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Former UN commander: bagpipes gave frightened soldiers courage to cross no man's land

Bagpipes gave frightened soldiers - in a largely English unit - the courage to cross no man's land in Bosnia, a former United Nations commander said today.

Former colonel Bob Stewart insisted nothing was more stirring than the sound of the Scottish pipes and those serving with him loved to hear them played during the conflict.

The Conservative MP told the Commons he used his two pipers frequently in Bosnia, with one of them able to calm intense fighting by playing the instrument while on a rooftop.

Mr Stewart (Beckenham), who is half Scottish, disclosed the role of bagpipes during his time serving in the area while making the case for Scotland to remain in the United Kingdom.

He told the Commons: "As British United Nations commander in Bosnia in 1992/93, I used my two pipers frequently.

"For instance, I asked them to play at line crossings as all of us needed courage to advance through no man's land, especially as Staff Sergeant Steve Bristow had been previously wounded beside me by a sniper.

"The sound of bagpipes wafting through the air was the incredible encouragement to those of us that were frightened. My mainly English soldiers loved the skirling, thrilling and impossible to miss sound of the pipes.

"Once there was intense fighting around my location at my base, I asked my piper... to stand on the roof and make an impact. He did just that. The fighting and the shooting died down quite quickly as that tremendously emotive and marshal sound echoed down the valley.

"My purpose this afternoon was to remind the House just how important the British Army, and indeed all three services, consider the contribution to them by men and women, their Scottish comrades.

"They form an integral part of our armed forces, I would grieve hugely if they were no longer a part of them and I would sincerely hope that will never happen."

Mr Stewart said his dad Jock was an RAF officer from Glasgow while his mum Joan was from London and in the Special Operations Executive.

He told MPs: "Scottish soldiers, sailors and airmen have always had a tremendous reputation as brave, ferocious warriors. Throughout history proportionately more Scots than English, Welsh and Irishmen have taken the Queen's shilling to fight for the Crown."

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