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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 November, 2004, 07:43 GMT
Profile: Black Watch
Black Watch soldier in Iraq
The regiment is on its second tour of duty in Iraq

Scotland's famous Black Watch regiment, blooded in two world wars, has redeployed hundreds of men from bases in southern Iraq further into the country to replace US soldiers.

Its troops make up the bulk of the 850 soldiers - who also include signallers, engineers and medical staff - moving to areas outside the Iraqi capital Baghdad to allow US troops to prepare for anticipated assaults on insurgents.

Sadly, on the second day of the regiment's planned 30-day mission in the region three of its soldiers were killed in a suicide bomb attack whilst manning a checkpoint near Falluja.

The regiment is one of the most famous in the British army. Its formation came out of unrest, following the first Jacobite rebellion in 1715.

Six companies were formed from 1725 to stop fighting among the clans.

The regiment's name comes from its role to "watch" the Highlands, and the very dark tartan of its uniform. It is also known as the Royal Highland Regiment.

Black Watch soldier and Scimitar tank
Black Watch soldiers have seen action around the world

It has fought in numerous conflicts and won distinction in both world wars.

Black Watch units fought in the Napoleonic wars, while in the Victorian era they saw combat in the Crimea, the west and south of Africa and the north west frontier of India.

In World War I they experienced the trenches of the western front, and saw action in France when the Germans invaded in May 1940 in World War II.

Black Watch units were rescued in the Dunkirk evacuations weeks later, and fought in Crete, the north African deserts and Italy. They also returned to France after the D-day landings of June 1944.

The regiment has also carried out peacekeeping duties, in Cyprus in 1966, in Northern Ireland from the 1970s and in Kosovo.

One killed

It is one of Scotland's six regiments and its website describes it as "the premier Scottish infantry regiment in the British Army and one of the most famous fighting forces in the world".

The Black Watch first fought in Iraq in April 2003 as part of the 7th Armoured Brigade, which led the Desert Rats' attack on Basra, the country's second city.

It began its second mission there in June, involved in aid distribution and the early stages of reconstruction.

Black Watch soldier
The Black Watch is one of the world's oldest regiments

Although it is acting as the reserve battalion in Iraq, one soldier has died and another was seriously injured during this second tour of duty. It was meant to be a six-month mission, but it is not yet known how much longer the troops will stay in the country.

When it does return to the UK, it may face an uncertain future. The axe is hanging over it once again in the latest round of cuts announced by Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon in July.

Plans would see one infantry battalion in Scotland axed and the remaining five merged into one or two "super-regiments".

A series of raids on suspected insurgent villages in central Iraq in late November was described by one commander as possibly the regiment's last major operation.

The Ministry of Defence said consultation was continuing and a decision was not expected before the end of the year.

But Supporters of the Save the Scottish Regiments campaign have demonstrated outside the Scottish Parliament against proposed cuts.

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