TALLINN - On Dec. 12 British diplomats and representatives from Estonia's defense forces gathered at a military ceremony in Tallinn to commemorate the 90th anniversary of Britain's involvement in the Estonian War of Independence.
The ceremony, held at Tallinn's military cemetery, also paid respect to the 111 British sailors and pilots who lost their lives while fighting for Estonia in the 1918-1920 war.
On Dec. 9, the Royal Navy's HMS Edinburgh, under the command of Navy Capt. Igor Schvede, sailed into Tallinn to join the British Ambassador in laying wreaths on the graves of those killed in action.
According to British Ambassador to Estonia Peter Carter, the arrival of the British fleet was symbolic of Britain's acknowledgment of Estonia's independence, and proved a turning point in what would otherwise have been a very complicated war against the Bolsheviks.
"British warships gave practical as well as political support which relieved pressure on Estonia's fighting men and prevented Bolshevik attempts to land troops behind Estonian lines. General Laidoner himself was convinced that, without the arrival of British ships, the fate of Estonia and its people would have been very different," Carter said.
The Ambassador went on to reaffirm the strength and longevity of Britain and Estonia's bilateral friendship.
"Exactly 90 years later, to the day, and the Royal Navy is again in Tallinn as a true friend of Estonia. HMS Edinburgh's presence alongside the Estonian Navy's newest ship, ENS Sakala, is a vivid symbol and reminder of the enduring partnership between Estonia and the United Kingdom and our shared commitment to the freedom, security and [the] prosperity of our citizens," he said.
Meanwhile Lt. Gen. Ants Laaneots, Estonia's Chief of Defense, expressed similar sentiments, saying that cooperation between Estonia and Britain has continued to this day. He said that soldiers from both countries were once again fighting a common enemy, this time in Afghanistan 's a sign of ongoing military collaboration.
"Three Sandown class mine hunters acquired from Great Britain have considerably increased the capability of our navy," he added.
On Dec. 12, 1918, Britain sent its first naval attachment to assist Estonia in its struggle for independence.
During the course of the war a total of 274 British vessels were deployed.