SOLDIERS from 30 Armoured Engineer Squadron of 26 Engineer Regiment, based at Perham Down, had some pre-Christmas sunshine as they worked in Kenya to build a new camp for the British Army Training Unit Kenya (BATUK).

This was one of 24 exercises involving Royal Engineers units, known as Operation Crabapple, and is part of a multi-million pound overhaul that will enable the unit currently based at Nanyuki showground to move to a purpose-built site at Laikipia Air Base.

The sappers worked alongside Kenyan combat engineers and local tradesmen in temperatures of 30C to build a welfare centre for more than 250 Kenyan civilians plus a building to accommodate the UK service personnel who visit Kenya.

Major James Cackett, officer commanding 30 AES, said: “The development was built completely from scratch, from the foundations and the block work through to the finish.”

“All the squadron trades got to work solidly for 12 weeks so it has been really good for honing techniques.”

The troops were only in Kenya for a fixed period, so they were working against the clock to complete their mission on a tenweek deadline and a tight budget of £185,000.

The site covers an 18 km sq area and the idea is to build a completely new camp which will provide facilities that allow BATUK to cater for the units to come out and train in Kenya.

Some six battle groups a year use the facilities and train in the foothills of Mount Kenya in different and challenging conditions.

So far the project has cost £13m to upgrade the accommodation for soldiers on exercise.

For one young troop commander it was an exciting start to her career.

Second Lieutenant Kirsty Clafton only completed her Troop Commanders’ course in July.

“This was a pretty big job to start with,” she said. “But it has gone well. We had to work around some extreme weather, but we have achieved a lot.”

The camp has been built to British construction standards and has a life expectancy of 25 years.

Major Cackett said: “This job has set all of the squadron in good stead for any operation, from bridge building to putting up a complex development.”