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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 November, 2004, 18:20 GMT
Under fire in Camp Dogwood
Convoy of Black Watch soldiers
Camp Dogwood has repeatedly come under attack
The final convoy of the Black Watch battle group have arrived at their central Iraqi base, Camp Dogwood.

They had travelled along the approach route noted for deadly bomb attacks by insurgents.

The sprawling desert base 25 miles (40km) south-west of Baghdad was targeted by Iraqi rebels with a rocket barrage from their hideouts across the river Euphrates six miles (9km) away on Tuesday evening.

No one was injured and no buildings were damaged as none of the missiles exploded in the latest attack.

But it was seen as a message of intent from local warlords that British troops would not be allowed to establish a stronghold in the region without a fight.

If Tony Blair is so keen to be here, he should send his son over
Trooper Tim Clews, of the Queen's Dragoon Guards

In a similar vein, the first vehicles in the battle group convoy, which arrived last week, were hampered by several explosive devices planted by rebels along the camp's approach road.

It is the presence of such bombs that most worries the 850 soldiers being re-deployed, according to Adjutant Capt Neil Tomlin of the Black Watch battle group.

"We are having to be very careful about driving, what sort of vehicles we move around in and how many vehicles we move around with," he said.

Trooper Tim Clews, of the Queen's Dragoon Guards, drove the 360-mile journey from Basra in an open-topped Land Rover across some of the most dangerous territory in Iraq.

The 21-year-old father-of-one from Swansea, who manned an SA-80 rifle on the Land Rover's roof on the lookout for snipers, condemned the decision to redeploy British troops.

Concerned relatives

Trooper Clews said: "If Tony Blair is so keen to be here, he should send his son over.

"To be honest I can't understand what it is we are supposed to be doing here.

"Iraqis don't want to kill each other, they only want to kill us."

But anger was mellowed by thoughts of loved ones at home among others.

L/Cpl Chris Jones, 22, said: "I told my parents but they haven't said too much to me about what I'm going to be doing and where I'm going.

"I think it's because they don't want me to know how worried they are."

And 26-year-old L/Cpl Paul Owen admitted that his parents are so concerned that he had not told them of his re-deployment.

Generally, I think people are very happy to see us here and we need to build on that
Adjutant Capt Neil Tomlin, Black Watch battle group

The rockets used in the latest attack failed to explode because they were old and landed in muddy sand saturated by a torrential thunderstorm.

Army bomb disposal teams set off unexploded bombs near the base on Wednesday.

With Camp Dogwood under repeat attack, specialist mortar experts are now at work with radar equipment to track down those responsible for the missiles fired at the camp.

In stark contrast to the anger felt by Trooper Clews, Capt Tomlin is confident that a breakthrough is possible if troops can embark on foot patrols.

Foot patrol

So far, British patrols have all been in vehicles, but it is hoped that the security threat will lessen and allow foot patrols without helmets to take place regularly.

"If we get out of vehicles and talk to people they are very receptive," he said.

"Generally, I think people are very happy to see us here and we need to build on that."

But, indicating that he was all too aware of the challenge ahead, Capt Tomlin added: "It's difficult at this stage to state what level of support the insurgents have among ordinary people - we need to build up a picture of that."

Compiled from reports by Padraic Flanagan of the Daily Express in Camp Dogwood, and Richard Lloyd Parry of The Times in Basra




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Rocket attacks target Black Watch troops




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