Monday, November 2, 2009
Interview: Lieutenant-Colonel Stephen Cartwright, Black Watch commander
AS Black Watch troops prepare to return home from Afghanistan, their commander speaks to Stephen McGinty about the regiment's experiences
IN A corner of Kandahar airfield, amid the whop-whop-whop of Chinook helicopter rotors and the roar of the engines of Hercules transport planes, sits the headquarters of the Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland. It is a wooden hut and when temperatures at the base, Camp Roberts, reach their highs of about 55C, the building is lost amid the shimmer of a heat haze.
For the past seven months this has been home to the battalion's commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Stephen Cartwright, from where he has planned mission after mission in the districts of Babaji, Zhari and Nahr-E-Saraj, exotic place names now as familiar to his soldiers, from Perth, Dundee and Inverness, as the names of their own towns.
But today the maps, once pinned to the walls of the planning room next door, are gone, the computers have been removed and the battalion is preparing to return home this week after a long, hot summer in which it participated in the bloodiest fighting for a generation. The troops have fought by the bodies of comrades killed in action and heard IEDs explode in the distance then listened to the radio crackle as medics try in vain to save a fellow soldier. They have hung to canvas straps inside Chinooks and flown through the Afghan night as part of the largest aviation assault in recent British history, and fixed bayonets in readiness for close-quarters combat. Along the way, a Black Watch sniper applied "the lead sleeping tablet" to a Taleban insurgent from a distance of 1.2 miles, and so claimed a macabre record.
"It has been an honour to lead these men," says Lt-Col Cartwright. "I am incredibly proud of their achievements."
For the full article click here for the Scotsman