Page last updated at 15:50 GMT, Thursday, 3 December 2009

Crowds turn out for Black Watch march


The Black Watch has recently returned from Afghanistan

Hundreds of people have lined streets through the centre of Inverness to watch a march by soldiers from the Black Watch.

Dressed in desert fatigues, the members of 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (3 SCOTS) marched as a thank you to the city for its support.

Five Black Watch members died during the battalion's recently completed seven-month deployment to Afghanistan.

Soldiers marched to Inverness Cathedral for a service.

Fort George, a barracks and former artillery fort near Inverness, is the battalion's home in Scotland.

Steven McKenzie
Steven McKenzie
BBC Scotland news online

Old soldiers, shoppers, young mothers and their children stood in the cold and rain to show their respect to the Black Watch.

Even a yelping terrier straining at its lead was shooed into line by a policewoman as the people waited for the soldiers to march by.

Backed by a band, the soldiers marched as a thank you for the city's support during their deployment to Afghanistan.

Their desert fatigues and red hackles stood out on a drab December morning.

As they marched past, a woman in the crowd turned to a friend and said: "They're so young."

From Stephen's Brae, the Black Watch marched swiftly through the pedestrian-friendly High Street then downhill across the Ness Bridge and onwards to Inverness Cathedral on the banks of the River Ness.

As the column filed past, people clapped and cheered.

The Black Watch has traditionally recruited from Perthshire, Tayside, Angus and Fife.

But following the battalion's posting to Fort George on the shores of the Moray Firth, nearby Inverness is viewed as the battalion's adopted home.

Before the march, Pte Paul Devine paid tribute to the city. He said parcels of gifts were sent by its residents while the battalion was on operations in Afghanistan.

He said: "Any time you come into town in your combats everybody is smiling and happy to see you and say 'Hi'. We get great support up here."

The final group of soldiers posted to Afghanistan returned to Scotland last month.

Their homecoming came just days after the funeral of Cpl Thomas Mason, 27, from Fife.

He died in hospital from wounds suffered in an explosion in Kandahar Province on 15 September.

He was flown back to the UK but died at Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham on 25 October.

The funeral for Sgt Stuart "Gus" Millar, another Black Watch soldier killed during the deployment, was held at Fort George in September.

The 40-year-old's wedding to wife Gillian - mother of his two-year-old daughter - was held at the same venue.

Sgt Millar, from Inverness, died alongside Pte Kevin Elliott, 24, from Dundee, in Helmand on 31 August.

The soldiers were caught in an explosion when insurgents used rocket-propelled grenades to mount an ambush.

Pte Robert McLaren, 20, from Mull, and Cpl Sean Binnie, 22, from Belfast, were also killed in action during the tour of duty.

It was the first time the battalion had been posted to Afghanistan. The soldiers had previously seen action in Iraq.

The battalion moved back to Fort George in 2007 after eight years, during which they were stationed in Northern Ireland and Germany.

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