Norwich volunteer soldiers join mass testing of European lorry drivers

Army Reservists have spent two weeks on Op ROSE, the military's code word for the operational deployment of troops in...

Army Reservists have spent two weeks on Op ROSE, the military's code word for the operational deployment of troops in support of the Department of Transport in the testing of all lorry drivers and hauliers bound for continental Europe. - Credit: Corporal Rob Kane

Soldiers from Norwich have been deployed to help with the logistical challenge of testing all lorry drivers and hauliers crossing the Channel.

Since the Kent strain of the coronavirus, the government turned to the military to help keep on top of testing and registering the tens of thousands of drivers heading to Europe.

Norwich lance corporals Andy Bailey, 31, and Jesse Mason, 24, who both parade at the Aylsham Road Army Reserve Centre, have volunteered for the operation. 

Lance Corporal Andy Bailey and Lance Corporal Jesse Mason from 3rd Battalion the Royal Anglian Regiment, Norwich, testing...

Lance Corporal Andy Bailey (left) and Lance Corporal Jesse Mason (right) from 3rd Battalion the Royal Anglian Regiment pose for a photo while confirming driver test results. - Credit: Corporal Rob Kane

They have spent two weeks testing drivers as part of Operation Rose, having been deployed to the Inland Border Facility, which is a purpose designed area at Sevington in Kent. 

Lance corporal Bailey is a gym manager who lives in Norwich with his wife Abbie and 12-month-old son Toby, and joined the army reserves five years ago.

He said: "Having been furloughed from work, I jumped at the chance to help out – the call went out and we had five days’ notice to deploy.

"One of the hardest things to get to grips with is the language barrier, but we have some fun working our way around it. I have to get pictures of a tunnel and a ferry to work out which route they need to take.”

Norwich Army Reservists have spent two weeks on Op ROSE, the military's code word for the operational deployment to help...

The Reserve Soldiers have deployed to the Inland Border Facility. a huge purpose designed expanse located at Sevington just outside Ashford. - Credit: Corporal Rob Kane

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With a combination of improvised sign language and a selection of pre-loaded images on their smart phones, the troops have managed to explain their way through the testing procedure.

The troops work around the clock operating a two twelve-hour shift pattern. Each day they have processed some 600 to 700 lorries at the Sevington site. 

They have had to instruct the lorry drivers on how to conduct the Covid-19 lateral flow test.

This involves preparing a phial of solution, demonstrating the taking of swab samples from both the back of the throat and each nostril.

Since the advent of the Kent strain of the Coronavirus, all those crossing the Channel to mainland Europe are required to...

Since the advent of the Kent strain of the Coronavirus, all those crossing the Channel to mainland Europe are required to be tested for the virus. - Credit: Corporal Rob Kane

Lance corporal Mason said: "It’s a great opportunity whilst in lockdown to get out there and help the community. I’ve loved doing this – meeting so many people from so many different countries.

"All the truck drivers have a good sense of humour and seem pretty relaxed about going through the testing procedure.”