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Part time soldiers honoured at Birkhall

The Pipes and Drums of the 51st Highland, 7th Battalion, Roayl Regiment of Scotland opened proceedings.

The Pipes and Drums of the 51st Highland, 7th Battalion, Roayl Regiment of Scotland opened proceedings.

Part-time soldiers who have been on active duty in Afghanistan were presented with medals by the Duke of Rothesay at his home on the Balmoral estate,

Prince Charles presented six Afghanistan campaign medals and one long service medal as the Territorial Army men’s proud families looked on.

Afghanistan honours were presented to Major Kevin Wood, Corporal Iain McKinnon and Privates Chris Chambers, Benjamin Mellish, Andy Scott and Declan Taylor.

Colour Sergeant Gary Buchanan was given the Long Service and Good Conduct medal for his fifteen years service to the Army.

Damp weather didn’t deter the spectator’s enthusiasm as the ceremony proceeded with the pipes and drums of the Seventh Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland echoing as they marched smartly to the Prince’s home at Birkhall.

“Scotland the Brave” sounded out as the men from the 51st Highland, 7th Battalion (7 Scots) of the Royal Regiment of Scotland awaited the Prince, who is also royal colonel of 7 Scots.

Drum Major Cameron Goodall then brought the band to a halt and took the Royal Salute from the Prince before marching off down the curving road away from the baronial mansion.

The Duke, wearing the regimental tartan kilt with a tweed kilt jacket and brown leather sporran then began the medal presentation.

The drizzle increased and nearby mountains were blotted out by mist as the Prince took each medal off the pillow held by Regimental Sergeant Scott West and pinned them onto the soldiers.

He spent several minutes chatting with each man with jokes seemingly shared by both sides.

The Prince smiled as he presented the honours to the men who spent six months in Helmand Province, Afghanistan on active duty last year.

As the ceremony closed the soldiers and families made their way to a marquee reception held on the grounds with the Prince following behind them a short time later.

A hearty soup was served by the Royal staff to keep out the October chill.

The Prince then talked informally with the soldiers and families.

Twenty-two- year old Private Mellish, one of the soldiers honoured, spent a six month tour in Helmand Province between last October and April this year, a change from his day-job at a bicycle shop in Dundee.

He said: “I’m really proud to receive my first medal and to represent the regiment like this. I was six months and two weeks in the Nad-Ali district of Helmand Province and it is great to get this recognition.”

“I’m not sure if he (Prince Charles) recognised me but he was very friendly asking me what my plans for the future are. I work in a bike shop in Dundee but now I want to join the army full-time and become a regular soldier.”

The ceremony brought to mind memories of five years ago when the Duke of Rothesay handed out medals to soldiers from 7 Scots for participation in the Iraq campaign.

7 Scots Battalion has a long and colourful history: Initially raised during the Great War the 51st Highland Division saw very little action until 1916 during which they were involved extensively throughout the Somme.

In the Second World War the Division fought with distinction throughout the North Africa Campaign and most notably at El Alamein.

They later saw action in Europe and were involved in the assault crossings of the Seine, Rhine and Elbe rivers in Germany itself.

Latterly the main focus has been support to their Regular Army counterparts on enduring operations and Highland Territorial have served in Northern Ireland, The Balkans, The Falkland Islands, Afghanistan and Iraq.

In March 2006, the 51st Highland Regiment became the 7th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland with Prince Charles as the royal colonel.

Colour Sergeant Gary Buchanan was honoured for his fifteen years’ service as a regular soldier at the ceremony.

He was presented with the Long Service and Good Conduct medal and a citation of his career read as his medal was presented.

The forty-year-old soldier now works with training the 7 Scots Territorials in Wick: “I’ve served tours in Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. My role is different now to what I’ve done in the past, going from the regular army to the Territorials, it’s now a case of understanding how the TA operates,” the father of three added.

The TA is expected to fulfil an ever-increasing role in the future with the regular army being cut under government plans.

 

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