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Motoring news

Audi’s new Q cars

April 12 2017

Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space...


Queen to visit Leuchars to name barracks

September 26 2015

The Queen will visit the army’s new base at Leuchars on Monday. On a visit to the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards at Leuchars Station, her majesty will unveil a plaque naming the base Waterloo Barracks. The Queen who is Colonel in Chief of the regiment will also meet serving soldiers and their families and hear about the regiment’s work and activities. To mark their move to Fife, the monarch will join officers for a regimental photograph before attending a private lunch. The army took control of the former RAF base last April when it was renamed Leuchars Station. Since then the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards have gradually relocated from their base in Germany during the spring and summer. The new army station will be fully manned by the summer of next year when the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards return from operational training in Canada. There will be around 1,800 military personnel and their families at the Fife base. Of the 800 soldiers, 426 are SCOTS DG with the rest made up from the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) and the Royal Military Police. The Queen who is holidaying at her summer retreat of Balmoral will follow in her husband’s footsteps when she goes to the base, as the Duke of Edinburgh paid a visit to one of the new army battalions now located on the former RAF base. In his capacity as Colonel in Chief of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, Prince Philip took time out of his schedule to meet members of 2 Close Support Battalion REME. His visit was described by Lieutenant Colonel Chris King as an honour and he said the duke took a great interest in the work the battalion was doing both in the UK and overseas. SCOTS DG was formed in 1971 by the amalgamation of the 3rd Carabiniers and the 6th Dragoon Guards and The Royal Scots Greys. The regiment completed four tours of Northern Ireland and saw active service during the Gulf War in 1991, Bosnia and Kosovo. It deployed to Iraq in 2003, 2006 and 2008 and Afghanistan in 2008, 2011 and 2013/14.


Taxpayer bill for Leuchars war horse and other military mascots defended by Army

January 15 2016

The Army has defended its ownership of a taxpayer-funded regimental drum horse stabled in Fife following national questions over costs. An Army spokesperson told The Courier that Talavera, the drum horse for the Leuchars-based Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (SCOTS DG), was part of a long-standing tradition of official military mascots, and helped carry out important ceremonial roles and duties. The spokesman confirmed the estimated annual cost for the upkeep of Talavera, housed at Edenside Stables, Guardbridge,is around £1,500. This includes feeding, veterinary care, farrier, reduced cost livery and insurance. Captain Ed Knox, SCOTS DG stables troop leader told The Courier: “As a cavalry regiment Talavera is key to the upkeep of our regimental identity, and therefore our regimental pride. This pride, ethos, distinguished history and the morale which that gives many of the regiment’s members is just one strand of what helps to make up the moral component of fighting power, in other words it is one part of what drives the soldiers to fight alongside their fellow men within the regiment.” In a parliamentary answer published on Wednesday, Defence Minister Mark Lancaster revealed that Talavera is among nine taxpayer-funded mascots in the Army. The others include goats, a wolfhound and two Shetland ponies. Several of the animals also hold the rankings of fusilier and lance corporal. Talavera, along with another drum horse Alamein, also known as Charlie, of the Queen’s Royal Hussars, are listed as unranked and are joined in this category by Domhnall of Shantamon, the Wolfhound of the Irish Guards whose rations are simply listed as “dog food”. Kashmiri goats Fusilier Llwelyn, of the 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh, and Lance Corporal Shenkin III, of the 3rd Battalion The Royal Welsh, are listed along with Lance Corporal Derby XXX - a Swaledale ram representing the Mercian Regiment. The final two mascots are both Shetland ponies - one known as Cruachan IV, a lance corporal with the Royal Regiment of Scotland and Pegasus V, a lance corporal with the Parachute Regiment. The rations of the non-dog mascots are listed as “pasture forage and concentrate”. An Army spokesperson added: “Talavera is one of a number of mascots in the armed forces, some of which are official, and thus attract a certain level of official funding to cover accommodation, movement, quarantine, veterinary services, bedding and rations. Other, unofficial mascots are maintained through private unit funds. “Official military mascots are a long-standing tradition and carry out ceremonial roles and duties. The armed forces have a total of nine official mascots, all of which are attached to the Army.” The Courier was this week given the chance to meet Talavera at Edenside Stables and the hard working staff who look after her. A second army horse, a grey called Rose, is also housed there. She is owned by the SCOTSDG regiment and funded privately. Talavera was gifted by the Queen in 2002, and in September, the monarch got more than she bargained for on a visit to Leuchars when she was slobbered on. Drum horses played an important role in Army history sending messages across the battlefield. Today their role is largely ceremonial. A full feature on ‘A Day in the Life of Talavera’ will appear in The Courier magazine on Saturday January 23.

Perth & Kinross

Black Watch timepiece sells out in three days

December 21 2013

A commerorative Black Watch timepiece created to help raise funds for veterans has sold out in just three days after being featured in The Courier. The limited-edition piece was created by master watchmaker Robin Devine and features the historic regiment’s badge and tartan. It honours squaddies from what is now known as the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland (3 SCOTS). Robin, of Toronto-based Time is Ticking, said the entire stock was snapped up by former Black Watch soldiers from around the globe. To keep up with demand Robin has been working until 4am packaging and posting all 70 of the timepieces herself. Robin attributed demand to an article which featured in The Courier last month. She said: “The watches only sold because of The Courier article that is an absolute fact. “People sent out the article all over the world. People were calling Toronto all day from the time the article came out until the watches had been sold.” Robin said many buyers told her of their memories of serving in the regiment, which dates from 1739. “The people in Scotland had such wonderful stories to tell about how much the watch meant to them,” said Robin. “There were some elderly veterans who had never used a credit card and for them to call Toronto to a far off country and to someone they didn’t know really tells you how important the watch was to them. “I feel like the watch is helping to keep the history of the regiments alive in a way that can be publically displayed.” Robin hopes to have a similar success with a watch celebrating the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, which traditionally recruits from Stirlingshire. Profits from the watch, which is available through the regimental museum or through the Time is Ticking website, will go to veterans.

Road tests

Audi Q2 puts quality over size

March 21 2018

Audi’s Q2 was one of the first premium compact SUVs on the market. It sits below the Q3, Q5 and the gigantic, seven seat Q7 in Audi’s ever growing range. Although it’s about the same size as the Nissan Juke or Volkswagen T-Roc, its price is comparable with the much larger Nissan X-Trail or Volkswagen Tiguan. Even a basic Q2 will set you back more than £21,000 and top whack is £38,000. Then there’s the options list which is extensive to say the least. My 2.0 automatic diesel Quattro S Line model had a base price of £30,745 but tipped the scales at just over £40,000 once a plethora of additions were totted up. Size isn’t everything, however. In recent years there’s been a trend of buyers wanting a car that’s of premium quality but compact enough to zip around town. It may be a step down in size but the Q2 doesn’t feel any less classy than the rest of Audi’s SUV range. The interior looks great and is user friendly in a way that more mainstream manufacturers have never been able to match. The simple rotary dial and shortcut buttons easily trounce touchscreen systems, making it a cinch to skim through the screen’s menus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eQ5p5Z7-Ek&list=PLUEXizskBf1nbeiD_LqfXXsKooLOsItB0 There’s a surprising amount of internal space too. I took three large adults from Dundee to Stirling and no one complained about feeling cramped. As long as you don’t have a tall passenger behind a tall driver you can easily fit four adults. At 405 litres the boot’s big too – that’s 50 litres more than a Nissan Juke can muster. Buyers can pick from 1.0 and 1.4 litre petrol engines or 1.6 and 2.0 litre TDIs. Most Q2s are front wheel drive but Audi’s Quattro system is standard on the 2.0 diesel, as is a seven-speed S Tronic gear box. On the road there’s a clear difference between this and SUVs by manufacturers like Nissan, Seat and Ford. Ride quality, while firm, is tremendously smooth. Refinement is excellent too, with road and tyre noise kept out of the cabin. It sits lower than the Q3 or Q5 and this improves handling, lending the Q2 an almost go-kart feel. On a trip out to Auchterhouse, with plenty of snow still on the ground, I was appreciative of the four-wheel drive as well. The Q2 is expensive – though there are some good finance deals out there – but you get what you pay for. Few cars this small feel as good as the Q2 does. Price: £30,745 0-62mph: 8.1 seconds Top speed: 131mph Economy: 58.9mpg CO2 emissions: 125g/km


Revitalised museum to take fresh look at one of Scotland’s most famous fighting forces

April 15 2017

One of Scotland’s best loved military museums is to undergo a stunning £3.75 million transformation. For many years the history of The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders has been celebrated at Stirling Castle. Based in the A-listed 15th Century Royal Palace known as The King’s Old Buildings, it already attracts around 185,000 visitors each year. However, the trustees hope to update the museum and provide an all new presentation and interpretation of the regiment’s history fit for the 21st century. Backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund and a successful £2 million Thin Red Line Appeal fundraising drive — backed by the Earl of Strathearn, Prince William — heritage design consultants PLB Ltd will take on that task. They have been challenged to place one of Scotland’s greatest regiments more firmly in the context of the nation’s history. The museum will also shine a new light on the communities and families who, across the centuries, have nurtured its fighting men. It will give pride of place to the Argyll’s priceless collection of militaria, artefacts and archives and look at wider themes such as empire, the rise and fall of heavy industry and the changing role of the Scottish soldier from the Highland Clearances to peacekeeping in Northern Ireland. Trustees hope the modernised museum and expanded exhibit space will help attract an extra 28,000 visitors each year. Colonel AK Miller, project director, said: “We selected PLB from a strong field of specialist companies on the strength of their imaginative ideas for developing the museum, exploiting the extended gallery space and ensuring improved physical and intellectual access to the history The Argylls, one of Scotland’s greatest Highland Regiments, in war and peace. “PLB understood our desire to tell the Argylls’ story in the wider context of Scotland and the UK and a keen understanding of the very diverse audiences that visit Stirling Castle and the need to entertain and enlighten.” Jamie McCall, creative director of PLB, added: “PLB has successfully completed projects for various military museums, including the Tank Museum in Bovington, Dorset. “This commission challenges us to explore the history of the regiment and present their story through an interactive and thought provoking museum, one which attracts audiences of all ages from all nations.”

Perth & Kinross

Military enthusiasts gather for Scottish collectors’ event

March 21 2016

The Scottish Military Vehicle Group (SMVG) hosted their eighth annual Military Swap Meet at the Institute Hall, Bridge of Earn. Regarded as the only sale of its kind in Scotland, it provided an opportunity for military enthusiasts and collectors to buy items of militaria, military vehicle parts, tools, books and other collectables. There was also an indoor diorama of military interest on display plus another display of military vehicles outdoors. The club actively raise funds for the Army Benevolent Fund (ABF) and there was a range of ABF merchandise on sale. The group’s membership is spread over the whole of Scotland and they support events such as Armed Forces Day, Remembrance Day, regimental and veteran reunions as well as military and vintage vehicle events held throughout the country and Europe. Due to the dearth of some rare vehicles in Scotland, members are often asked to provide vehicles for film work. There has been a growing trend for vehicle owners to provide a display or diorama based on their vehicles.


Highest military honour for animals to go to heroic dog of the late Lance Corporal Liam Tasker

September 7 2012

The heroic actions of military working dog Theo, who died just hours after his handler was killed in Afghanistan, are to be honoured with the posthumous presentation of the PDSA Dickin Medal - the animals' Victoria Cross . The medal, first instituted by the UK's leading veterinary charity, PDSA, in 1943, is the highest award any animal can receive in recognition of conspicuous gallantry or devotion to duty in saving human life while serving in military conflict. Theo's is the first PDSA Dickin Medal to be presented since 2010. Theo was deployed with his handler Lance Corporal Liam Tasker, from Kirkcaldy, as part of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps's 1st Military Working Dog Regiment during conflict in Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011. Their role was to provide search and clearance support, uncovering hidden weapons, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and bomb-making equipment. During his time in Afghanistan, Theo made 14 confirmed operational finds, the most any arms and explosives search dog in Afghanistan has found to date. One such device was found by Theo while supporting 11 Platoon 1 Royal Irish Regiment. Theo was searching a crossroads in the Nad el Ali South district and detected an improvised explosive device which, if detonated, could have killed many soldiers and civilians. Theo helped uncover not only many hidden explosive devices, but the materials that could be used to make them. On December 6 2010, while supporting the Irish Guards and Danish troops forming part of the Coalition forces, Theo identified two bags of fertiliser and a large quantity of parts intended to make IEDs. On March 1 2011 Theo and Lance Corporal Tasker were on a mission in support of the Irish Guards in the Nahr-e Saraj district in Helmand, when a fire-fight broke out, killing Lance Corporal Tasker. Theo was being taken back to Bastion when he started having seizures. Despite immediate first aid and veterinary treatment, he died. The partnership of Lance Corporal Tasker and Theo, said by colleagues to be ''inseparable'', had been hugely successful. They uncovered 14 home-made bombs and hoards of weapons in just five months, which helped prevent hundreds of deaths. On one occasion, Theo found an underground tunnel leading to a room in which insurgents were suspected of making bombs and hiding from coalition forces. PDSA director general Jan McLoughlin said: ''Theo's exceptional devotion to duty as a military working dog in Afghanistan saved countless human lives. ''The award of this medal serves as a very poignant reminder of the loyal companionship and dedication of man's best friend.'' Theo's posthumous presentation will bring the total number of PDSA Dickin Medals awarded to animals in war to 64. Since the introduction of the medal by PDSA founder Maria Dickin CBE in 1943 it has been awarded to 28 dogs (including Theo), 32 second world war messenger pigeons, three horses and one cat. ''Theo's exceptional devotion to duty saved many from death and injury.''


Tributes paid to Kirkcaldy soldier Lance Corporal Liam Tasker

March 3 2011

The British soldier shot dead in Afghanistan on Tuesday has been named as 26-year-old Lance Corporal Liam Tasker from Kirkcaldy. His family paid tribute to a "larger than life" young man. In a statement released through the Ministry of Defence the family said, "There are three words that best describe Liam larger than life. "He lit up every room he walked into with his cheeky smile. He was the best son, grandson, brother and friend you could ever wish to meet. "He died a hero doing a job he was immensely passionate about. We are so proud of him and everything he's achieved. Words can't describe how sorely he will be missed." He leaves behind girlfriend Leah Walters, who said, "LT never met anyone without touching their lives in some way. The amount of support both I and his family have received in the last day alone pays testament to this. "I am the proudest girlfriend there could ever be and there will be an LT-sized hole in my life forever. Sleep well, my darling, my soulmate, my best friend." Lance Corporal Tasker was serving with The Royal Army Veterinary Corps, 1st Military Working Dog Regiment, as an arms explosive search handler. He was on patrol with his dog Theo in the Nahr-e Saraj district in Helmand province when he was fatally injured by small arms fire. Theo also died following the attack. His death brings the total number of UK military personnel to have died since operations in Afghanistan began in 2001 to 358. Lance Corporal Tasker joined the army in 2001 as a vehicle mechanic in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, but his passion for dogs led to a transfer to the Royal Army Veterinary Corps in 2007. He was praised for his success at locating Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), weapons and bomb-making equipment in Afghanistan. Lieutenant Colonel David Thorpe, Commanding Officer 1st Military Working Dog Regiment, said, "It is a challenge to put into words what Lance Corporal Tasker meant to those he worked with. "His ability to command whilst maintaining his sense of humour had already marked him out as one to watch. His loss has hurt every single one of us. "He will be missed. He will not be forgotten."

Perth & Kinross

‘Incredible’ response to Black Watch Museum revamp

June 26 2013

Poignant reminders of glories past and lives lost adorn every wall and fill every cabinet in Balhousie Castle. Over more than 300 years The Black Watch has carved out a reputation as one of the world’s finest fighting forces, earning honours in conflicts and theatres of war around the globe. As far back as 1745 then known as the 43rd Regiment of Foot the regiment saw action against the French at the First Battle of Fontenoy. Since then, in the Americas, West Indies, India, Crimea and South Africa in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, during the war in Europe and, most recently, in Iraq and Afghanistan, thousands have made the final sacrifice in its colours. Those behind the £3.5 million rejuvenation of the regiment’s spiritual home hope there will be many thousands keen to hear their gallant story. And with more than 400 passing the Black Watch Muesum’s doors as it opened to the public for the first time in 12 months on Tuesday those hopes appear set to be met. Arriving just seconds after 9.30am were Denis and Esther Platt from Eccles in Salford, who were given a warm welcome by Black Watch Museum Trust chief executive Alfie Iannetta. Mr Iannetta admitted he was stunned by the response and is already considering new staff for the attraction. “All I ever wanted was to see something created that would carry on The Black Watch name forever,” he said. “This is what we have been dreaming about for the past five years and I am hugely proud of what we have delivered here. “The important thing now that the museum is reopened is that people now come here and enjoy it. “Our first visitors arrived the moment we opened the doors and we’ve since welcomed around 400 people. It’s been incredible and way beyond any expectations we had.” The museum also welcomed its first school visit, with youngsters from Ceres Primary School enjoying a guided tour. They also became the first to make use of the museum’s new classroom, where they undertook a project on the Second World War. Meanwhile, the new caf was filled with happy eaters, who sampled a menu created through consultation with previous visitors and filled with nods to military life, such as the regimental breakfast. “I couldn’t be any happier with the reopening,” Mr Iannetta said. In addition to an extended educational outreach programme, a series of special exhibitions will be mounted, with the first entitled The Sword and the Pencil. Learning and audience officer Rebecca Berger said: “Our first special exhibition will highlight artworks from the museum’s large collection of prints, photographs, sketches and watercolours.” * Stunned museum staff discovered a haul of antique newspapers after opening a soldier’s rucksack which had been untouched for half a century. In preparation for the reopening of The Black Watch museum, curators opened the bag belonging to Major Sir Peter Halkett and discovered the precious haul. Some of the newspapers stuffed inside were more than 150 years old, with the most recent from 42 years later in 1900. The earliest is a copy of The Field, the Country Gentlemen’s Newspaper, dated Saturday March 27 1858, and the latest is a copy of the Times, dated Friday January 5 1900. The regiment, which became a battalion under recent army reforms, is mentioned in the 1900 paper in a letter written to the editor. Although the knapsack has been in the collection for a number of years, this is the first time the contents have been seen since they were originally placed inside. Halkett carried the bag as a lieutenant, and later a captain, in the 42nd during the Crimean War. Emma Halford-Forbes, the museum curator, said the find had come as a complete surprise, despite the familiarity of the object. She said: “The knapsack was used in the Crimean campaign and it was part of his kit. We assume he put the newspaper in to keep its shape when it didn’t have his kit in it any more. “We’ve had the object for 50 years and it was really interesting that nobody had noticed before.” Major Halkett was originally from Pitfirrane, which is now a part of Dunfermline. He fought at the battle of the Alma in the Crimea, carrying the colours which are also now housed at the museum a moment which is immortalised in a painting by military artist Robert Gibb, entitled Alma: Forward the 42nd. Find out more at www.theblackwatch.co.uk