ALISTAIR IRWIN – AN OPEN LETTER TO THE COLONEL
OF THE BLACK WATCH AND HEAD OF THE SCOTTISH COLONELS
It makes me so angry to watch the Colonel of The Black Watch appear in public every time there is a funeral of a young Black Watch soldier, a member of royalty or a politician. Alistair Irwin appeared in a rush at the regiment’s headquarters in Perth when Michael Howard came to show his support and again at Warminster, this time with Prince Charles. This is the man who for several months let people believe that he would defend the Black Watch from any cuts or amalgamation, but when the time came to fight such proposals he simply made half-baked statements such as ‘we must make the best of a bad situation’ and ‘do this in a comradely way’ – he admits that people who received his letters via the Red Hackle subscriber list would be disappointed at the outcome of the process he and the colonels arrived.
I do not think he has any idea just how little
regard he is held in now by so many veterans, soldiers and officers. I
privately know of numerous retired officers, soldiers etc whose comments
cannot be printed here for all to read – suffice to say they are not
Whilst the Queen Mother was alive she made it known to government officials her deep admiration of the Black Watch, of which she was Colonel-in-Chief for many, many years. No government minister would have dared to suggest the amalgamation of The Black Watch. I am sure that the previous Colonel of the Black Watch, Brigadier Gary Barnett would have resisted with all his heart and soul the MoD proposals, in fact Brigadier Barnett now leads a Black Watch campaign to prevent the changes. It is a great pity that he is not still The Black Watch Colonel. It was discovered a few months back that Alistair Irwin wrote a personal "appreciation" for the executive committee of the army board (ECAB) in May, 2003, in which he presented arguments for the ending of the single-battalion regimental system, in May 2003 The Black Watch were fighting to liberate Basra. Alistair Irwin called it an ‘appreciation paper’ - exactly who would have ‘appreciated’ his paper apart from the MoD is beyond me as it was littered with comments and recommendations that have since made so many veterans, soldiers and their families aware of just how committed to The Black Watch , Alistair Irwin was and is and where his true heart lies - the MoD.
Some of the statements in is ‘appreciation paper’ include:
ON REGIMENTAL IDENTITY HE SAYS “….. regimental identity "have no intrinsic right to a permanent place in our existence."
ON CHANGE TO REGIMENTS HE SAYS “New regiments and corps have been formed throughout our history, acquiring new reputations and traditions in the process. there is no reason why this evolution should not continue, even if any change is bound to be painful and controversial.
ON UNIFORMS (including the famous Red Hackle) ”Particular traditions and uniforms are neither good nor bad; they are certainly not worth including in the list of those things that need to be preserved”
It is no secret that Alistair Irwin has for a long time favoured single large regiments and that it would appear that the amalgamation of at least 3 regiments was in his sights – well as it now transpires, he got more than he wanted – the vote was for one super regiment as opposed to a lowland and a highland regiment, which he favoured. Does a fiercely proud regiment such as The Black Watch not deserve better from it’s Colonel ? If Alistair Irwin says he is expected to serve the Government – then he should do so – but – he should not pretend to be a loyal man to The Black Watch at the same time – it is an undeniable fact that it is NOT possible for someone to both protect the best interests of The Black Watch and simultaneously carry out the MoD/Government’s wishes. Given that we now know Alistair Irwin wrote this document, which in my opinion gave the green light (or more accurately a blue print start point) for the current cuts and amalgamations and his unwillingness to make any real opposition to the amalgamation plans I would like to see him resign as soon as possible. Alistair Irwin is not fit to represent The Black Watch as Colonel. It appears his self-interests and government and MoD approval are what he really seeks. He has made his bed – now let him lie in it. No matter what happens he will be remember in history as the Colonel who helped confine The Black Watch to the history books.
If you have any self-respect and any respect for The Black Watch you will resign your position as Colonel immediately.
Andrew Robertson - Campaign Organiser
Save the Scottish Regiments Campaign