'We're all waiting for the knock on the door'

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Not for the first time the families of the Black Watch were last night counting the cost of the war in Iraq amid an overwhelming feeling of grief and anger.

Not for the first time the families of the Black Watch were last night counting the cost of the war in Iraq amid an overwhelming feeling of grief and anger.

Throughout Perth, which is proud of its historic links as the home of the 295-year-old regiment, there was a general atmosphere of shock and disbelief that only days after the troops were deployed to the so-called Triangle of Death there should be such a heavy toll.

"People can't believe it," said Anne McMillan, who as a co- ordinator with the campaign to save the regiment from being disbanded was last night in constant contact with worried families.

"People are just sitting at home waiting for the knock on the door to tell them if it is their son or husband who has been killed. We all know they are soldiers and everybody expects that in war there will be casualties but it is still a massive shock when it happens."

Mrs McMillan said the feelings of grief had been compounded by anger and resentment that the Black Watch, which was supposed to have returned home this week, had been redeployed in the first place.

"Most of the families expected their men home this week. We were all frightened that this would happen."

Outside the gates of the regimental museum in the centre of Perth, locals listening to the news of the tragedy on the radio were clearly bitter.

"This is all Blair's fault," said Margaret Gardner. "I have a lot of friends who have boys in the army and they are all worried sick. They should have been coming home, fighting an illegal war just to make George Bush look good."

Throughout Perthshire and the surrounding areas of Angus and Tayside numerous war memorials pay testament to how much the regiment means to people. From the American War of Independence and Waterloo to the Somme, Tobruk and Northern Ireland the Black Watch have been at the forefront of the action winning 162 battle honours, 14 Victoria Crosses and numerous other gallantry medals in the process.

"We are all proud of the boys and accept that they are soldiers who are paid to risk their lives, but it still hurts when something happens," said Douglas Morrison, a local builder who said he was against the ar from the start.

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