Afghan campaign soldiers honoured
The Prince of Wales has honoured soldiers recently returned from Afghanistan with service medals.
Charles was welcomed to the ceremony by pipers and drummers at his Birkhall residence in Ballater, Aberdeenshire, close to the Balmoral Estate.
Wearing a kilt and sporran, Charles - who is known as the Duke of Rothesay when in Scotland - joked with the soldiers as he handed out the awards to service personnel from 51st Highland, 7th Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland.
Major Kevin Wood, Corporal Ian McNiven and Privates Chris Chambers, Benjamin Mellish, Andy Scott and Declan Taylor were given Afghanistan Campaign Medals. Colour Sergeant Gary Buchanan, from Arbroath, was presented with the Long Service & Good Conduct Medal to mark his 15 years with the regiment. He is now a staff instructor with the battalion.
The soldiers are all part of the Territorial Army and completed their tours in Helmand between October 2011 and April 2012.
The regiment is the Territorial Army's Infantry Battalion for the north of Scotland and the Highlands. They send soldiers to Afghanistan on a regular basis as reinforcements to regular Royal Regiment of Scotland Battalions. The regiment has also served in Northern Ireland, the Balkans, the Falkland Islands and Iraq.
Charles, who specifically requested the opportunity to personally honour the soldiers for their service, later chatted with the men and their families at a lunchtime reception held in a marquee set up in the grounds of Birkhall, a baronial mansion on the outskirts of the royal family's Balmoral Estate.
The Duke, wearing the regimental tartan kilt and tweed kilt jacket, watched as the battalion's pipes and drums marched up the curving drive to the tune of Scotland the Brave led by Drum Major Cameron Goodall. Charles, who is Royal Colonel to the regiment, returned the Royal Salute before the band moved off to the beat of the tune, The Black Bear.
"I think we are all really proud to have received our medals from Prince Charles in person," said Private Mellish, a 22-year-old who works in a cycle shop in Dundee.
The Duke had shown a keen interest in his training and work in Afghanistan, he said, adding: "It was my first tour in two-and-a-half years in the Territorial Army. It was a tremendous experience and I am now intending to become a regular soldier."