The Black Watch (Royal Highlander)-Regimental
District No.42-are composed of the 42nd and 73rd
Regiments and date from 1729, when six companies were raised for “local
doubtless, care was taken to enlist none except those unfriendly to the
Jacobite cause; after a time, however, this restriction was drop as
regarded the rank and file, though the officers were still chosen from
Whig families. The proposal
made in 1743 to send the regiment abroad gave rise to some disturbance,
the Highlanders being not unnaturally keenly jealous at anything that
looked like sharp practice. But
it is not our purpose to dwell upon theses earlier years of a regiment,
whose historians are both numerous and enthusiastic, interesting as such
early records undoubtedly are. The
disturbance was terminated, and shortly after the battle of Dettingen had
been fought the Black Watch, then consisting of ten companies, joined the
allied force in Flanders. At
Fontenoy they fought with such marked heroism as to be saluted by the Duke
of Cumberland himself with a loud cheer in acknowledgment of their
chivalrous devotion. Their
Colonel, Sir Robert Munro, seemed to bear a charmed life.
Suiting their tactics to the exigencies of their position the
Highlanders, after delivering a volley, threw themselves flat on the
ground while the return fire passed over them, but Sir Robert’s enormous
bulk, which had necessitated his being hauled out of the trenches by his
own men, rendered this manoeuvre impossible for himself to practice.
He had perforce to stand there “like an invincible Ajax, and
guarding the colours of his regiment faced unmoved the enemy’s fire.”
In 1756 the Black Watch were ordered to America, and at
Tisconderoga elicited unstinted praise for their valour.
In that disastrous combat they lost six hundred and fifty killed or
wounded. Others of the regiment served in 1759 at Martinique, and
greatly distinguished themselves by the “characteristic impetuosity”
with which they fought. Their
next service was in Canada, where they fought under General Amherst, and
two years later they took part in the expedition against the Havannah.
Many of the laurels of the Black Watch have been gained in America.
In 1763 and subsequently they fought against the Indians,
particularly distinguishing themselves at Bushey Run, and again in 1776
when the War of Independence gave them severe and constant work.
“In every field,” writes a chronicler of the regiment, “the
Black Watch maintained their hardly earned reputation,” and numerous are
the instances recorded of deeds of individual courage and readiness.
As an example may be quoted the fooling: -
“In a skirmish with the Americans in 1776 Major Murray of the 42nd,
being separated from his men was attacked by three of the enemy.
His dirk had slipped behind his back, and, like Colonel Munro
before referred to, being very corpulent he could not reach it.
He defended himself as well as he could with his fusil, and,
watching his opportunity, seized the sword of one of his assailants and
put the three to flight.”
This same Major Murray found his Falstaffian dimensions again
embarrassing at fort Washington.
“The hill on which the fort stood was almost perpendicular, but
the Highlanders rushed up the steep ascent like mountain cats.
When halfway up the heights they heard a melancholy voice exclaim,
‘Oh soldiers, will you leave me?’
On looking down they saw Major Murray, their commanding officer, at
the foot of the precipice; his extreme obesity prevented him from
following them. They were not
deaf to this appeal; it would never do to leave their corpulent commander
behind. A party leaped down at once, seized them in their arms and
bore him from ledge to ledge of the rock till they reached the summit,
where they drove the enemy before them and made two hundred prisoners.”
“In a skirmish with the American rebels I
1777 Sergeant Macgregor of the 42nd was severely wounded and
remained insensible on the ground. Unlike
Captain Crawley, who put on his old uniform before Waterloo, the sergeant,
who seems to have been something of a dandy, had attired himself in his
best as if he had been going to a ball instead of a battle.
He wore a new jacket with silver lace, large silver buckles in his
shoes, and a watch of some value. This
display of wealth attracted the notice of an American soldier, who,
actuated by no feeling of humanity, but by the sordid desire of stripping
the sergeant at leisure, took him on his back and began to carry him, off
the field. It is probable
that the American did not handle him very tenderly, and the motion soon
restored him to consciousness. He
saw at once the state of matters and proved himself master of the
occasion. With one hand he
drew his dirk, and grasping the American’s throat with the other he
swore that he would stab him to the heart if he did not retrace his steps
and bear him back in safety of the British camp.
The argumentum ad hominem in the shape of a glittering dagger
before his eyes was too much for the American.
On the way to the camp Lord Cornwallis, who thanked him for his
humanity; met them but he had the candour to admit the truth.
His lordship, which was much amused at the incident, gave the
American his liberty, and, on Macgregor retiring from the service,
procured for him a situation in the Customs at Leith.”
In 1794 they fought in Holland, and in that
terrible march through Westphalia rendered great service, especially at
gildermalsen, where they scattered a regiment of French Hussars.
A Scotch officer records the fact that though the Highlanders all
wore the kilt, and the men on the 42nd were principally very
young soldiers, the loss they experienced from the terrible cold and
privations “ was out of all comparison less than that sustained by other
corps.” The following year
they again served in the West Indies, and fought with their usual courage
at St. Lucia and St. Vincent, and in 1800 joined Sir Ralph Abercrombie,
with whom the following year they landed in Egypt.
Here they were brigaded under Sir John Moore, and at the landing at
Aboukirvied with the Welsh Fusiliers in their gallant onslaught on the
French. The story of the
battle of Alexandria has too often been told, and in the telling the deeds
of the black Watch enumerated, to need dwelling on here; it will suffice
to say, that they undoubtedly are second to none of all the regiments that
bear on their accoutrements the eloquent emblem of the Sphinx.
It was to Major Sterling of the 42nd that the standard
of the “Invincible Legion” was delivered; and it was on the blanket of
Donald Roy of the 42nd, that the loved general was borne away
In 1808 the Black Watch joined the army in
Portugal, and were with Sir John Moore at Corunna, and a tradition, tinged
with the weird superstition of the Highlands, tells that there were not
wanting those in the ranks of the Black Watch who, even as their gallant
commander turned to them with the conflict exhortation-“Highlander,
remember Egypt!” saw rising before his manly form the prophetic, shadowy
shroud which foretold his coming death.
The 2nd battalion of the regiment took part in the
Walcheren expedition, while the 2nd joined the allied army in Portugal.
At Fuentes d’Onor, under Lord Blantyre, they vigorously repulsed
and swept backward in disorder a formidable charge of French cavalry; at
Burgos Major Dick, with the men of the Royal Highlanders under his
command, were praised in dispatches for their gallantry at the assault.
They fought in the picturesque battles of the Pyrenees and Nivelle,
at the Nive and Orthes. At
Toulouse General Pack, who commanded the Brigade, addressed the regiment
as follows: “I have just now been with General Clinton, and he has been
pleased to grant my request that in the charge which we are about to make
upon the enemy’s redoubts, the 42nd regiment shall have the
honour of leading on the attack. The 42nd will advance!” Such a regiment needed no repetition of such an order; they
advanced with a magnificent charge, and the redoubt was taken, but so
terrible was the fire, that “out of about five hundred men whom the 42nd
brought into action, scarcely ninety reached the fatal redoubt from which
the enemy had fled.” At
Quatre Bras they were subjected to a furious charge from the French
Lancers, which came upon them before they could form square.
The two flank companies were ridden down, but then the highlanders
formed square, and hemming the cavalry within, killed or made them
prisoners. So fierce was this
brief conflict that in the space of a few minutes the command of the
regiment developed upon the four officers, of whom two were killed and one
severely wounded. At Waterloo
t suffices to say that they were in Picton’s division.
The two-day’s fighting cost the Black Watch in killed and wounded
three hundred men.
Interesting though it would be to dwell on many of the occurrences
of the intervening years, we must pass on to 1854, when the 42nd
formed part of the famous Highland Brigade in the Crimean War.
Throughout the fascinating pages of the author of “Eothen” are
numerous mentions of this splendid regiment, of which one of the earliest
is the passage which tells on how that first trying march will precluded
the Alma, when the troops arrived gasping and fainting with heat and
thirst and weariness at their resting-place by the Buganak River, the
stern discipline of Sir Colin Campbell “would not allow even the rage of
thirst to loosen the high discipline of his splendid Highland regiments.
He halted them a little before they reached the stream, and so
ordered it that they gained in comfort, and know that they were the
gainers.” The next day was
to be known throughout the centuries as the Battles of the alma, and in
the sweet, quiet fragrance of the morning air, while, though the enemy was
in sight, nature seemed unready for war, and stillness pervaded the
warrior-covered slopes, the quiet tones of Sir Colin were heard,
remarking, “This will be a good time for the men to get loose half their
cartridges.” Before the day
ended many pouches were empty, and their owners refilled them, recalling
with pride “the deeds they did that day;” others were well nigh full,
but the hands that so gleefully opened them in the morning, lay stiff for
ever on the Russian hills. When
the time came for the Highlanders to charge, matters were looking serious.
Thistlewaite and Lindsay of the Scots Guards had saved their
colours, though torn and pierced with shot.
The Guards, like wounded demi-gods, were resting, scornfully
defiant, despite the terrible gaps in their ranks Twelve battalions were
before the Highland Brigade, which numbered three, yet there was no
thought of the possibility of failure in Campbell’s mind, as he wound up
his short address to his men with the words: “Now, men, the army is
watching us. Make me proud of
my Highland Brigade!” Then
the historian of the war tells us: - “Smoothly, easily, and swiftly, the
Black Watch seemed to glide up the hill. A few instants before, and their tartans ranged dark in the
valley; now their plumes were on the crest.”
A few deadly volleys, and the Russians fled in sheer confusion,
followed by the exulting shout of the triumphant Scots.
Neither Balaclava nor Inkerman are amongst the distinctions borne
by the Black Watch, but the Comprehensive “Sevastopol” covers many a
deed of heroism done during the long months that elapsed before it fell.
At the storming of the Redan, they were in reserve at the right
attack, and, had it been necessary, would have shared with the Guards the
renewed attack that was planned for the following morning.
Again passing over some years, we take up the
thread of the record of the 42nd in 1873, when, under Colonel
MacLeod, they served in the Ashantee War.
At the battle of Amoaful in January 1874, the Black Watch were in
the leading column under Alison, their own officers present being Majors
Macpherson and Scott. They
soon experienced to the severe nature of the combat in which they were
engaged. A correspondent wrote at the time that so hot was the fire, had
the enemy used bullets instead of slugs, “scarcely a man of the Black
Watch would have been left to tell the tale.”
Major Band was severely wounded, Major Macpherson was hit in
several places, nine officers and nearly a hundred men were shot.
For some time the firing was heavy and seemingly confused; at last
the time came for a charge. Sir
Archibald, at the head of the Black Watch, bade the pipes strike up “The
Campbells are coming,” and with a dash and a cheer the regiment charged
straight for the foe. Throughout the fighting that preceded the taking of Coomassie,
they were to the fore whenever fighting was to be done.
In the advance on the capital, a well-known “Man of the
time”-whose opinion on daring and self possession is to be valued as
coming from one who combines both qualities in so rare a manner-said,
“their audacious spirit and true military bearing challenged
man-Thomas Adams-exhibited himself eminently brave among brave men.”
After the town had fallen, the 42nd remained for a time
as rear guard.
Their next-and concluding campaign took place
in Egypt, and it may well be imagined that we do not propose to dwell upon
what is practically history of today.
They were again under the command of Sir Archibald Alison, and at
Tel-el-Kebir gave evidence that they were still the same formidable
“Black Watch” as of yore. We
learn from the official dispatches that the Highland Brigade was the first
to reach the works, and that the fighting there was no mere child’s play
is evidenced by the fact that nine of all ranks were killed and forty-one
wounded or missing. Amongst
the former may be reckoned Lieutenant Graham, Sergeant-Major MacNeill, and
Lieutenant Allen Park, though the last named did not succumb to his wounds
on the spot. They were
engaged at El Teb and Tamai; at the latter place experiencing some very
severe fighting, in which they lost, amongst others, Major Walker Aitken
and Lieutenant Ronald Frader, and nearly ninety others of all ranks.
Private Edwards earned the Victoria Cross for “conspicuous
bravery” in defence of a gun. Still
later on again they won the distinction of Kirbekan on their colours.
The 2nd battalion of the Black
Watch, the 73rd Regiment, dates its separate existence from
1786, when the 2nd battalion of the Black Watch was formed into
distinct regiment with the number 73. It is to the 2nd battalion that the Black Watch
owes “Mangalore” and “Seringapatam.”
The defence of the former-described as one “that has been seldom
equalled and never surpassed,” and “as noble an example as any in
history”-might of itself be sufficient to entitle the 73rd to
the epithet “distinguished.” At
this time however, they were the 2nd battalion of the 42nd.
The Europeans fit for duty were about two hundred and fifty, and
there were fifteen hundred natives. Against
this handful Tippoo brought ninety thousand men, exclusive of two corps of
European infantry, and one-under Lally-of Europeans and natives.
He had besides eighty pieces of cannon.
Mangalore was invested by this army about the 16th of
May; for nine months Colonel Campbell and the 73rd, with the
Sepoys, kept his huge host at bay; then they capitulated, but not before
“the natives became so exhausted that many of them dropped down in the
act of shouldering their firelocks, while others became totally blind.”
Food was exhausted; for some time the bill of fare had been
dependant on frogs, dogs, crows, and similar delicacies; small wonder that
even from the savage Tippoo they were granted “highly honourable
terms.” Of the 250, which
the regiment numbered in May, nine officers and seventy rank and file were
killed or wounded. As the 73rd
the regiment fought at Pondicherry, were in Ceylon in 1793 under General
accounts of this most important battle the name of Colonels Sherbrooke and
Major McDonald, with other officers of the 73rd, are referred
to in most laudatory terms. After
this they were employed under the future Duke of Wellington in completing
the subjection of the hostile tribes.
Returning to England in 1806, the following eight years were passed
in this country and new south Wales.
A second battalion meanwhile had been formed, and under General
Gibbs served in the Stralsund expedition of 1813, and was “the only
British regiment present in the victory gained by Count Walmoden over the
French in the plain of Gohrde, in Honover, 16th September,
1813, to which the 73rd materially contributed.”
After serving under Sir Thomas Graham, the 73rd (2nd
Battalion) fought at Quatre Bras and Waterloo.
How well they fought at Waterloo may be gathered from the
fact-referred to in our notice of the 30th Regiment-that the
Duke at one time during the day sent to Halkett, in whose brigade they
were, to inquire which of his regiments it was that was formed in square
so far in advance. The answer revealed the actual state of the case; the square
was formed of the dead warriors of the 30th and the 73rd.
“The last named regiment sustained no less than thirteen charges
from Cuirassiers, and seven hours of an cannonade, and so greatly were two
corps cut up, that at half past seven their colours were sent out of the
field and taken to the rear.” After
Waterloo peaceful duties occupied the 73rd till the Cape War,
which commenced in 1846. They
served throughout the campaign, which did not practically terminate till
1853, and to Lieutenant-Colonel Eyre of the regiment was given the command
of the right wing in the operations in the Amatolas.
Space will not permit of a detailed account of the doings of the 73rd
during the war, their valuable services in which consummated in the
dashing attack on the fastness of the rebel chief Macomo, which, despite
its seeming impregnability, was taken by storm by the regiment and their
gallant companions. Their
next service was in the operations in Nepaul immediately following the
suppression of the Mutiny, in which they earned great credit.
Since then their career has been unimportant, but it is interesting
to note that on the resumption of their original position as the 2nd
battalion of the Black Watch, they again adopted the kilt, which since
1809 has been discarded.
The Black Watch was raised in 1739 as the 43rd Highland Regiment, in 1751 the
42nd was raised, and in 1881 both Regiments became the 1st and 2nd battalions of
the Black Watch (Royal Highlanders)
Regimental Battle Honours shown on colours.
1756 - 1763 Guadaloupe 1759, Martinique 1762, Havannah during the Seven Years
1763 - 1764 Pontiac's Conspiracy in North America
1781 - 1783 at Mangalore during the second Mysore War
1789 - 1791 Mysore during the Third Mysore War
1799 Seringapatam during the fourth Mysore War
1808 - 1814 Corunna, Busaco, Fuentes d'Onoro, Salamanca, Pyrenees,
Nivelle, Nive, Orthes, Poulouse during
the Peninsula war
1815, Battle of Waterloo
1846 - 1847 Seventh Kaffir War
1851 - 1853 Eighth Kaffir War
1854 - 1855 Alma, Sebastopol, during the Crimean War
1857 - 1858 Lucknow during the Indian Mutiny
1873 - 1874 Ashantee War
1882 - Tel El Kibir during the Arabi Pasha Revolt
1882 - 1884 First Sudan War
1885 - Kirbekan, Nile during the Egyptian Campaign
1914 - 1918 Marne 1914, 1918, Ypres 1914, 1917, 1918, Loos, Somme 1916,
1918, Arras 1917, 1918, Lys, Hindenburg Line, Doian 1917,
Megiddo, Kut al Amara 1917
1939 - 1945 Falaise Rd, Rhine , Tobruk 1941, El Alamein, Akarit, Tunis,
Sicily 1943, Cassino II, Crete, Burma 1944
1950 - 1953 The Hook 1952, During the Korean War
VICTORIA CROSS AWARDS.
There has been fifteen members of the regiment who have been awarded the
Victoria Cross, Eight during the Indian Mutiny, One during the Ashanti War, One
during the first Sudan war, ,four during the World war One and one during the