Black Watch soldiers sent to Iraq for a third frontline tour in four years have returned safely to a heroes' welcome at their home base at Palace Barracks on the outskirts of Belfast.

A 116-strong rifle company from the unit, now 3rd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland, spent almost seven months supporting a Danish battlegroup in Maysan province along the Iranian border in the area to which Prince Harry is about to be deployed.

The entire battalion has already completed two tours of duty in Iraq, including spearheading the attack on Basra in 2003 and a second stint in support of US Marines south of Falluja in 2004.

Eight of its soldiers were killed, seven during the second tour from bombs and suicide attacks in the Sunni Triangle north of the usual British sector.

Major Ben Wrench, the company commander, said yesterday he was relieved to have brought all of his men back in one piece, although he said the tour had "not been without its hairy moments".

Major Wrench said his men had been ambushed and had taken part in close-quarters action during the tour, but had responded to insurgent attacks "robustly and successfully".

The Scots also helped refurbish schools, hospitals, roads and water purification plants.