British soldiers on operations close to Russia were ordered to look as if they were hard at work for a flying visit by the new head of the armed forces.
An embarrassing message leaked by troops told them to “pretend’ they were carrying out vehicle inspections when Admiral Sir Tony Radakin arrived on December 20.
A source has told the Sunday Mirror that top brass wanted to show the chief of the defence staff that troops on Operation Cabrit in Estonia were not winding down for Christmas.
More than 900 British troops, including the Royal Artillery, are based near the Russian border in the Baltic state.
The order said Admiral Radakin would visit a hangar with heavy weapons , including the AS90 tracked artillery gun and light tank Stormer.
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It added: “Run up vehicles, open all hatches, etc. Issue kit outer layer, bring 601s (operation manuals) to pretend you’re doing a Commander’s Function Test (don’t ask!)”.
The test is designed to ensure equipment is working properly.
One source said: “This nonsense happens every time a senior officer visits a base. The soldiers do pointless tasks.
“Officers think they are raising morale but soldiers get messed around and lose much-needed down time.”
Sir Tony tweeted after the visit: “I was pleased to meet British Army personnel in Estonia.
“Their presence alongside Nato partners demonstrates the UK’s unwavering commitment to European security.”
An MoD spokesperson said: “The Chief of the Defence Staff has conducted his first operational visit and was glad to meet personnel and thank them for their work this Christmas.”