Soldiers from the Royal Scots Borderers, the first British troops deployed to Sierra Leone in the fight against Ebola, have returned home.
The members of the battalion, part of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, are now safely back at their base at Palace Barracks in Holywood, Northern Ireland.
The soldiers worked alongside the Republic of Sierra Leone armed forces to provide security for British aid workers, establish helicopter landing sites and escort conveys. During their four-month stint they were also closely involved in the evacuation of several international healthcare workers who needed treatment for suspected Ebola virus.
Company commander, Major Nick Colquhoun, said he was immensely proud of the professionalism and maturity shown by the young “Jocks” of B Company.
“This is the first time that the majority of these young men have deployed on an operational tour and the demands that have been placed on them in supporting the fight against Ebola in Sierra Leone have been particularly unique,” he said.
“Tasked to deploy at very short notice, to a man they rose to the challenge, displaying characteristic energy and enthusiasm from the outset. It is a privilege to command them.”
Among the Borders troops involved in the deployment to Sierra Leone was 22-year-old corporal Kieran Haig, from Galashiels.
A former pupil of Galashiels Academy, Kieran says the West African mission was unlike anything else he and his fellow 1 SCOTS soldiers had been tasked with previously.
“It was completely different from jobs like Afghanistan and it was good to see how quickly we can react and deploy at such short notice,” Kieran told us on the phone from his base in Northern Ireland this week.
“There were very strict health precautions in place, with chlorine handwashes everywhere and constant checks on people’s temperature.
“But it was very satisfying to be involved and all the UK military personnel that are involved are definitely helping make a real difference.
“We worked closely with the Sierra Leone armed forces and were able to pass on a lot of our experience, and I think we have set a very high bar for the other units coming after us.”
Kieran and his fellow soldiers were also able to find the time to pay their respects at a Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Freetown to Lance Sergeant Charles Frederick Robertson, of Galashiels.
Serving with the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, he succumbed to disease while posted to the King’s African Rifles during the Second World War.
And they also spent time visiting the SOS Village Orphanage at Makeni, where many of the children have lost parents to the Ebola outbreak.
After some well-deserved leave, the soldiers will next take on a high readiness commitment to EU Forces in Bosnia in May.
The Royal Scots Borderers moved from Edinburgh to Belfast last summer and are part of 38th (Irish) Brigade.