SOLDIERS from the The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment were met by defence secretary Philip Hammond as they deployed on a training exercise.

The 1st Battalion flew to Estonia on Friday where they were accompanied by Mr Hammond as they met Estonian officials.

They will take part in a multi-national training exercise, acting as ‘enemy forces’. The soldiers have worked alongside their Estonian counterparts in Afghanistan and arrived in an RAF C17 aircraft to take part in Exercise SPRING STORM, the final exercise for Estonian conscripts after a year of national service.

The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment has formed extremely close ties with the Scouts Battalion, the Estonian Army’s only regular army infantry unit.

This began in 2005 when the Reserve Battalion, 4 LANCS, trained with them in Estonia and Lithuania and continued onto operations in Afghanistan.

A company of the Scouts was taken under command by the LANCS’ 2nd Battalion in the Nad Ali area of Helmand in 2010, and given the very similar Regimental badges that depict lions the combined task force quickly became known as the ‘Lions of Helmand’.

Commanding officer of 1 Lancs, Lieutenant Colonel George Maund, said: “This exercise gives my soldiers an excellent opportunity to develop joint operating skills with a long-standing and valued NATO partner and they are looking forward to the experience immensely”.