping lanes in the Straits of Hormuz.
In Europe, around 150 soldiers from the Queen’s Dragoon Guards and Royal Yeomanry Reservists will be deployed in Poland and over 800 British personnel from 5 RIFLES will be deployed in Estonia, both operations providing support to our Allies as part of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence (EFP). Around 100 soldiers from 3 RIFLES and 4 SCOTS will also be in Ukraine providing training to Ukrainian Forces and 260 personnel will be working to support the UN peacekeeping mission in Cyprus, which prevents the recurrence of fighting in the region.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said:
“This year, our Armed Forces have proved once again the invaluable contribution they make to society, whether that’s helping totackle Covid, supporting the NHS, or working with allies to secure our seas and skies.
“Over the festive period, duty doesn’t stop for our Armed Forces. Thousands of personnel are either deployed overseas away from their families or standing ready to support communities here in the UK. This Christmas more than ever, let’s pause to appreciate those who are prepared to give everything they have, for everything we have.”
British Forces will also be deployed on peacekeeping and counter-terror missions across Africa this Christmas. In Mali, RAF Chinook helicopters from RAF Odiham are working in a non-combat role alongside their French counterparts on counter-terrorism operations. 300 UK military personnel, led by the Light Dragoons, also recently deployed to Mali on a UN peacekeeping mission to help promote peace and counter instability. In Somalia, there will also be 60 British service personnel deployed to support peacekeeping and training missions with Somali Forces.
1,200 personnel in the Falkland Islands and 437 personnel in Gibraltar from across all three services also remain committed to protecting our people and overseas territories.
Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nick Carter said:
“As we come to the end of 2020, I would like to thank everyone for their work this year and wish all in the wider Armed Forces community a very happy festive season.
“2020 has been a challenging year for all of us and it has been very impressive how everybody has stepped up and demonstrated their professionalism, dedication and expertise at home and abroad.”
The Armed Forces will also be busy at home this Christmas as part of UK resilience operational duties.
Thousands of personnel from across the Armed Forces, including Regulars and Reservists, will be deployed or held at readiness assisting the NHS and local authorities as part of the military’s continued efforts in the fight against COVID-19.
14,000 service personnel are held at readiness to support other government departments and civil authorities as required. There are currently over 1,388 personnel deployed on 53 COVID-19 tasks across the UK. From the Vaccine Task Force to delivering community testing for tier 3 areas, the Armed Forces stand ready and active over the festive period helping to keep people safe and support the fight against COVID-19.
Elsewhere, the UK’s Quick Reaction Alert Squadrons will be on duty at RAF Lossiemouth and RAF Coningsby, many of them ready in their green flight suits waiting for the call to scramble and protect UK airspace. The Army will also be busy carrying out ceremonial duties at home this Christmas. Soldiers from the Grenadier Guards who will be keeping guard outside Royal residences in London and Windsor over Christmas, with the Scots Guards taking over guard duties across the New Year.
The Conservative Post and our readers would like to thank each and every one of them for their service.
Photo permissions: UK Ministry of Defence 2020
Photo credits: Captain Lindsay Sharples, Cpl Babbs Robinson, Captain Oliver Key, Flight Llt Matthew Jeffery, Alex Bradford