Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment)

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This article is about the British regiment. For the Canadian regiment, see The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada.
Black Watch (Royal Highlanders)
Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment)
Black Watch slim.png
badge and tartan
Active 1 July 1881–28 March 2006
Country  United Kingdom
Branch  British Army
Type Line infantry
Role Varied
Size Battalion
Garrison/HQ Perth, Scotland
Nickname(s) "Ladies from Hell" (during WWI)
"The Forty Twa"[1]
Black Jocks (slang term used by members of other regiments)
Motto Nemo me impune lacessit
(Latin: "No one attacks me with impunity")
Tartan Government[2]
Royal Stewart (pipes)[3]
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
Black Watch firing rifle grenade in 1917

The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) was a line infantry regiment of the British Army, in existence from 1881 (as the Royal Highland Regiment (Black Watch)) until 2006. The regiment was created under the Childers Reforms of 1881, as the Black Watch (Royal Highlanders), by the amalgamation of the 42nd (Royal Highland) Regiment of Foot and the 73rd (Perthshire) Regiment of Foot.

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. The 'Black Watch' was originally just a nickname for the 42nd 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 one attacks me with impunity). The Royal Stewart Tartan was worn by the regimental pipers to reflect the status of 'Royal' regiment.

In 2006 the regiment was merged with the Royal Scots Borderers, the Royal Highland Fusiliers (Princess Margaret's Own Glasgow and Ayrshire Regiment), the Highlanders (Seaforth, Gordons and Camerons) and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders to form the Royal Regiment of Scotland, becoming the Black Watch, 3rd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.


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 (The Black Watch) was amalgamated with the 73rd (Perthshire) Foot to form two battalions of the newly named Black Watch (Royal Highlanders).

20th century[edit]

During the First World War 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. A number of authors state that the regiment was given the nickname "Ladies from Hell" ("Die Damen aus der Hölle") by German troops, allegedly on account of their kilts and fighting qualities,[4][5] although it is reported that no German sources to support the claim have been found. (Scottish troops wore kilts up until 1940).

Battalions of the Black Watch fought in almost every major action that the British military was engaged in during the Second World War. Most notably engaging in the Battle of Dunkirk, the Battle of Normandy, and fighting as Chindits (42 and 73 columns) during the Burma Campaign. The Black Watch was fiercely defeated by German Fallschirmjäger and Gebirgsjäger during the Battle of Crete, in May 1941. 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.

During the state funeral of John F. Kennedy in November 1963, nine bagpipers from the regiment were invited to travel to the United States and participate in the funeral procession from the White House to the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle. They performed The Brown Haired Maiden, The Badge of Scotland, The 51st Highland Division, and The Barren Rocks of Aden.[6]

It was the last British military unit to leave Hong Kong in 1997 and played a prominent role in the handover ceremony.

21st century[edit]

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 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 distinction, the red hackle, in certain circumstances.

Notable members[edit]

Battle honours[edit]

Combined battle honours of 42nd Regiment and 73rd Regiment:[7]

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 Great War[edit]

  • [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

Second World War[edit]

  • 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

Post Second World War[edit]



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[edit]

  • There are 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".

See also[edit]


Gallant Black Watch, a Scottish style march and two-step, was composed by Bert L. Billings and published in Toronto by Whaley, Royce & Co., circa 1906.[9]


  1. ^ From the regimental number – 42
  2. ^ Scobie, Willie (2013). "The Black Watch Tartan". Scottish Tartans Authority. Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  3. ^ Royal Stewart Tartan Archived 28 February 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Robert Douglas Pinkerton (1918), Ladies from Hell, New York: The Century Co., p. 76, OCLC 1907457, It was perhaps seven or eight hundred yards from our trenches to the German line, nearly half a mile, and over this space went the Ladies from Hell, as the Germans call the Scottishers. 
  5. ^ Riguidel, Lt., Donna (7 July 2010). "Queens' Own Camerons History Made With History Book Presentation". National Defence and the Canadian Forces. Department of National Defence (Canada). Retrieved 23 December 2012. "Ladies from Hell" was a nickname given to kilted regiments during the First World War, by the Germans that faced them in the trenches (Die Damen aus der Hölle). 
  6. ^ "Funeral Music". John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum. Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  7. ^ "Black Watch Battle Honours". 2013. Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  8. ^ "Black Watch – Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2006". National Theatre of Scotland. 2006. Retrieved 1 August 2013. 
  9. ^ "Sheet Music From Canada's Past". 2013. Retrieved 1 August 2013. 

External links[edit]