Sunday, 21 March 2010

Bravery honours for Black Watch

Twenty soldiers of the Black Watch have been recognised for their bravery during a tour of duty in Afghanistan last year.

Four have been awarded the Military Cross, which will be presented at a special ceremony at Buckingham Palace at a later date.

Acting Sgt Sean Binnie, 22, from Belfast, has been mentioned in dispatches posthumously.

He was shot dead as he threw a grenade while fighting insurgents last May.

Relatives had travelled from Aberdeen to Trowbridge in Wiltshire to attend the inquest into his death last month, and heard he was killed by a single enemy gunshot.

'Very proud'

Acting Sgt Binnie had married just a few months before his death. He had joined the Army in 2003.

Four other members of the Black Watch, the 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (3 Scots), died during the tour.

Details of the honours were announced at the battalion's Fort George base, near Inverness.

The battalion's commanding officer, Lt Colonel Stephen Cartwright, will become an OBE.

The other honours comprised four military crosses, eight mentioned in dispatches and seven joint commanders' commendations.

Lt Cartwright said he was "very proud" of the courage his soldiers had shown against a "very determined" enemy in a difficult campaign and climate.

In January, soldiers from the Black Watch were presented with campaign medals from the Duke of Rothesay.

Families of three soldiers, killed on active service, received the Elizabeth Cross from Prince Charles in recognition of their loss.

The cross, which was presented for the first time last year, is awarded to next of kin of armed forces personnel killed on active service.

One of the three crosses presented in private by the prince was for a soldier killed in Iraq.

First time

The final group of Black Watch soldiers posted to Afghanistan returned to Scotland in November.

Their homecoming came just days after the funeral of Cpl Thomas Mason, 27, from Fife.

He died in hospital from wounds suffered in an explosion in Kandahar Province on 15 September.

He was flown back to the UK but died at Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham on 25 October.

The funeral for Sgt Stuart "Gus" Millar, another Black Watch soldier killed during the deployment, was held at Fort George in September.

The 40-year-old's wedding to wife Gillian - mother of his young daughter - was held at the same venue.

Sgt Millar, from Inverness, died alongside Pte Kevin Elliott, 24, from Dundee, in Helmand on 31 August.

The soldiers were caught in an explosion when insurgents used rocket-propelled grenades to mount an ambush.

Pte Robert McLaren, 20, from Mull, was also killed in action during the tour of duty.

It was the first time the battalion had been posted to Afghanistan. The soldiers had previously seen action in Iraq.

The battalion moved back to Fort George in 2007 after eight years, during which time they were stationed in Northern Ireland and Germany.

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