Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Political: The Black Watch goes to Iraq

From the Chicago Sun-Times. I'm getting teary-eyed as I read this.

Famed Scottish regiment heads to Iraqi hot spot

October 25, 2004


BASRA, Iraq -- Under a clear blue sky and enclosed in a square of armored vehicles, the soldiers of Britain's famous Black Watch regiment, some teenagers, sang "Amazing Grace" before hearing an Old Testament reading from the Book of Joshua that talked of standing "firm and steadfast."

"In the best traditions of the British Army we serve as ambassadors of our country," the chaplain, Aled Thomas, told them as they prepared to join U.S. forces south of Baghdad.

"The way we conduct ourselves can make us stand out as a force for good or not."

At the moment when he paused after saying "let us pray," the distant boom of a large explosion could be heard several miles away.

"The regiment is ready to go and the guys are focused," said Lance Corp. Lewis Montague, 23, from Kirkcaldy, Scotland.

"Everybody is a bit nervous but we have been through this before during the war last year. We just talk to our friends, keep each other going and stay focused."

The Black Watch was the first of the Scottish Highland regiments, the units famous for their kilts and recruited from the rugged mountains of Scotland. The regiment's name stems from the dark tartan it wears.

Corp. Alex Wilson, 27, from Dunfermline, Scotland, said the battalion was excited at being the first British troops into the so-called Sunni Triangle, where hundreds of American servicemen have been killed.

The regiment was led into their final Sunday service before departure by bagpipes and drums playing the traditional Scottish song "Blue Bonnets Over the Border."

The troops' self-assurance was more than matched by their commanding officer, Lt. Col. James Cowan.

"There's been much sensationalist talk about the threat we will face," he said. "Frankly, this regiment beat Napoleon, beat the Kaiser and beat Hitler.

"For the Jocks of the Black Watch this is just the latest chapter in our history and another job to be done."

Cowan was eager to avoid reference to the Americans' more direct approach at peacekeeping. "We are different nations and we do things differently.

"We are the British Army, they are the American army, we will do it our way and they will do it their way.

"We will act as a force for good in a new and different part of this country and it will be well within our ability and experience. We will fit in."

Cowan also ducked questions over the future of the Black Watch. Defense cuts mean that it is high on the list of infantry regiments to be disbanded.

"I'm sure the Black Watch has a long, fine future ahead of it," he said.

1 comment:

Emily said...