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Last Updated: Saturday, 30 October, 2004, 21:06 GMT 22:06 UK
Dead soldier 'enjoyed the army'
Private Kevin Thomas McHale
Private McHale died after a bridge his vehicle was crossing collapsed
Relatives of the Black Watch soldier who died in an accident during a controversial redeployment of troops in Iraq have said they are "devastated".

The victim's aunt, Karen Cunningham, said the 27-year-old was looking forward to coming home for Christmas.

Kevin McHale was driving an armoured vehicle when a bridge it was crossing collapsed. The incident did not involve any hostile action, the MoD said.

Three others were injured, but were "back to work" soon after the accident.

Speaking from near the family home in Lochgelly, Ms Cunningham, 41, said: "We are devastated, absolutely devastated. The whole family are devastated."

Roadside bombs

She said Private McHale, who had already served with the Black Watch for five years as an armoured vehicle driver, was not afraid of being relocated.

"He was not scared, Kevin was not the type of boy to be scared, he took life as it came," she said.

She also added the family was not resentful towards the army, and that being in the army was "all he ever wanted to do".

Earlier on Saturday, the MoD issued a statement in which it named the victim.

Warrior armoured vehicle in Iraq
The soldier was killed when the Warrior overturned
"Our thoughts and prayers are very much with his family at this difficult time," it said.

Colleagues from the 1st Queen's Dragoon Guards said prayers for Pte McHale at a service in Basra, as they prepared for their journey north.

In an statement Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion The Black Watch, Lieutenant Colonel James Cowan, said Pte McHale was a "great character".

"He has always been a friend of many and we will miss him deeply," he said.

The 850-strong battlegroup left Basra in southern Iraq two days ago to move to its new, more dangerous base at Camp Dogwood, a military industrial complex south-west of Baghdad.

BBC correspondent Nick Springate, who is travelling with the Black Watch battlegroup, said Private McHale's vehicle was one of almost 200 that formed a convoy stretching for nearly 10 miles.

A series of roadside bombs delayed the convoy along the way, and on Saturday morning, al least two mortars were fired into the new base.

Troops arrive

Nobody was injured in the attack, the military said.

British Army spokesman, Major Charlie Mayo, earlier said: "We weren't surprised by it, although we didn't want anything like this to happen of course.

"But the vehicles were manned by soldiers who were prepared for something to happen, and were able to deal with any eventuality."

The first troops to arrive immediately began digging trenches and establishing defences in case of attack by Sunni militants.

An MoD spokesman told BBC News Online some troops were also moving out into the community.

"They're meeting tribal leaders and getting a feel for what life is like on the ground there," he said.

The MoD said all troops would be at the base by the end of the weekend. The first troops to arrive at Dogwood began digging trenches

Britain agreed to Washington's request for the redeployment, but 8,000 UK troops remain in southern Iraq.

Meanwhile the parents of two British soldiers killed in Iraq led a protest in Glasgow on Saturday demanding all troops be home by Christmas.




BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Army officials say the convoy did not come under fire



FROM OTHER NEWS SITES:
Independent Black Watch soldier's death mourned - 13 hrs ago
Glasgow Sunday Mail Kevin Was So Loving And Caring .. I Couldn't Have Had A Better Son - Elizabeth Mchale Yesterday - 14 hrs ago
Daily Mail Killed Black Watch soldier named - 20 hrs ago
Edinburgh Evening News Black Watch regroups after first soldier dies - 26 hrs ago
IC Huddersfield Soldier killed in Iraq convoy crash - 28 hrs ago
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