THE shops were shut and the traffic was stopped as two

families said farewell to their soldier laddie. The Black Watch and relatives of Lance Corporal Barry Stephen were joined yesterday by 1000 mourners lining the streets of Perth.

The military funeral service was described as a fitting tribute for Lance Corporal Stephen, 31, who died saving his 1st Battalion Black Watch comrades when a rocket-propelled grenade exploded near his armoured vehicle in southern Iraq almost a month ago.

''Fare thee well my soldier laddie, rest in peace now the battle's over. Love Mum and Dad,'' read the message on a wreath from his parents.

During the service, relayed by loudspeaker to well-wishers outside St John's Kirk, the Rev Neil Gardner, former chaplain to The Black Watch, said: ''Like every soldier in The Black Watch, Lance Corporal Barry Stephen belonged to two families - his own immediate family, which today mourns the loss of a loving and much loved husband and son, brother and uncle; and his extended regimental family, which today mourns the loss of one of our own.''

In a break with tradition, the coffin of Lance Corporal Stephen, known as Baz, was draped in the blue and white of the Saltire rather than the Union Flag. It was surrounded by tributes from family and friends, as well as from fighting colleagues and his regiment.

The service itself was unusual as it has been traditional for dead soldiers to be buried in a military ceremony in the country where they fell, rather than being returned home.

On the coffin was Lance Corporal Stephen's blue bonnet with the famous red feather hackle. Beneath it lay a single red rose bearing a message from his wife: ''Love you always -Shirley XXX''. Below that lay his Queen's Jubilee Medal and his white regimental belt with The Black Watch emblem.

During the service, friends praised the soldier's character and e-mails from around the commended his actions.

Mr Gardner said: ''In April 1943, Archie Wavell (Field Marshall Earl Wavell, the regiment's most eminent soldier) reflected on his years in the Middle East command in the following poetic terms: 'Long years of battle, bitterness and waste, dry years of sun and dust and Eastern skies, hard years of ceaseless struggle, endless haste fighting 'gainst greed for power and hate and lies'.

''Exactly 60 years on, it is surely the same fight against greed and power and lies in which The Black Watch has been engaged, and it is under those same Eastern skies that Barry Stephen was killed in action. But it is here at home that we come together today, his two families, to mourn him with sorrow and to salute him with pride.''

A sombre silence for a moment of reflection was broken by a bugler sounding the Last Post across the square, followed by a piper whose lament, Lochaber No More, echoed through the church before final hymns were sung.

After the 45-minute service, the soldier's coffin emerged from the arched doors of the church, held aloft by six regimental pallbearers. The coffin was carried to the waiting hearse to the strains of the piper's lament, Flowers of the Forest.

The soldiers then marched in slow procession before the car as it and the family's limousines drove from the church and passed Perth City Hall.

There the pallbearers stopped as the cortege carried on its journey to Perth Crematorium for a private family


The act was symbolic of the regiment bidding farewell to a fallen soldier.

Joining the 1st Battalion in 1997 and serving in Northern Ireland, Germany and Britain before becoming part of the regimental recruiting team and rejoining the mortar platoon last year, Lance Corporal Stephen's was one of 30 British personnel - but the only Scottish soldier - to have died during the war in the Gulf.

James McIntosh, 77, a former member of the Black Watch who attended the service, said the tribute was fitting and

emotional. One onlooker, Ester Watt, 76, said: ''It was very moving to listen to the words and to hear the music.''

Invited dignitaries included Annabel Ewing, the Perth MP; Roseanna Cunningham, Perth MSP candidate; and Michael O'Malley, Perth and Kinross Provost.

The Black Watch, named after its dark tartan, has its origins as loyalist peacekeepers in 18th century Jacobite Scotland. Its battle honours include Waterloo, the Somme, El Alamein and Northern Ireland. The regimental headquarters is at Balhousie Castle in Perth.

This was the Black Watch's first military engagement since the conflict in Korea in 1952-53. The regiment's last death in action occurred in Belfast in 1971. In recent years, it has been mostly involved in peacekeeping in Kosovo, Bosnia, and other troubled parts of the world.