The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) was a Scottish infantry regiment of the British Army from 1881 (as the Royal Highland Regiment (The Black Watch)) to 2006. In 2006 the regiment was restructured to be a battalion The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland
As part of the Scottish Division, it was the senior regiment of the Highland Brigade. The regiment's name came from the dark tartan that they wore and from its role to "watch" the Highlands. 'Black Watch' was originally just 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 Black Watch (Royal Highlanders)'. The uniform changed over time, but the nickname has been more enduring. The regimental motto was Nemo me impune lacessit (no man attacks me with impunity). The Royal Stewart Tartan was worn by the regimental pipers due the royal designation. Six companies were formed from 1725 to stop fighting among the clans.
The Black Watch was formed as part of the Childers Reforms
in 1881 when the Royal Highland Regiment (The Black Watch)
was amalgamated with the 73rd (Perthshire) Foot
to form two battalions of the newly named Black Watch (Royal Highlanders)
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 the 10th Battalion
which was in the Balkans
. Only the 1st
and 2nd battalions were regulars. The fearsome reputation of these kilted soldiers led to their acquiring the nickname "Ladies from Hell" from the German troops that faced them in the trenches. (Scottish troops wore kilts up until 1940).
Battalions of the Watch fought in almost every major action of the British in World War II, from Palestine to Dunkirk to Normandy and as Chindits (42 and 73 columns) in Burma . The regiment was the first to cross the Rhine and into Germany during the Allied advance in 1945. 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 in various parts of the world; the same activity for which the regiment was raised 250 years earlier. It was the last British military unit to leave Hong Kong in 1997 and played a prominent role in the handover ceremony.
During the 2003 Iraq War
the Black Watch fought in the 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 Americans requested British forces to be moved further north outside of the British-controlled Multi-National Division (South East)
area. Despite objections in Parliament, the deployment went ahead. Based at Camp Dogwood
, South of Baghdad
, it came under regular attack from 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 and on 8 November
another soldier was killed. This high profile deployment caused a magnification of these events back home in Britain.
Under a plan supervised 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 Fusiliers, Highlanders and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders - to form the Royal Regiment of Scotland, a single regiment consisting 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 retired soldiers and the Scottish public. It was claimed by proponents of the plan that the establishment of a large regiment will 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, Royal Regiment of Scotland); in addition, the battalion is also permitted to retain its most famous accoutrement, the red hackle, in certain circumstances.
- [combined battle honours of 42nd Regiment and 73rd Regiment, plus:]
- Guadaloupe 17591, Martinique 17621, Havannah1, North America 1763-64, Mysore5, Busaco³, Salamanca4, South Africa 1846-76, 1851-2-36 Tel-el-Kebir, Egypt 1882 '84, Kirbekan, Nile 1884-5, Paardeberg, South Africa 1899-1902
- The Great War [25 battalions]: Retreat from Mons, Marne 1914 '18, Aisne 1914, La Bassée 1914, Ypres 1914 '17 '18, Langemarck 1914, Gheluvelt, Nonne Bosschen, Givenchy 1914, Neuve Chapelle, Aubers, Festubert 1915, Loos, Somme 1916 '18, Albert 1916, Bazentin, Delville Wood, Pozières, Flers-Courcelette, Morval, Thiepval, Le Transloy, Ancre Heights, Ancre 1916, Arras 1917 '18, Vimy 1917, Scarpe 1917 '18, Arleux, Pilckem, Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Poelcappelle, Passchendaele, Cambrai 1917 '18, St Quentin, Bapaume 1918, Rosières, Lys, Estaires, Messines 1918, Hazebrouck, Kemmel, Béthune, Scherpenberg, Soissonnais-Ourcq, Tardenois, Drocourt-Quéant, Hindenburg Line, Épéhy, St Quentin Canal, Beaurevoir, Courtrai, Selle, Sambre, France and Flanders 1914-18, Doiran 1917, Macedonia 1915-18, Egypt 1916, Gaza, Jerusalem, Tell'Asur, Megiddo, Sharon, Damascus, Palestine 1917-18, Tigris 1916, Kut al Amara 1917, Baghdad, Mesopotamia 1915-17
- The Second World War: Defence of Arras, Ypres-Comines Canal, Dunkirk 1940, Somme 1940, St. Valery-en-Caux, Saar, Breville, Odon, Fontenay le Pesnil, Defence of Rauray, Caen, Falaise, Falaise Road, La Vie Crossing, Le Havre, Lower Maas, Venlo Pocket, Ourthe, Rhineland, Reichswald, Goch, Rhine, North-West Europe 1940 '44-45, Barkasan, British Somaliland 1940, Tobruk 1941, Tobruk Sortie, El Alamein, Advance on Tripoli, Medenine, Zemlet el Lebene, Mareth, Akarit, Wadi Akarit East, Djebel Roumana, Medjez Plain, Si Mediene, Tunis, North Africa 1941-43, Landing in Sicily, Vizzini, Sferro, Gerbini, Adrano, Sferro Hills, Sicily 1943, Cassino II, Liri Valley, Advance to Florence, Monte Scalari, Casa Fortis, Rimini Line, Casa Fabbri Ridge, Savio Bridgehead, Italy 1944-45, Athens, Greece 1944-45, Crete, Heraklion, Middle East 1941, Chindits 1944, Burma 1944
- The Hook 1952, Korea 1952-53; Al Basrah, Iraq 2003
1. awarded 1909 for services of 42nd Regiment.
2. awarded 1914 for services of 42nd Regiment.
3. awarded 1910 for service of 42nd Regiment.
4. awarded 1951 for service of 42nd Regiment.
5. awarded 1889 for service of 73rd Regiment.
6. awarded 1882 for service of 73rd Regiment.
The Black Watch is also the most highly decorated Regiment in the whole of the British armed forces.
When wearing kilts, it is customary for troops to "go regimental" or "military practice", wearing no underwear. In the 1950s, kilted soldiers on parade would be checked by the sergeant major using a mirror on the end of a stick. In 1997, a Black Watch soldier received wide press exposure, because of windy conditions during a military ceremony in Hong Kong
In popular culture
In the American cartoon Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law
, the second-season episode Blackwatch Plaid
features a parody of the American terrorism alert system
that includes a number of levels above the real system's maximum of "Red/Severe." As implied by the episode title, one of these is "Black Watch Plaid," represented by the Black Watch's traditional tartan pattern.
In the Battletech universe, the Royal Black Watch regiment is the Star League Defense Force's most elite BattleMech unit, responsible for the direct defence of the First Lord of the Star League. This is the case with both the original Star League and the resurrected one.
Black Watch are also a playable unit in the Age of Empires III game for the British.
The Black Watch is the subject of an Irish Rebel song.
There are however also many more complimentary anthems associated with the regiment. The above is a parody of "The Gallant Forty-Twa"; there is also "Wha Saw the Forty-Second", a reworking of the Jacobite song "Wha Wadna Fecht For Charlie"; "Twa Recruitin' Sergeants", and so forth.
In 2006, the National Theatre of Scotland premiered a new play compiled from interviews with former soldiers, dealing with the history of the regiment and in particular the recent deployment in Iraq. It met with universally positive reviews.
In 1984-1985, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets football team nicknamed their elite defensive unit the "Black Watch Defense." This unit was awarded black GT emblems on their helmets and held opponents to 14.5 points per game over two seasons. The defense featured the leadership of defensive coordinator Don Lindsey and players Pat Swilling and Ted Roof.