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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 25 March, 2003, 16:01 GMT
Scots battalion loses soldier
Barry Stephen
Barry Stephen died in southern Iraq
The death of a soldier from a Scottish battalion during fighting in southern Iraq has been described as "another tragedy of war".

Lance Corporal Barry Stephen, 31, from Perth, was the second British serviceman to die in action and was killed in combat on Monday night in an operation near al-Zubayr, south of Basra.

He belonged to the 1st Battalion The Black Watch, whose main recruiting grounds are Perthshire, Angus and Fife.

Scotsman newspaper reporter Gethin Chamberlain, who has been travelling with the Black Watch, said he believes Lance Corporal Stephen was in an armoured personnel carrier which was attacked by Iraqis with rocket-propelled grenades.

Our thoughts are with the family and friends of our servicemen and we hope to very much respect their privacy
Group Captain Al Lockwood
He said: "What happened in this attack, apparently, is that they came under fire.

"He, it would appear, had climbed up onto the roof where the machine gun was mounted to try to fight off the attack and unfortunately the rocket-propelled grenade exploded next to him and he was killed."

Reacting to the death, the chairman of the Labour Party, Dr John Reid, told the BBC: "It is another tragedy of war.

"We are witnessing the reality of military conflict, sometimes rapid and dramatic progress is made but then a substantial challenge and sacrifices.

"The Black Watch is a marvellous regiment.

"I, over a period of time as defence minister and Northern Ireland secretary, had great acquaintance with them.

"Our thoughts are with the family of anyone who has lost their life in service of this country."

Lance Corporal Stephen joined the Black Watch in 1997 and had served in Northern Ireland, Germany and the UK and was part of the mortar platoon.

British forces spokesman Group Captain Al Lockwood, in Qatar, said he would not reveal details about how he died.

Black Watch Memorial
A tribute is paid at the Black Watch Museum

He said: "I'm not prepared to divulge individual episodes of engagements.

"Our thoughts are with the family and friends of our servicemen and we hope to very much respect their privacy."

The Black Watch is based in Germany. It comprises part of the 7th Armoured Brigade, known as the Desert Rats, along with the 1st Battalion Irish Guards and the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment.

Scotland's First Minister Jack McConnell also expressed his sympathy to the serviceman's family.

'Thoughts and prayers'

He said: "Every casualty in this war is a tragedy for the family of the person concerned and right across Scotland all our thoughts this morning will be with those who clearly will be very upset in their own homes very privately today.

"I think in war there are going to be casualties and today we have seen that here in Scotland.

"I hope that right across Scotland everybody will not only feel that pain but will also give every support to the families of those Scots troops fighting in the Gulf at this very difficult time."

Scottish National Party leader John Swinney said: "My thoughts and prayers at this time are with the family of the soldier who has been killed - indeed with all those who have lost loved ones in this war.

"At a time like this, it becomes all the more important that the Ministry of Defence do everything they can to support the families of service personnel."

Map showing southern Iraq
The Saltire was flown at half mast at the regimental museum at Balhousie Castle in Perthshire when the death was confirmed.

People called in to the castle to pay their respects and some left flowers.

Jean Spence, 72, said there was great sadness locally.

She said: "The Black Watch is a huge part of this area and people here are very proud of the regiment

"It does sadden and shock you when you hear that someone from here has been killed so far away."

Sonia Proctor, whose son has served in The Black Watch for 15 years, was interviewed by BBC Scotland on Monday morning.

She appeared to sum up the feelings of anxious families when she said: "I feel for the soldiers that are out there and when I hear on the news someone has been killed, I really feel for their parents, wives and children."


WATCH AND LISTEN
Gethin Chamberlain, of The Scotsman
"The grenade exploded next to him and he was killed"



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