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Last Updated: Sunday, 24 October, 2004, 23:31 GMT 00:31 UK
Service ahead of Black Watch move
Black Watch soldiers
Five hundred Black Watch soldiers and 350 others are moving north
Black Watch soldiers have held their last church service at their base near Basra in Iraq, before their move north.

The battalion is getting its weapons, ammunition and Warrior armoured vehicles ready for the move to an area under American command.

The US request for the redeployment of 500 Black Watch troops and 350 support staff has been controversial in the UK.

But Maj Blair Radford, of the Black Watch, told the BBC they were well prepared and focused on the move.

"The jocks themselves are happy, they've got a mission, they know what to do and they are busy preparing for it," he told BBC News.

He said soldiers were "robust" and their experience in southern Iraq had given them a taste of what to expect south of Baghdad, an area dubbed the "triangle of death".

It's really just a case of knuckling down and getting ready to do that job
Maj Blair Radford
"We have been here in times of relative calm stability and at times we have had bouts of violence. I think we are well prepared for what comes," said Maj Radford.

"The battle group has a very strong focus, we have a mission and a job to do and it's really just a case of knuckling down and getting ready to do that job."

The group will comprise three companies of armoured infantry from the Black Watch with some 500 men and 50 Warrior armoured troop carriers.

They will be supported by a reconnaissance unit from the Queen's Dragoon Guards, with around 100 men and 12 Scimitar armoured fighting vehicles, and a 50-strong Royal Marine light infantry unit from 40 Commando.

There will also be support troops including engineers, logisticians, signallers and medics.

Black Watch will move from Basra to south of Baghdad

The battalion is not releasing details of exactly when they are going for security reasons, but BBC correspondent Ben Brown said battle preparations had begun.

They say because they are in the throes of their six-monthly handover, southern Iraq will not be left short of troops should there be an uprising by Shia fighters.

The soldiers will be moving to a US sector in central Iraq, but will remain under British control.

Maj Radford said the Black Watch had worked with US troops before and the different approach by UK soldiers would not cause any problems.

"The Black Watch have a unique style of doing soldiering, as does most of the British soldiers in Multi-National Division South East. We will take that with us when we go north and hopefully that will help us in our mission."

Watch the Black Watch prepare for their move north

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