Good to see this getting coverage.. Copyright 2004 MGN Ltd. Sunday Mirror October 24, 2004, Sunday HEADLINE: HEROES GET ZERO; EXCLUSIVE TROOPS OFF TO IRAQ HELL-HOLE PAID LESSTHAN WHEN THEY ARE BYLINE: RUPERT HAMER, DEFENCE CORRESPONDENT HIGHLIGHT: Angry father James Buchanan; Picture: ATEF HASSAN/REUTERS; A soldier from the Black Watch on patrol in Basra BODY: Black Watch troops sent to fight in an Iraqi hell-hole will be paid LESS than if they were on exercises abroad. The 850 troops from the battlegroup being switched from Basra to near Baghdad will also receive next to nothing in war zone benefits - while the American Marines they are relieving get pounds 175 extra a month. Barmy Army rules mean squaddies facing bombs and bullets actually take home less cash than if they were on exercises in Canada or Germany. A private in the regiment would be over pounds 100-a-month better off if he was training abroad, a corporal pounds 122 and an officer pounds 132. Defence chiefs justify the decision by claiming soldiers don't need the extra money because they have nowhere to spend it and argue that other perks such as access to board games such as Monopoly, DVDs and free post compensate for the financial anomaly. Last night the situation was condemned by the families of the 1st Battalion, The Black Watch, as well as MPs and senior military sources. And one Basra veteran said: "It is real penny-pinching at its very worst and is treating war heroes shabbily. "They say: 'Well you have nowhere to spend it in Basra because you can't go out boozing or go for a curry on a Friday night'. "But that is just rubbish. I'm married and have got young children so I hardly go out anyway, and loads of my friends in the Army are in the same situation. "They should throw this ludicrous rule out. People are leaving the Army early and this kind of Scrooge attitude is behind much of the dissatisfaction." The American Marines, who the Black Watch are relieving, get pounds 175-a-month more in war zone benefits. Their wages are also paid tax-free and the insurance if they are killed or injured is tens of thousands of pounds above what is offered to our servicemen and women. James Buchanan, 56, from Arbroath, Angus, who has two sons in the Black Watch, said: "It's disgusting. They're putting their lives in danger and they're getting about pounds 13,000-a-year to fight and keep this country free." And last night Shadow Armed Forces Minister Keith Simpson also condemned the "bizarre" rules. He said: "They have got to change the system especially when British servicemen and women are now more likely to be in a war zone than not." An MoD spokeswoman said: "It is wrong to compare the allowance given to troops on exercise abroad to the welfare package they get on active service because they serve different purposes." The revelations over pay come just three days after it was announced that the troops from the Black Watch are being sent to a trouble spot 30 miles south of Baghdad. The 850-strong group - which includes a detachment from the Royal Navy's 40 Commando Marines - will free up US troops in Babil province for an onslaught against insurgents in Fallujah. Back at home representatives of the Black Watch and Scotland's five other regiments joined forces to protest against merger proposals. In Iraq, the Black Watch will be replaced by Scots Guards, if the fighting is not over by Christmas. That prospect seemed increasingly unlikely yesterday when a car bomb at a base west of Baghdad killed 16 Iraqi police. A suicide driver killed four Iraqi guards south of Samarra. Two guards were also killed in an attack north of the city. -Last night a plea for the release of British charity worker hostage Margaret Hassan was made by Denis Caillaux, boss of Care International.