'Testament to our soldiers' - The Norfolk troops battling Polish winter
- Credit: 1st Queen's Dragoon Guard
From submerging themselves into cold lakes to survival missions without a tent or sleeping bag, Norfolk troops have tested their skills while deployed in Poland.
Soldiers from The Regimental Associations from 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards based in Swanton Morley, also known as 'The Welsh Cavalry', and Royal Yeomanry are deployed on Operation CABRIT in Poland, supporting NATO over Christmas.
While in Poland, the 140 UK troops have taken part in various training exercises that test and strengthen fitness, survival, and team working skills.
Troop commander, Benjamin Matthews, spoke of the benefits of training outside the UK.
He said: "We started off with very low-level skills training and we then built up to squadron level exercises which saw us test our communication skills and to see how far we could communicate over a larger distance.
"This was really great because as you can imagine the training centers in the UK are a certain size whereas here we have the whole of eastern Poland to play with here."
Lance corporal Samuel Kelly, who had already been deployed in Poland before, said: "We recently conducted a cold river operators course, which taught us the fundamentals to operate in the extreme cold, which we have been facing out here.
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"It has been really good and a really big change from what I have done before. It's quite hard work at times, especially being in the cold."
Trooper Bradley Moore, who lives in Dereham, said: "It's nice to be in a different type of country where we can drive on different terrain.
"I'm still new to the squadron so for me it's getting used to the wagons and different types of environment. Obviously, the weather is quite a lot different to the UK."
The troops also took part in an exercise called Tumak 20, which saw a group of 1,000 soldiers from the UK, Poland, America, Croatia and Romania enact what would happen if troops responded to a threat on the Russian border.
Poland is in the middle of a second coronavirus wave, meaning the soldiers are under strict rules and regulations.
When some troops in the battlegroup and UK ranks caught the virus during the festive season, the soldiers had to follow tougher restrictions including eating meals in their own rooms on Christmas Day.
Troop commander Matthews said: "It's been quite hard as Poland has had a much worse and devastating second wave of the virus.
"We have been in lockdown with our battlegroup since we arrived which means we can exercise outside of camp but we have not been allowed to use any shops or facilities outside the camp.
"In November Covid-19 entered the battlegroup meaning we had a slightly more strict form of lockdown and had to eat in our rooms.
"Then we unfortunately had covid within our ranks.
"It's been pretty frustrating over the Christmas period, we lost our chefs to Covid so Christmas has been somewhat muted here, but we made the best of it."
Trooper Moore found the Christmas period particularly tough as he has a child at home, he said: "It's been a little more difficult as I have a young son, and he was still getting to grips with why his dad has been away for so long.
"But obviously we can still speak on the phone, but I will be celebrating my Christmas when I get home and see family and friends."
Despite the restrictions, while deployed, The Welsh Cavalry have made the most of the trip, with troop commander Matthews saying morale has been "strangely higher than expected".
He said: "Even though it has been really quite rubbish in many respects, morale has been strangely higher than expected.
"As always with British soldiers, it's "The Blitz spirit" and we have made the best out of a bad situation."
The troops will return to the UK in the next few months.