Black Watch veterans march in honour of those who served in Iraq

The Freedom of Perth March commemorated the 20th anniversary of the 1st Battalion’s last deployment in Iraq.

Black Watch veterans have marched through the streets of Perth to mark 20 years since the regiment was last involved in conflict.

The Iraq War that began in March 2003 was the last time that soldiers served under the banner of the Black Watch before it was absorbed into the Royal Regiment of Scotland (3 SCOTS).

The soldiers were at the forefront of fighting in the US-led invasion but their involvement came at a heavy toll.

Lance Corporal Barry Stephen was killed during an ambush in 2003, becoming the first Scottish soldier to die in the conflict.

Major General Mike Riddell-Webster has now retired from the military but remembers the impact the loss had on the tight knit regiment.

He told STV News: “It was difficult, but we were in the middle of something where frankly there was only one way to do it and that was to keep going, so I think people had a difficult morning. I certainly had a difficult morning.”

By the time the regiment was withdrawn from the Middle East they were part of a peacekeeping mission.

A year later they were recalled to the country and Brigadier Alastair Aitken led the regiment.

He said: “We were in our armoured vehicles, so we were in a warrior vehicle with seven in each…it can be quite claustrophobic…lots of dust and people could hear things pinging off the side, whether it’s the bullets or the rocket-propelled grenades.

“When we went up in 2004, the big threat was the big bombs underneath the vehicles – many were going out every day almost in the mindset that it’s going to be their last day.

“There were lots of young Scottish soldiers and you’re asking them to go out in these vehicles.

“And every day they’ve almost come to terms with the fact that today it’s going to end, that it’s going to be their last day.

“And that’s a particular act of courage, no one’s getting a medal for it.

“But everyone knows what that takes if you’ve been part of it and everyone respects that you were there and you’ve done that.”

For many veterans, the march at the weekend was a chance to not only mark the end of the Black Watch regiment in name, but to remember those soldiers who served and those who didn’t come home.

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