New recruit was killed taking shelter in Afghan storage hut

(AFGHANISTAN) 6 May 2010 - A YOUNG Scottish soldier was killed in Afghanistan by an improvised explosive device concealed inside a storage hut for grapes, an inquest has heard.


Private Robert McLaren, from Kintra, near Fionnphort on the Isle of Mull, was caught in a blast while on operations near Kandahar on June 11 last year. The inquest heard it was possible the Taliban hid the IED in the hut knowing British forces would seek cover there when under fire. The 20-year-old, from The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, was fresh out of training and had only been in active service with the regiment for four weeks when he died. Wiltshire coroner David Ridley recorded a verdict of unlawful killing at an inquest into Pte McLaren's death.
The hearing was told that Pte McLaren, fighting with 2 Platoon, A-Company, took cover in the grape hut after coming under intense fire during a battle in the village of Zhari, in Nalgham district. The inquest at Wiltshire Coroner's Court, sitting at Trowbridge Town Hall, heard the area was rich in vineyards and poppy fields. Platoon commander Lieutenant Robert Colquhoun said his section intended to use the roof of the hut as a vantage point to return fire. But the hut was deemed unsafe to climb and, under heavy small arms and mortar fire, Pte McLaren decided to enter the building for cover while he tried to identify enemy positions. Summarising the evidence, Mr Ridley said: "The decision was made not to sweep the building with metal detection though a visual check was conducted."
Mr Ridley said the men dropped off their day sacks just inside the hut and took up fire positions. He went on: "Robbie returned to the grape hut. He walked beyond the daysacks and looked through some vertical slits further inside the building."The coroner said Pte McLaren was joined by Pte Mark Connelly who was blown to the ground by the explosion, which occurred shortly after 10am.He added: "It was immediately clear he had sustained injuries incompatible with life."
Pte McLaren was airlifted to the field hospital at Kandahar airfield, and pronounced dead at 1.50pm.Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Cartwright, Commanding Officer 3 SCOTS, said at the time: "Any death in this close-knit battalion delivers an emotional body blow, but the loss of this young man so soon after joining us has hit us hard.""The battalion was conducting an offensive operation against the insurgents in one of the most dangerous parts of southern Afghanistan. Robert's company had been engaged in close combat with the insurgents for several hours and Robert had displayed enormous physical courage during this battle for one so young."He gave his life for his friends with his selfless commitment, moving forward in the face of a determined and ruthless enemy."From the moment he arrived he threw his heart and body into everything he was asked to do."He completed three large operations with his company and made an immediate positive impression on his Junior NCOs. He was so proud to be on operations so soon in his career."

Von: 2010, Herald & Times Group

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