Army blunder means Afghan vets miss out on campaign medals


BLACK Watch heroes returning from Afghanistan have missed out on campaign medals following a blunder by the army.

As many as 40 squaddies failed to receive their Afghanistan Campaign Medal during a ceremony at Fort George, near Inverness at the weekend.

Soldiers spoke of their disappointment to be standing on parade knowing they would not receive the medals.

The army admitted “administrative pressures” meant some soldiers were left disappointed, but insisted they should feel the same pride as those who did get medals.

More than 300 soldiers in the historic battalion returned from Helmand province in April.

The medal is awarded to any soldier who completes their first tour of Afghanistan lasting longer than 28 days, but the Black Watch completed a six-month tour.

One soldier from Dundee, who did not wish to be named, said: “It turns out there hasn’t been 30 to 40 medals ordered and it was truly gutting to be standing there on parade and know we weren’t getting one.

”The army told us there is another consignment coming out and they would arrange to present them, but I can see us getting them by post.

It just won’t mean as much.”

Another soldier said: “It feels like a bit of a snub. It’s not as if us lot getting home and parading sould have taken them by surprise.”

The girlfriend  of a Black Watch soldier, who lives in Angus, said:

“The boys he was in the same boat with, they all share rooms, and it seems to have affected many of them.

“He was so upset that he ended up not wanting to do the parade, along with some of the other soldiers, and the army made them attend.

“It must have been terrible for the men to have to see others getting their medals and having to take a back seat.

“Eventually the medals will be sent out but we haven’t been told when, or if there will be another chance at a medal presentation.”

Black Watch Association  secretary Major Ronnie Proctor said he sympathised with the soldiers who went without medals.

“In these cases, the paperwork wouldn’t have gone through the system in time but these men will get their due. It will catch up eventually.

“I can understand these young men feeling aggrieved because they richly deserve recognition for their efforts in Afghanistan.

“They should feel the same pride as those who did, and it is well deserved.”

An Army spokeswoman said: “This is not a snub to the boys but a problem with administration and the sheer number of medals sent out every year.

“The fact the old colours were being laid up the next day, and VIPs were in attendance, the obligations for the forthcoming Olympics  and so on, it made sense to have the parade on Friday.

“As far as the battalion know, there have been no official complaints and it would require time-consuming checks.

“Also, since the medal is only distributed for the first tour of Afghanistan lasting more than 28 days, admin staff would have to cross reference those who did not receive medals with eligibility.

“The army does appreciate that, especially in the case of younger soldiers, not getting a medal after a first tour will disappoint.

“However, Friday’s parade was for everyone involved in the campaign and as such every man on it should feel just as proud as the next.”

The battalion is already facing an uncertain future with an upcoming merger which could mean it loses its historic name and identity.

But it seems the battalion has royal support, as the Queen visited the Black Watch museum in Balhousie Castle, Perth.

The move, seen as a show of support for the Black Watch, comes after Prince Charles wrote of his “dismay” at hearing the regiment would be merged into The Royal Regiment of Scotland in 2004.