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YES SIR, MAJOR GRANDAD SIR! EXCLUSIVE Scots Guard leaves his baby with Army father-in-law while he goes off to fight the Taliban.

Byline: By Kevan Christie

SOLDIER Gavin McAlpine knew he had left his newborn son in safe hands as he battled the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Frankie's babysitter was not only his proud grandad but one of his lancecorporal dad's senior officers in the Scots Guards, Major Steve Tester.

Signal operator Gavin, 25, only had a few days with Frankie, his first child, after wife Ashley gave birth in January at the regiment's base in Munster, Germany.

Then he was called back to complete the final four weeks of his tour of duty in wartorn Helmand province.

Gavin, from Motherwell, has now returned to Germany and intends to enjoy some well deserved time with his son, having spent 168 days of his 180-day tour on the front line.

Gavin said: "When I first went on tour, Ashley was just beginning to show, so I couldn't believe the change in her when I came back in January for the birth.

"It was brilliant to spend a few days with Frankie but heart-wrenching to leave him. But I knew he was in safe hands as Ashley's dad is Major Steve Tester who commands the Rear Party in Germany and is also the regiment's quartermaster.

"So Steve and Ashley's mum Melanie helped out.

"I managed to keep in touch regularly with Ashley even when we were out in the field through our satellite phones.

"My job was to listen in to the enemy communication systems and I picked up the Taliban chatting on their radios as I scanned their frequencies.

"Most of the time they were trying to motivate themselves to attack us and often they would have a crack just to test our firepower.

"The last four weeks all I could think about was getting home and spending some time with the wee man."

Gavin met Ashley four years ago when she worked in the base camp shop in Germany.

The couple were married in August 2006 and named their first child after Gavin's cousin Frankie Grearson who was only 20 when he was murdered in Blackpool in 2000.

Gavin said: "Ashley used to work in the shop and I would go in to buy sweets and papers.

"It took me ages to build up the courage to ask her out and I was well aware who her dad was. But her family have been brilliant."

The 1st Battalion Scots Guards were the first to take Warrior fighting vehicles into Afghanistan and were nicknamed the Desert Devils by the Taliban.

Gavin's company played a key role in forcing the Taliban out of Musa Qaleh last November and were involved in the seizure of a ton of opium just before their return to base.

'It was just heart-wrenching to leave my son Frankie'

CAPTION(S):

BYE BYE BABY: Gavin hands over Frankie to Steve before joining the Scots Guards in Afghanistan, right; DOTING: Gavin with Frankie
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Mar 10, 2008
Words:481
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