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Cap badge of the Lovat Scouts
|Active||1900 - Present|
World War I :Six regiments
World War II: Two battalions
|Motto||Je suis prest (I am ready)|
|Battle honours||South Africa 1900-02
France and Flanders 1916-18
|Major Simon Joseph Fraser, 16th Lord Lovat
Captain Simon Fraser, 17th Lord Lovat
The Lovat Scouts were a British Army unit. The unit was first formed during the Second Boer War as a Scottish Highland yeomanry regiment of the British Army and is the first known military unit to wear a ghillie suit. In 1916, these scouts formally became the British Army's first sniper unit, then known as sharpshooters.
This Scottish Highland regiment was formed in January 1900 for service in the Second Boer War by Simon Joseph Fraser, 14th Lord Lovat, father of the World War II commando, Simon Fraser, 15th Lord Lovat, and uncle of David Stirling, the creator of the Special Air Service. The unit was commanded by an American, Major Frederick Russell Burnham, the British Army Chief of Scouts under Lord Roberts, who fittingly described Lovat Scouts as "half wolf and half jackrabbit. Major Burnham was selected for the Victoria Cross but declined rather than give up his American citizenship. Burnham would later go on to become a founder of the Boy Scouts" Well practiced in the arts of marksmanship, field craft, and military tactics, they were also phenomenal woodsmen always ready to tempt fate, but also practitioners of discretion: "He who shoots and runs away, lives to shoot another day." Lovats scouts have the distinction of being the first military unit to wear a Ghillie suit.
Lovat scouts were attached to the Black Watch, but were disbanded in July 1901 while two companies (the 113th and 114th) were formed for the Imperial Yeomanry. When the Second Boer War ended in 1902, the two companies of the Imperial Yeomanry were disbanded. The unit was reformed the following year, consisting of two regiments, titled the 1st and 2nd Lovat Scouts. From these scouts a sharpshooter unit was formed and formally become the British Army's first sniper unit.
First World War
The two Lovat Scouts Regiments saw extensive involvement in the First World War, firstly part of the Highland Mounted Brigade. Each regiment raised second line regiments (2/1st & 2/2nd) during the war. The Lovat Scouts saw service on the Western Front, at Gallipoli, and in Egypt and Macedonia.
In Macedonia in December 1916 the 1/1st and 1/2nd regiments were merged, dismounted and along with a company from the 1/3rd regiment The Scottish Horse formed 10th (Lovat Scouts) Battalion, Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders. It retained the uniform of the Lovat Scouts until disbanded in 1919.
The 2/1st and 2/2nd regiments were based at home in the United Kingdom as part of 1st Mounted Division and provided drafts for the 1/1st, 1/2nd battalions and 10th Bn Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders. From 1916 when they merged to form the 1st (Lovat Scouts) Cyclist Battalion, they also provided men for the Lovat Scouts (Sharpshooters)
The 3/1st and 3/2nd regiments were raised in 1915 and provided drafts to 1st and 2nd Line battalions. They were disbanded in 1917 and the personnel were distributed between the 1st (Lovat Scouts) Yeomanry Cyclist Regiment and 3rd (Special Reserve) Bn, Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders.
With the defence cuts implemented after World War I, one regiment of the Lovat Scouts was disbanded in 1922.
Second World War
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From May 1940 to June 1942, the Lovat Scouts provided the garrison in the Faroe Islands, protecting against the feared German invasion. Whilst on the islands, the unit managed to bring down a Luftwaffe bomber with a Bren gun and subsequently captured the crew. From the Faroe Islands, the group were sent back to the UK and a number were removed from the unit due to a decrease in performance. The numbers were then swelled with new recruits, including hill walkers from Yorkshire and Lancashire, but also new recruits from the Regiment's more traditional recruiting areas.
After a period based in northern Scotland and in Wales, the Scouts were sent to Canada in December 1943 for specialist ski and mountain training. As a consequence of their training in Jasper, Alberta, they were sent to Italy from mid 1944 to the end of the war. Whilst in Italy they were much misused and lost roughly 10% of their strength clearing roadside bombs and boobytraps left by the retreating German army.
In early 1946 the regiment moved to Greece in support of the Greek Civil Power during the communist insurgency. It was stationed in Volos, Chalcis on the island Euboea and Athens, with outposts in Trikkala, Larissa and Levadia. Many original Lovats were "wartime only" and returned to the UK for demobilisation. The remaining establishment consisted mainly of officers and men from the disbanded 6th Bn Black Watch. The regiment "stood down" as an active service unit in Athens in February 1947.
Upon the reconstitution of the Territorial Army in 1947 the regiment was reduced to a squadron (C (Lovat Scouts) Squadron) of The Scottish Horse, part of the Royal Armoured Corps. It was converted to artillery in 1949, becoming the 677th Mountain Artillery, RA (Lovat Scouts). It remained in the Royal Artillery, under numerous different titles it, until, with further defence cuts in the 1960s, was disbanded with two squadrons, one becoming a battery of The Highland Regiment, RA and the other joining the 3rd (Territorial) Battalion, Queen's Own Highlanders (Seaforth and Camerons). The Lovat Scouts were reorganised with No. 1 (Lovat Scouts) Company being formed as part of the 51st Highland Volunteers.
The company became two separate platoons in 1981 but was reduced to one platoon (Lovat Scouts Platoon) of D (Gordons and Lovat Scouts) Company, 51st Highland Volunteers. After the Options for Change defence white paper the name disappeared as they became a rifle platoon in D Company 3rd (Volunteer) Battalion (Seaforth, Gordons and Camerons) The Highlanders. Following a further defence review the rifle platoon transferred to the Royal Regiment of Artillery and have re-roled as Gunners.
The name and capbadge is now carried by the Orkney Independent Cadet Battery of the Army Cadet Force.
There is a memorial to the Lovat Scouts in the town square of Beauly.
- John Plaster (2006). The Ultimate Sniper: An Advanced Training Manual For Military And Police Snipers. Paladin Press. p. 5. ISBN 0-87364-704-1.
- Martin Pegler (2004). Out of Nowhere: A History of the Military Sniper. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 0-87364-704-1.
- "The Lovat Scouts, The Kirrie Kebbuck.". sheet music and description. Retrieved 2007-09-15.
- The Long, Long Trail - 1st and 2nd Lovat Scouts
- Regiments.org - Lovat Scouts
- Scottish Military History Website - Lovat Scouts
- A History of the Lovat Scouts, with Pictures
- Fairrie, Lt. Col. Angus (1998). 'Queen's Own Highlanders (Seaforth and Camerons): An Illustrated History'. QOHLDRS Amalgamation Trustees. ISBN 0-9508986-2-7
- Melvile, maj. Michael Leslie (1981). 'The Story of the Lovat Scouts 1900-1980'. St Andrew Press. ISBN 1-904440-03-7