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Black Watch

The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland
Cap Badge of the Royal Regiment of Scotland
Active 28 March 2006–
Country  United Kingdom
Branch British Army
Type Line infantry
Role Light role
Part of 19 Light Brigade
Garrison/HQ Inverness, UK
Motto Nemo Me Impune Lacessit
("No One Provokes Me With Impunity")
Anniversaries Red Hackle Day (5 January)
Royal Colonel HRH The Duke of Rothesay
Tactical Recognition Flash
Tartan Government
Royal Stewart (Pipers kilts and plaids)
Hackle Red
The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment)
badge and tartan
Active 1 July 1739 – 28 March 2006
Country  Kingdom of Great Britain (1739–1800)
 United Kingdom (1801–2006)
Branch Army
Type Line Infantry
Role Light infantry
Size One battalion
Part of 19 Light Brigade
Garrison/HQ Inverness
Nickname(s) "The Forty Twa"[1]
"Black Jocks" (slang term used by members of other regiments)
"Ladies from Hell"
Motto (Scotland's) Nemo me impune lacessit
Latin: "No One Provokes Me With Impunity"
March Quick: "All the Blue Bonnets are o'er the Border"
Slow: "The Garb of Old Gaul"
Pipes & Drums Quick: "Hielan' Laddie"
Pipes & Drums Slow: "My Home"
Pipes & Drums Slow: "Highland Cradle Song"
Anniversaries Red Hackle Day (5 January)
Battle honours see below
Detail from a painting showing Black Watch recruits being reviewed on Glasgow Green, c.1758.

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 – The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) from 1931 to 2006, and The Black Watch (Royal Highlanders) from 1881 to 1931. Part of the Scottish Division, it was the senior regiment of Highlanders.


  • History 1
    • 20th century 1.1
    • 21st century 1.2
  • Future 2
  • Notable members 3
    • Recipients of the Victoria Cross 3.1
  • Battle honours 4
  • Australia 5
  • Canada 6
  • Alliances 7
  • Anecdotes 8
  • Gallery 9
  • See also 10
  • References 11
  • Further reading 12
  • External links 13


The source of the regiment's name is uncertain. In 1725, following the Scotland, three from Clan Campbell, one from Clan Fraser, one from Clan Munro and one from Clan Grant. These were to be "employed in disarming the Highlanders, preventing depredations, bringing criminals to justice, and hindering rebels and attainted persons from inhabiting that part of the kingdom." The force was known in Gaelic as Am Freiceadan Dubh, "the dark" or "black watch".

This epithet may have come from the uniform plaids of dark tartan with which the companies were provided. Other theories have been put forward; for instance, that the name referred to the "black hearts" of the pro-government militia who had sided with the "enemies of true Highland spirit",[2] or that it came from their original duty in policing the Highlands, namely preventing "blackmail" (Highlanders demanding extortion payments to spare cattle herds).[3] However, these theories are without historical basis and do not stand up to scrutiny.

1739 - 1881

In 1739, the six Highland watch companies were augmented to ten and incorporated into the regular forces of the Crown as the Earl of Crawford's Regiment of Foot.

The regiment was ordered to West Indies.[4][5]

The first battle in which The Black Watch took part was the Battle of Fontenoy in 1745, where the regiment distinguished themselves with great bravery.[5]

The regiment was numbered the 43rd Regiment of Foot in 1747, changing to 42nd in 1749. In 1751, the regiment was titled "42nd (Highland) Regiment" and, in 1758, was permitted the honour to add "Royal" to its title. However, it continued to be known colloquially as the "Black Watch".[6]

The Battle of Ordashu was a battle fought on 4 February 1874 during the Third Anglo-Ashanti War, when Sir Garnet Wolseley defeated the Ashantis. The attack was led by the 42nd Regiment of Foot. L/Sgt Mcgaw won the Victoria Cross during the action.

In 1881, when the 42nd amalgamated with the 73rd Regiment of Foot, the new regiment was named "The Black Watch (Royal Highlanders)". The regiment adopted the royal motto of Scotland's Stewart monarchs, Nemo me impune lacessit ("No-one provokes me with impunity").

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) Regiment of Foot to form two battalions of the newly named Black Watch (Royal Highlanders). The 42nd became the 1st Battalion, and the 73rd became the 2nd Battalion.

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 the action at Kirbekan.

20th century

During World War I, the 25 battalions of the 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. The rest were either part of the Territorial Force or the New Army. The Black Watch served with the British 51st (Highland) Division (World War I).

Battalions of the Black Watch fought in nearly 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. They 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 Second Battle of the Hook during the Korean War in November 1952. They were subsequently involved in peacekeeping and counter-insurgency in various parts of the world, such as the Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya and Malayan Emergency. Such actions were similar to those 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 it 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 frequently a major target of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA) and the 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), 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 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 Lieutenant General 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 Fusiliers, The Highlanders and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders – to form the Royal Regiment of Scotland, a single regiment consisting of five regular and two 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 distinction, the red hackle on the Tam o'Shanter. The Black Watch's primary recruiting areas are in Fife, Dundee, Angus and Perth and Kinross, with the Battalion Headquarters and regimental museum located at Balhousie Castle, Perth. The Battalion is currently on Operational Commitments on Op Herrick Afghanistan.

On 24 June 2009, it was reported that elements of the battalion numbering about 350 troops carried out one of the largest mung beans, not poppy seed.[11]


Black Watch at Fontenoy, 1745

As part of the Army 2020 plan, the Black Watch will be mounted on Foxhound vehicles and will be under 51st Infantry Brigade.[12]

Notable members

Soldier of the Black Watch c.1740
The Black Watch in the Battle of Magersfontein, Second Boer War, 1899.

Recipients of the Victoria Cross

All of the Black Watch servicemen listed below were awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

More information about these VC Holders can be found at the [2] website.

Battle honours

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.


Before and after the Second World War, the Australian Militia, later renamed the Citizen Military Forces (CMF), included the 30th Battalion, New South Wales Scottish Regiment. This unit 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.


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).[13] 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 Scheldt, Operation 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.


The Black Watch tartan.


When wearing the kilt, it is customary for troops to "go regimental" or "military practice", wearing no underwear.[14][15] In 1997, a Black Watch soldier received wide press exposure because of windy conditions during a military ceremony in Hong Kong.[14]


See also


  1. ^ from regimental number – 42
  2. ^ Black Watch. Parker, John. Headline Book Publishing 2008. ISBN 0-7553-1348-8, pages 13–14
  3. ^ The Invention of Scotland. Trevor-Roper, Hugh. Yale University Press 2009. ISBN 978-0-300-13686-9, p.205
  4. ^ Mutiny of 1743
  5. ^ a b Black Watch Origins
  6. ^ Black Watch. Parker, John. Headline Book Publishing 2008. ISBN 0-7553-1348-8, pages 14–15
  7. ^ a b c "3 SCOTS launch massive air assault, UK MOD". Archived from the original on 7 May 2010. Retrieved 6 June 2011. 
  8. ^ NATO Troops Stage Air Assault on Taliban Stronghold in Southern Afghanistan, Catherine Maddux, VOA News VOA | NATO Troops Stage Air Assault on Taliban Stronghold in Southern Afghanistan | News | English Archived 25 June 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ UK Troops In Huge Air Assault On Taliban, SkyNews, UK Archived 24 June 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ British Forces Target Taliban Stronghold,
  11. ^ Boone, Jon (30 June 2009). "Opium crop haul just a hill of beans, admits MoD".  
  12. ^ Army 2020 Update
  13. ^ Terry Copp (31 October 2007). The Brigade: The Fifth Canadian Infantry Brigade in World War II. Stackpole Books. pp. 11–.  
  14. ^ a b "When a blue moon has more to do with the wind-chill factor". The Sunday Herald. 14 January 2001. 
  15. ^ "Scots tradition hit by cover-up ruling". The Times. 2 August 2004. Retrieved 12 May 2008. 

Further reading

  • Anton, James (2007). Royal Highlander : a soldier of H. M. 42nd (Royal) Highlanders during the Peninsular, South of France and Waterloo Campaigns of the Napoleonic Wars. [U.K.]: Leonaur Ltd.  
  • Durie, William (2012). The British Garrison Berlin 1945 - 1994 : a pictorial historiography of the British occupation. Berlin: Vergangenheitsverl.  
  • Charles Grant; Michael Youens (15 June 1971). The Black Watch. Osprey Publishing.  
  • James Grant. The Black Watch or, Forty-Second Highlanders.  
  • Schofield, Victoria. The Highland Furies: The Black Watch 1739–1899. Quercus Publishing.  

External links

  • 3 SCOTS on British Army website
  • Forward The Forty Twa Black Watch Forums
  • The Black Watch Website
  • The Black Watch Forums
  • Twa Recruitin' Sergeants
  • The Gallant Forty-Twa
  • Wha Saw the Forty-Second?
  • (play) at the National Theatre of Scotland websiteBlack Watch
  • – The Official Website of the 51 Highland Division
  • British Army Locations 1945 on
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