A SOLDIER from Darwen has been helping to train troops in Estonia as part of a three-week exercise in the Baltic.

Kingsman Ben Cunningham, of the Second Battalion the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment (2 LANCS), was part of a 100-strong British force based in the country.

The soldiers, formed mainly from 2 LANCS’ Kohima Company and elements of the First Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, teamed up with the Estonian Regular Army and US and French military to test the strengths of the Estonian Defence Force.

The soldiers of Kohima Company had trained to be in Afghanistan this summer with the rest of 2 LANCS, but were never deployed because their support was not needed by the increasingly independent Afghan Security Forces.

However, the soldiers’ high state of readiness meant they were ideally placed to take part in the key European exercise.

It is hoped its success could pave the way for more European co-operation with the Estonians, a nation the UK works closely with in Afghanistan.

Kingsman Cunningham, 20, said: “I enjoyed seeing how the other armies worked differently and learning new communication skills.

“I joined the Army as I thought it would be a great experience and a chance to travel to other countries.”

Ben, who went to St Bede’s High School in Blackburn, has also seen service in Cyprus and Canada.

About 400 soldiers from 2 LANCS, which recruits from across the north west, are now in Afghanistan and will return to its base at Weeton Barracks, near Blackpool, in the autumn.

It is expected to be the last British battalion to serve in the part of Nad ‘Ali where it is now situated.

The six-month tour will see the British soldiers mentoring the Afghan National Army, as local forces take on the sole responsibility for the security of the district.