The SCOTS on exercise in the Scottish Highlands
SCOTS soldier home from Land of the Rising Sun

A SOLDIER from Alloa returned home for Christmas after deploying on a training exercise in the Far East.

Corporal Fraser Hall, aged 32, was one of 16 soldiers from the 3rd Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Scotland (3 SCOTS) who became the first British Army troops to embed with Japanese forces during a major exercise last month.

The Scottish troops, who are based in Fort George near Inverness, operated as part of the 11th Security Force Assistance Brigade during Exercise Vigilant Isles in Japan.

They were joined in Japan by soldiers from B Company, 1st Battalion, The Royal Gurkha Rifles and 16 Air Assault Brigade.

The British Army personnel trained alongside approximately 400 Japanese troops.

Throughout the two-week exercise,the 3 SCOTS soldiers embedded with troops from the Japanese 1st Airborne Brigade’s 3rd Infantry Battalion.


Fraser is married to Andrea, from Stirling, and they have three children: Ava, 9, Lewis, 6, and Eilidh, ten months old.  

During Exercise Vigilant Isles, he said:

“I’ve come to Japan for a rest! My wife knows how it works with me having to go overseas but the kids are still adapting. We all miss each other but I’ll be home in time for Christmas.”

At the Exercise Vigilant Isles opening ceremony, Corporal Hall played the bagpipes to accompany Scotland the Brave, the regimental march of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, and Hielen’ Laddie, the antecedent regimental march of The Black Watch.

Fraser added:

“We find that the bagpipes and music break a lot of barriers down. It was a good route in that helped us talk to the Japanese and have a bit of banter with them.

“It’s been eye-opening to work with the Japanese. I’ve worked with foreign nations in the past but never on their home turf like here.

“We’re embedded with the Japanese recce forces and giving them drone capability on the ground.

“We’ve had to get used to their tactics and how they do things slightly differently. It’s been a really good experience in a beautiful country.”

Exercise Vigilant Isles was broken down into two phases: functional training, which included live firing tactical training, and comprehensive training, which included an airborne operation.
During the functional training at Sekiyama, 180 miles north-west of Tokyo, soldiers from 3 SCOTS embedded with a Japanese recce platoon where they operated a Parrot Anafi drone to locate hostile forces.

The comprehensive phase, conducted at Ojojihara, 250 miles north of Tokyo, was the main field training exercise during Vigilant Isles.
This saw Japanese advance forces land by freefall parachute, followed by Japanese static-line para, and a British Army aviation assault from a CH-47 Chinook, comprising a ‘bilateral attack’.

3 SCOTS also provided observer/mentor teams and a liaison officer network across the Japanese battlegroup during Exercise Vigilant Isles.

Fraser said:

“I joined the Army in 2007, soon after becoming 16, and went to the Army Foundation College in Harrogate for a year before going on to the Infantry Training Centre in Catterick.

“I was born in Romford, Essex and grew up in Brentwood before moving back home to Scotland aged 13.

“My dad was a piper in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders but, after leaving the Army, he joined the police down in Essex.

“Scotland’s always been home to me, with my parents coming from Alloa, and I’ve always had a Scottish accent from my parents.

“I travelled to every continent,except Antarctica, with the Army by the time I was 23. My highlights have included a three-month tour in the USA where I played the bagpipes.

“With the piping, I’ve done numerous events, such as the Edinburgh Tattoo and the Queen’s funeral.

“After being a piper, I moved more to the soldiering side where I’ve done deployments to Afghanistan, the Falkland Islands and Kenya and exercises in Europe and now Japan.

“I left the Army in 2014, when my oldest daughter was born, but re-enlisted after 18 months because I thought I had unfinished business.”