According to the military drill’s scenario, Estonia’s largest island, Saaremaa, had been “swallowed whole by an aggressive neighbor,” the Royal Navy said as the exercise concluded earlier this month.
The role of the aggressors was played by Estonian troops, while the British forces, led by amphibious transport vessel HMS ‘Albion,’ were deployed to “liberate” the island.
The wargame was a ‘free play’ type, which means both sides had no idea what the other was planning. The British decided to trick the Estonians by sending helicopters and landing craft to stage fake raids on the island’s beaches.
The move was designed to distract the defenders while the Yankee Company of the 45 Commando Royal Marines, an elite British naval unit, invaded Saaremaa from a completely different direction.
Once successfully reaching shore, the commandos moved deeper into the island. There, they attacked Estonian defenses from “an unexpected” direction. Although the element of surprise was clearly on the British side, the ‘enemy’ regrouped and repelled the Royal Marines.
The action was an utter defeat for the Brits, or at least that’s how the drill’s ‘referees’ saw it when they awarded victory in the Battle of Saaremaa to the Estonians.
The Royal Navy did not provide an in-depth analysis of why the liberation mission flopped. They mentioned that the Estonians had more personnel fighting, and that their troops had grown up on Saaremaa. They therefore “knew every rock and tree upon it.”
The British also pointed out that some of the UK Apache helicopters were fighting for the Estonian side. Despite the referees’ verdict, “the commandos claim it was a draw,” the Royal Navy noted in a lighthearted fashion.
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