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President Kaljulaid at the Memorial Event for British Soldiers Who Perished in Estonia's War of Independence

13.12.2018

Dear British friends, officers and sailors of St Albans!

Today we commemorate the arrival of the Royal Navy to Tallinn. From our point of view this event had groundbreaking consequences to the very dire situation that Estonia was facing 100 years ago. The Estonian army was back then still retreating towards Tallinn. And there was very little that we could have done at that point to protect the Estonian capital from the still vast Baltic fleet of Soviet Russia. The British fleet changed the whole strategic situation in the Gulf of Finland, secured our capital from the sea. And what’s most important – it gave the Estonian soldiers and people hope, that we are not alone in this fight. The commander-in-chief of the Estonian army General Johan Laidoner has himself stated that from that moment on he also felt that this war can be won, this war is worth fighting.

This also reflects how we guard our security and our values today – alongside with our Allies. The United Kingdom, Danish and French troops are represented in the NATO Battle Group in Estonia. Most NATO members have sent their fighters to police the Estonian and Baltic air space. International exercises and port-visits of Allied navies have become a routine affair, as have Estonian servicemen serving on international military operations in Africa, Middle-East and in Asia.  

But freedom and security is never given, it is never free. The highest price is always payed by men and women in uniform to whom we have delegated the heavy responsibility to protect us, to keep us safe. So let us today commemorate these more than 100 British sailors and airmen who perished in the Estonian War of Independence. Who died not only for the freedom and security of the Estonians, but also for the freedom and security of Europe.

And who’s sacrifices are in some sense even more greater due to the fact that for them the war – the Great War that was supposed to end all wars – was supposed to be over by November 1918. But it was not over. And the need to protect our freedom and values will also never be over. 

Thank you – to the sailors 100 years ago, and the men here today. Thank you, dear Allies, for being here today.