404: The Black Watch (Royal Highlanders) raised 1725

This entry was posted by Saturday, 10 January, 2015
Read the rest of this entry »



The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland (3 SCOTS) is an infantry battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

Prior to 28 March 2006, the Black Watch was an infantry regiment in its own right; The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) from 1931 to 2006, and The Royal Highland Regiment (The Black Watch) from 1881 to 1931. Part of the Scottish Division, it was the senior regiment of Highlanders.

The regiment’s name allegedly came from the dark tartan that they wore and from its role to “watch” the Highlands. “Black Watch” was originally a nickname for the 42nd (Royal Highland) Regiment of Foot, but was used more and more so that, in 1881, when the 42nd amalgamated with the 73rd Regiment of Foot, the new regiment was named “The Royal Highland Regiment (The Black Watch)”, with The Black Watch becoming the regiment’s official designation in 1931. The uniform changed over time, but the nickname has been more enduring. The regimental motto was Nemo me impune lacessit (no man provokes me with impunity).

The Royal Stewart Tartan is worn by the battalion’s Pipes and Drums due the royal designation. Six independent companies were first formed from 1725 to stop fighting among the clans.


For the pre-1881 history of the “Black Watch”, see 42nd Regiment of Foot.

The Black Watch was formed as part of the Childers Reforms in 1881 when the 42nd (Royal Highland) Regiment of Foot (The Black Watch) was amalgamated with the 73rd (Perthshire) Foot to form two battalions of the newly named Royal Highlanders (The Black Watch).

The 1st Battalion then served in Africa taking part in the Highland Brigade’s dawn assault on the Egyptian position at Tel-el-Kebir in 1882. Two years later it was in the thick of the fight with the Mahdi’s tribesmen at El Teb and Tamai. The following year 1885, saw it taking part in the Nile Expedition and fighting at Kirbekan and Abu Klea.[2]

20th century

See also: Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment)

During World War I the 25 battalions of Black Watch fought mainly in France and Flanders, except for the 2nd Battalion which fought in Mesopotamia and Palestine, and the 10th Battalion, which was in the Balkans. Only the 1st and 2nd battalions were regulars, with the rest either part of the Territorial Force or New Army. The Black Watch served with the British 51st (Highland) Division (World War I).

Battalions of the Black Watch fought in almost every major British action in World War II, from Palestine to Normandy and as Chindits (42 and 73 columns) in Burma. In 1940, the 1st Battalion, together with two Territorial Army battalions were captured at St Valery-en-Caux with the 51st (Highland) Division, but were later reformed from reserve units of the 9th (Highland) Infantry Division, and fought at the Battle of El Alamein and the Allied invasion of Sicily. After the war, in 1948, the two regular battalions were merged into one.

The regiment won honours after the Battle of the Hook during the Korean War in November 1952, and were subsequently involved in peacekeeping and counter-insurgency in various parts of the world such as the Mau Mau Uprising and Malayan Emergency; the same activity for which the regiment was raised 250 years earlier. In 1967, the regiment lost its Territorial battalions, which were amalgamated into the 51st Highland Volunteers. The Black Watch was the last British military unit to leave Hong Kong in 1997 and played a prominent role in the handover ceremony.

The Black Watch Regiment served in Northern Ireland during the Troubles as part of Operation Banner. The Black Watch was a major target of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) and Irish National Liberation Army (INLA).

21st century

During the 2003 Iraq War, the Black Watch fought during Operation Telic in the initial attack on Basra, and during its deployment the unit suffered a single fatality. The following year, the Black Watch was dispatched to Iraq again, as part of 4 (Armoured) Brigade. On 12 August a soldier from the regiment was killed as a result of an improvised explosive device (IED). In October, the Black Watch was at the centre of political controversy after the United States Army requested British forces to be moved further north outside of the British-controlled Multi-National Division (South East), in order to replace forces temporarily redeployed for the Second Battle of Fallujah. Despite objections in Parliament, the deployment went ahead. Based at Camp Dogwood, located between Fallujah and Karbala, in an area later dubbed the “Triangle of Death“, the Black Watch came under sustained insurgent attack from mortars and rockets. On the 29 October, during the journey to their new base, a Black Watch soldier was killed in a road accident. On 4 November three soldiers and an interpreter were killed by a car bomb at a check point and on 8 November another soldier was killed. The high profile nature of the deployment caused a magnification of these events back home in Britain.

Under a plan devised by Alistair Irwin and approved by General Sir Mike Jackson, on 16 December 2004 it was announced that the Black Watch was to join with five other Scottish regiments – the Royal Scots, the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, the Royal Highland FusiliersThe Highlanders and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders – to form the Royal Regiment of Scotland, a single regiment consisting of 5 regular and 2 territorial battalions. The measure, which reflected recruiting difficulties and the inefficiencies inherent in maintaining a number of relatively small separate units, took place on 28 March 2006.

These plans encountered considerable opposition from a well co-ordinated campaign backed by politicians, retired soldiers and the Scottish public. It was claimed by proponents of the plan that the establishment of a large regiment would improve conditions of service for serving personnel. As with the other former Scottish regiments, the Black Watch will retain its former name as its primary identifier, with its battalion number as a subtitle. Therefore, the regiment is now known as The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland; in addition, the battalion is also permitted to retain its most famous accoutrement, the red hackle on the Tam o’Shanter. The Black Watch’s primary recruiting areas are in FifeDundeeAngus and Perth and Kinross, with the Battalion Headquarters located at Balhousie Castle.The Battalion is currently on Operational Commitments on Op Herrick Afghanistan the Bn are the reserve bn of 19 light brigade and based at Khandhar.

On 24 June 2009 it was reported that elements of the battalion numbering about 350 troops carried out one of the largest air assault operations of the NATO troops in Afghanistan, named Operation Panchai Palang (Panther’s Claw), by deploying into, and attacking a Taliban stronghold located near Bābājī (باباجی ), north of Lashkar Gah. The operation commenced on the 19 June just before midnight. After a number of combat engagements with the insurgents, the soldiers of the battalion secured three main crossing points: the Lui Mandey Wadi crossing, the Nahr-e-Burgha canal and the Shamalan canal. Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Cartwright, Commanding Officer of The Black Watch battalion was reported saying that this operation established a firm foothold in what was the last remaining Taliban area controlled in the southern Helmand province. The location of the Taliban force in the area allowed to conduct attacks on the A01 highway, a major national route connecting Kandahar and Herat. During 22 June, troops of the battalion also “found 1.3 tonnes of poppy seed and a number of improvised explosive devices and anti-personnel mines before they could be laid”. Analysis by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation revealed the haul to be of mung beans, not poppy seed.

Australia/New Zealand

While Australia has had various units of its military with affiliations to the Black Watch, no regiment in Australia or New Zealand has formally borne that title, although one company Alpha Company, of the 2/17 Battalion, the Royal NSW Regiment does wear the kilt, bonnet and hackle.


Canada (from 1862) has its own Black Watch, being raised as the 5th Battalion of the Canadian Militia, being renamed by 1914 as the 5th Regiment (Royal Highlanders of Canada). It adopted its current title, The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada, prior to the Second World War, in which it served in the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division from mobilisation in 1939 to 1945. As part of the 5th Canadian Brigade, the Regiment’s 1st Battalion landed in Normandy in July 1944 and participated in major combat actions afterwards including the fight for the Channel Ports, the Battle of the ScheldtOperation Market Garden, the Rhineland, and the final battles of the war east of the Rhine River. Three battalions of the Black Watch (RHR) of Canada also served in Canada, two in the Regular Army, the other as a Reserve unit. Between 1953 and 1970, the Regiment had two battalions on the order of battle of the Regular Force, with a battalion in the Militia. The Regiment reverted to a one-battalion Militia unit in 1970 and remains in that status today.


Before the Second World War the Australian Militia and after the Second World War the Militia, then renamed the Citizen Military Forces (CMF), had a regiment, the 30th Battalion, New South Wales Scottish Regiment, which was affiliated with the Black Watch, wearing the kilt, beret with red hackle and badge of the parent Regiment in Scotland. A Scottish Black Watch officer was seconded from the British Army to serve as a permanent cadre with the NSW Battalion. The Regiment was popular and was probably the only CMF unit at full strength with a waiting list for entry. With the reorganisation of the CMF following the introduction of compulsory National Service in the early 1950s, conscripted recruits were made to join existing CMF units alongside the volunteer part-time soldiers of the old CMF; consequently, 30th Battalion became fully manned with National Servicemen and it was disbanded as the CMF of this period lost all its volunteers who did not wish to serve alongside conscripts. Compulsory National Service was made more selective in 1957 with greater stress on skills rather than numbers with the system completely ending in 1959; however, it had effectively caused the demise of the old CMF due to the shifts in manpower that the scheme had caused and the changed administrative conditions under which the old CMF (and some other branches of the Armed Forces) had previously operated.


Leave a Reply