Today, The Countess of Wessex attended a ‘Welcome Home’ parade for 5th Battalion the Rifles, at Ward Barracks in Bulford, Wiltshire. Sophie was invited to the homecoming parade as she is the battalion’s Royal Colonel.
The rain didn’t dampen spirits as the soldiers returned home from a 9-month tour in Estonia, where they were the lead Battlegroup on Operation CABRIT. This operation was part of NATO’s enhanced Forward Presence, which aims to reassure members of NATO in Eastern Europe of their security against a Russian attack. The battalion groups are generally based in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.
300 troops from the infantry regiment based in Bulford took part in the tour.
During her visit, Prince Edward’s wife watched as the troops paraded onto the barracks’ square. The Countess spoke to the soldiers, and also took time to speak to their families. As usual, Sophie spoke to both children and adults, showing her charisma and warm personality.
As Royal Colonel of 5 Rifles, the Countess also made a speech, saying it was an ‘enormous pleasure’ to be present at the troops’ homecoming parade. Wearing her regimental brooch as she did on Remembrance Sunday, she explained that she was ‘deeply proud‘ to be Royal Colonel of 5 Rifles, who are the first British battalion to have taken part in the Forward Presence campaign in Estonia.
Sophie praised how the soldiers coped with being under the scrutiny of both the Eastern and Western world during their deployment, as the battalion had to develop relationships with locals and also avoid aggravating Russia.
The Countess of Wessex speaks to families of 5 Rifles service personnel at their return parade at Bulford. pic.twitter.com/vvljhnY8S1
— BBC Wiltshire (@BBCWiltshire) 14 November 2017
This was not the Countess of Wessex’s first visit to the barracks; she previously visited in January to speak to troops who had recently relocated to Bulford from Germany. Sophie also visited the battalion at their base in Estonia during the tour, where she learned about the objectives and duties that the 5 Rifles would undertake during their deployment.
HRH The Countess of Wessex with 5 RIFLES as they celebrate returning home after a 9 month operational deployment to Estonia on Op CABRIT pic.twitter.com/0xPzvnbqQm
— Ben Birchall (@BenBirchallUK) November 14, 2017