On tour with the Black Watch in Afghanistan: a diary

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionBBC Scotland's Cameron Buttle shows how a news team broadcasts from a British army base in Afghanistan

BBC Scotland's news reporter Cameron Buttle and producer Craig Swan are reporting from Afghanistan.

In a series of special reports, they look at the role of Scots soldiers who have been deployed there.

With all British soldiers due to leave the country in 2014, what is their role there?

The team have kept a daily diary of their time at patrol bases which Scots soldiers will hand over to Afghan forces.



Good run in from Brize Norton to Camp Bastion - 16 hours with a couple of stops, Germany and Cyprus.

Arrived in brand new terminal, very nice. Aren't we supposed to be leaving soon?


Had to undergo some update training before moving on to forward bases. Very sobering going over "ground sign" awareness. A small pile of stones, a darker patch of earth, a tiny glimpse of wire, all possible signs of a bomb.

Also went through the rollover simulator, designed to show what happens inside an armoured vehicle if it rolls or is blown over.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionBritish troops in Afghanistan train in a simulator which has been hit by a roadside bomb


Chinook helicopter down to Forward Operating Base Shawqat in Nad e Ali, Battle Group HQ for 3 Scots, The Black Watch.


This morning our media minder told us that the DG was coming in from the DC to meet with the MSST and the DST (which is part of the PRT) to talk about the big T.

The military does love an abbreviation.

To you and me, that means the District Governor, from the District Centre, was coming in to meet his civilian advisors from the District Stabilisation Team, and the Military Stabilisation Support Team, part of the Provincial Reconstruction Team to talk about the transition of authority to the Afghans.


Arrived in patrol base Kalang, we were here six months ago. Back then I nearly collapsed from heat exhaustion in a checkpoint when it was pushing 45 degrees.

Today I've got my thermals on. They've been digging trenches to stop the tents from flooding. But we've got great sleeping accommodation. Feels good to be back.


Out on foot patrol with soldiers from 3 Scots, feels very different walking about, not just because of the weather.

One of the Afghan police officers took the mickey out of my beard when we left. Hard to take given that he was wearing bright red nail varnish.


Out again this morning, saw a brand new school that wasn't here last time. Couldn't film inside a class because it was all girls. Locals would not like that.

Coming back through the bazaar, was amazing to see the same small boy sitting with his back against a wall, feet spinning a wheel that worked the bellows of a furnace.



Patrol bases tick over to the sound of generators and puffing billys. Puffing Billys are metal tubs with a very small diesel powered heater strapped to the side. It may look like something from the engine room of the Vital Spark, but it seems to be perfect for the job. Inside one litre bottles of water bob, slowly heating up.

Three bottles makes for a reasonable wash with some practice.


The food here at Kalang is so good. But today the cookhouse is closed for a clean, it's ration packs all day. I've been told there are 4,000 calories in one box. I'm trying my best not to eat it all.

This evening the BBC Scotland team were soundly thrashed at chess by Sgt Mjr Stacey.


6.45am woken by gunfire. Sgt Mjr and senior officers up, armed and out within moments. It sounded to me like it was right at the front gate.

Turns out it was hundreds of metres away at a checkpoint and it was celebratory gunfire - a local commander had just become a dad.

News coming in of an incident at a nearby US Marine Corps base. Very serious, possible fatality.


Road move back to Shawqat, got some reports to file.

Our "edit suite" is reeking of sweet peach tobacco. Our media minder, Cpt Steve Bromley is fond of a pipe. Although cherry and vanilla is his usual.

First proper shower in a few days, makes me appreciate what we've been missing. We've only been in a patrol base for a few days - can't imagine what it is like for a whole tour.

Conditions in some of the small bases are very harsh. I certainly won't miss using a bag for a ... the toilet.


Flew out from Shawqat this afternoon, we were the only people on the Chinook. During the flight the incredibly helpful rear door gunner/loadie let me sit right at the back to do some filming. I declined his offer to put on a harness and hang off the tailgate. Call me a jessie, I don't care!

More on this story