Armoured vehicles belonging to 7 Light Mechanised Brigade, also known as The Desert Rats, alongside Land Rovers, engineers’ tractors and support vehicles were loaded into a 23,000-tonne cargo vessel, Anvil Point, near Southampton on Tuesday.
Some 600 vehicles will sail from the UK, and 1,500 service personnel will fly out to join the Nato exercise called Steadfast Defender, in a demonstration of the alliance’s unity and capability.
And troops involved in the major excise admitted they are training how they will respond in the event of a Russian invasion.
Captain Greg Jardine, from 17 Port Maritime, said: “It’s an unparalleled size compared with our usual exercises.
“It’s an escalation in tempo in our training and that comes down to the exercise. Training is what we need to do in case anything did ever come to fruition.
“The soldiers know this is their job, whether it is peace time or war time. Their job role doesn’t necessarily change if we were to be at war. They still have their job to load up the ship and crewing the vessels.
“It is good to train how we would need to be if something escalated.” On the size of the scale, Captain Jardine added: “The sheer volume means we are on 24 hour operations.”
The British Army has plans in case major ports come under attack. In one instance, the logistics experts would shift to a beach and load ferries using floating pontoons, protected by Royal Marines.
Some 580 British troops are helping load ships bound for Germany, as part of Steadfast Defender. There, the units will travel on to Poland where they will take past in the biggest NATO exercise in decades.
Captain Jardine said: “There would still be sailings. It would be up to our force protection and intelligence and what dictated would be the biggest threat.”
The departure comes as HMS Prince of Wales, which is leading the military maritime mission, set sail for near Norway on Monday.
The British warship will be at the centre of Nato exercises involving more than 20,000 UK military personnel across Scandinavia and northern Europe.