To keep things simple, I've decided to base the following on the regular Scottish regiments as they were at the time of the Second World War.
But first -
Scottish Regiments at Waterloo - The Royal Scots Greys, the Scots Guards, the Royal Scots, the Highland Light Infantry, the 73rd Foot (later 2nd Black Watch), the Black Watch, the Cameron Highlanders and the Gordon Highlanders. The 91st Foot (later 1st Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders) were guarding one of the flanks did no take part in the fighting.
Scottish Regiments in the Crimean War - The Royal Scots Greys, the Scots Guards, the Royal Scots, the Royal Scots Fusiliers, the Black Watch, the Highland Light Infantry, the 72nd Ross-shire Buffs, the Cameron Highlanders, the Sutherland Highlanders and 90th Perthshire Light Infantry. The Gordon Highlanders arrived days after the capture of the main Russian fortifications at Sebastapol.
Scottish Regiments in the Indian Mutiny - The Black Watch, the 71st Highland Light Infantry, the 74th Highlanders, the 75th Stirlingshire Regiment, the Cameron Highlanders, the Gordon Highlanders, the 78th Duke of Albany's Highlanders, the 90th Perthshire Light Infantry, the 93rd Sutherland Highlanders, the 72nd Ross-shire Buffs.
Scottish Regiments in the Zulu War - Royal Scots Fusiliers, 90th Perthshire Light Infantry and 91st Argyllshire Highlanders. The Edinburgh-raised 99th Lanarkshire Regiment and the 94th Regiment, raised in Glasgow, also served against the Zulus but were shortly afterwards stripped of their Scottish associations to become battalions of the Wiltshire Regiment and the Connaught Rangers.
Scottish Regiments at Culloden - The Government troops at Culloden in 1746 included the regiments that would later be known as The Royal Scots, The King's Own Scottish Borderers and the Royal Scots Fusiliers. Loudon's Highlanders, disbanded in 1748, were also present.
Scotland's only regular cavalry regiment. They trace their origins back to troops of horsemen raised in 1678 as the Royal Regiment of Scotch Dragoons to hunt down strict Presbyterians who revolted against attempts to impose an English-style church in Scotland. The name “Greys” was first applied because of their grey uniforms but later they were mounted on grey chargers. The regiment was also distinguished by being the only cavalry one to wear bearskin headgear. Most famous for their charge at the Battle of Waterloo (See Scottish Military Disasters Chapter 19 ; “Scotland for Ever”), the regiment also took part in the successful, but now mainly forgotten, Charge of the Heavy Brigade, during the Crimean War. The regimental headquarters is at Edinburgh Castle. In 1971 the Scots Greys were amalgamated with the 3rd Carabiniers (Prince of Wales Dragoon Guards), itself a 1920s amalgamation of two other cavalry regiments, to form the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards.The Carabiniers had recruited in Cheshire and North Wales. The Welsh connection is recognised by Men of Harlech, arranged for the bagpipes, being one of the duty tunes played by the regimental pipe band. The officers' reputed fondness for champagne in times past once led to the regiment being nicknamed the "Bubbly Jocks".
OK, you've found an old black and white studio photo of a kilted relative kitted out in his military finery before heading off to the First World War. But which regiment was he in?
Fortunately, there may be some clues in the photo – the kilt, the glengarry bonnet and, sometimes, the sporran. The regimental badge on the glengarry or, later in the war, the Tam 'o Shanter may be visible.
A lot depends on the quality of the photo – sometimes the tell-tale over-stripes on the tartan of the kilt don't show up. Once you've worked out which regiment the old boy was with, have a look at Tracing A Soldier
The Black Watch – Plain kilt, no over-stripes. Plain glengarry without diced band. The white sporran will have five short black tassels. On the glengarry, the regimental badge may appear to resemble a star. The ToS has a dark hackle instead of a badge.
Seaforth Highlanders – Dark kilt with obvious light coloured over-stripes: there are also a red over-stripes but they seldom show in a black and white photo. In general two vertical over-stripes should be showing either side of the centre of the kilt apron. Dark glengarry with diced band. White sporran with two long black tails. The regimental badge is a stag's head with very obvious antlers.
Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders – Plain kilt, no over-stripes. Dark glengarry with diced band. The sporran is black with six short black tassels. The collar badge on the tunic resembles two interlocking circles. The regimental badge is large and round. Before the creation of the Royal Regiment of Scotland the Argylls' badge was the biggest in the British Army.
Gordon Highlanders – Dark kilt with obvious overstripes. In general, three vertical stripes should be visible, the middle one running down the centre of the kilt apron. Dark glengarry with diced band. White sporran with two long black tails. The regimental badge is also a stag's head but two ivy wreathes close in to touch the antlers about two-thirds up.
AS PROMISED - SAMPLE CHAPTER FROM SCOTTISH MILITARY DISASTERS - > Book Extract
* Just weeks before the outbreak of the First World War one of Britain's most bitter enemies walked free from a Canadian jail - Dynamite Dillon
** I've posted a new article - - Scot Vs Scot - about the Battle of Preston in 1715.
*** Click to read - - Victoria's Royal Canadians - about one of the more unusual of the British regiments.
**** It has been a while since I've posted an entirely new article. Jungle Jail takes a look at what happened to the soldiers of the Highland Light Infantry and their families after the regiment was captured in Argentina in 1806.
***** Read an article about the Royal Scots and their desperate fight against the Bolsheviks on Armistice Day 1918 - Forgotten War
****** The 2014 Book of the Year Award has just been announced. See Book of the Year
*******No-one has got back to me with a German source for the claim that the kilties during the First World War were known as The Ladies from Hell or the Devils in Skirts. See My Challenge to You
******** A map showing the old Scottish regimental recruiting districts can now be seen by clicking Recruiting Area Map .
********* The Fighting Men 1746 article now includes the estimated strengths of the Jacobite clan regiments which marched into England in 1745 See Clan Strengths
********* * I've posted a fresh article - Scotland’s Forgotten Regiments. Guess what it's about.
**********The High Court Hearing in London in May 2012 attracted a lot of visitors to this site. So, I've decided to keep the link to my latest article on the massacre in the Blog section. See Batang Kali Revisited
The Curse of Philby
When I was reading the late John Keegan's Intelligence in War I was surprised that he really downplayed the damage Soviet agent Kim Philby did to the United Kingdom during and after the Second World War. Philby not only headed MI6's anti-Soviet unit, British stupidity meant he was in charge of hunting himself down, but then became the United Kingdom's liaison with the intelligence community in the United States. It would be hard to think of a two jobs in which a Soviet agent could do more harm to his fellow citizens. When a Soviet agent in Turkey tried to defect to the British and expose a number of traitors, his file was turned over to Philby and he had the poor man killed by his buddies from Moscow. But the thing that disturbs me most about Philby was how he joined and then rose through the ranks of MI6. He pretended to be a Fascist. He got his foot firmly on the ladder by filing pro-Fascist pro-Franco stories to The Times during the Spanish Civil War. Now, I would have thought Communists and Fascists would have been equally unwelcome when it came to safeguarding British interests. But apparently not. It was only in the 1950s when rumours surfaced that Philby was not a Fascist but a Communist who had tipped off fellow Soviet traitors Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, and triggered their flight to Moscow, that he was supposedly "let go". Philby, Burgess and Maclean were all privately-educated Cambridge graduates who the English Establishment were confident could be counted as "one of us". So was fourth traitor Sir Anthony Blunt. None of the four was really held to account for betraying us - unless you count Philby, Burgess and Maclean having to live in Communist Russia. This might all be ancient history but for one thing. In the same way that the English Establishment circled the wagons during the economic recession of the 1930s to protect its privilege, many would say it is doing the same again now. The spivs, barrow-boys and chancers of the Blair and Thatcher Years have gone and the "decent chaps" from Eton and good families are back in the driving seat. It would be interesting to see what would happen if a working class person was ever placed in the position to thoroughly betray their country. Wouldn't that be an interesting experiment? I think that such a person would be watched like a hawk and wouldn't go undetected for anywhere near as someone from the "right" background.
What do you think? Please feel free to Comment
What's the Difference?
Hollywood's quintessential English gentleman David Niven tells a very touching story in his autobiography The Moon's a Balloon about his days as an officer in the Highland Light Infantry. He recounts how he went to the hospital bedside of crusty old Company Sergeant Major "Sixty" Smith the day before the battalion left Malta. Smith, a highly respected regimental character, asked the young Niven to arrange for the battalion to deviate slightly from its marching route down to the docks so that he could hear the pipe band one last time before he died. Niven claims to have been with Smith as the pipes and drums marched past and saw tears ran down the old soldier's "granite cheeks" before he slid back down between the sheets and turning his face to the wall. Niven reports Smith died that night. The problem with the story is that Smith died in 1936, in Egypt, and Niven resigned his commission in 1933. The last soldiers of the regiment to see Smith in hospital before they left Egypt reported no premonition of death from the tough old Military Medal winner; who came through the entire First World War uninjured. Smith made fine fodder for one of Niven's many embellished and dubious tales in The Moon's a Balloon. Would Smith have approved; I don't know. The urbane raconteur always had a twinkle in in eyes when he told such tales during television interviews. It was obvious that he was not the kind of man to let the facts get in the way of a good story. He was after all an entertainer. But as News become more and more a branch of the entertainment industry some disturbing trends are emerging. Television news anchors are taken more seriously than they should be here in North America. For years US anchor Brian Williams told how a helicopter he was in over Iraq had to make an emergency landing after being hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. In fact, it was another helicopter flying nearby that was forced down. I won't go into why some Walter Mitty television newsman would make up such a story. What concerns me is the lack of respect he had for journalism. Did he really think no-one would check his story? Though, it took US journalists more than a decade to call Williams out, so perhaps his contempt for his own profession was not entirely without some foundation.
The Festive Season often yields some cash in lieu of a present. Some of you may still be stumped as to how best to spend this windfall. I have a suggestion - if you can wait a few more weeks. Why not order a copy of a wonderful new book called With Wellington in the Peninsula? This account of the Peninsular War 1808-14 through the eyes of a rank-and-file soldier in one of Wellington's best regiments is a long lost treasure. Of course, I would say that: I'm credited as editing the first re-issue of the full text since 1827. I recently had to re-read the book in its entirety and to be honest I'd forgotten what a little gem this account of the Highland Light Infantry at war is. Working on the new edition proved to be a far bigger job than I'd expected. While double-checking the narrator's story I came across three other first-person accounts of the Peninsular War from members of the regiment and wove them into the book in the form of footnotes. The book also includes ten specially commissioned maps. The new edition is due to be published by Frontline at the end of February and Casemate in North America in April. Even if you're not interested in the Napoleonic Wars, this book has much to say about the experience of men at war throughout history.
Click on the coffee cup to visit the main blog archive.
"Wha Killed The Braw Lads? - When Scottish soldiers ended up on the losing side.
"THERE is something unnerving about a screaming man charging head on at you with the sale intent of impaling you on a piece of sharpened steel." I'm in total agreement with that observation.
The steel in question is a bayonet, firmly clamped to the business end of a rifle barrel, but the key word is unnerving as countless troops in numerous battles have discovered for themselves. For the opposition it was time to turn and run and they always did, despite the fact that very few battlefield injuries were actually caused by bayonets. The sharpened length of steel was (and still is) a psychological weapon rather than a physical one.
This observation comes from journalist Paul Cowan in his paperback about Scottish regiments at war. But this is no elongated paean to the glory of our victorious lads surmounting the odds in various parts of the Empire and Europe. This work is very different, for its title is Scottish Military Disasters.
There were plenty of those - nearly 2000 years' worth, from Calgacus and his hordes losing out to the Roman legions at Mons Graupius right through to the first Gulf War in 1991 and the needless deaths of three Highlanders at the hands of gung-ho US reservist pilots.
The author doesn't mince his words when it comes to leadership, though the officers at regimental level come out fairly well. He reserves his true vitriol for the high-ups. I don't recall his use of the word "numptie", but you will know what I mean. High on the latter list must surely be Lt. General Aylmer Hunter-Weston, a Scotsman whom Cowan describes as the Clown Prince of the Gallipoli campaign. His incompetence cost the lives of hundreds of young Scots in the 8th Scottish Rifles, part of the 52nd Lowland Division's 156th Infantry Brigade.
Told of the slaughter, his unfeeling response was: "That will blood the pups." One of the pups was the author's great-grandfather.
History, of course, is full of "what ifs"? While not a military disaster in the accepted sense, the death of King Alexander III in 1286 when he rode over a cliff during a storm dramatically altered Scotland's history. Had he lived we might never have heard of Wallace or Bruce and Paul Cowan is right to include this.
He includes so much more that changes our view of great historical events. Remember that famous painting of the Gordon Highlanders hanging on to the Scots Greys' stirrups as they charged the French at Waterloo? Dramatic stuff, but who recalls that later in that same charge the overenthusiastic Greys were cut to pieces by French Cuirassiers, losing 100 dead and another 100 wounded out of their total strength of 350 troopers?
One of Scotland's greatest military disasters was Flodden in 1513. But what went wrong, especially as the Scots outnumbered the English army two to one? How did the Cameronians come by their name? And why is the White House painted white?
Lots of questions. Paul Cowan answers all of them and many more. A fascinating and highly recommended read.
Now that all the Scottish infantry battalions, with the exception of the Scots Guards, have donned the kilt it seems odd to discover that around 130 years ago senior Scottish officers regarded it as a drag on recruiting and actually wanted to cut the number of kilted regiments.
The debate in the run-up to the 1881 re-organization of the British army was every bit as heated as the one surrounding the recent amalgamation of all six regular Scottish infantry battalions into one super-regiment. In the immediate run up to the 1881 changes, the only Highland regiment stationed in Britain was the Black Watch.
Its colonel was the only Highland regimental commander consulted about the proposals to double the number of kilted battalions from the five that existed prior to 1881.
Colonel Duncan MacPherson said those five kilted regiments already had enough problems recruiting Scots, never mind true Highlanders, into their ranks.
He suggested it would be better to create one regiment, “The Highland Brigade”, which would recruit from the whole Highland area.
He, like the other Highland colonels, was anxious not to dilute the Highland character of the regiments any further.
The colonels were even prepared to give up their regimental tartans if it meant keeping their recruiting grounds in the Highlands - only the Camerons refused to surrender their distinctive Cameron of Erracht tartan. This scuppered a proposal to put them in Government tartan as the 2nd Battalion of the Black Watch.
One former commander of the Gordon Highlanders took a less dramatic line. General J.C. Hay declared more than 120 years ago that he’d worn the Gordon tartan for 30 years and would be sad to see it go.
“But I would rather have the right men in the wrong tartan, than the wrong men in the right tartan,” he said
Up until 1881, the Gordons regarded themselves as an Inverness-shire unit. The regiment had been recruited in 1794 from the Duke of Gordon’s Highland estates, which stretched all the way to Lochaber at the time
But despite this, by 1881 only about half the regiment came from homes in the Highlands and Islands.
Since the early 1870s the Gordon’s base had been at Aberdeen. They shared a depot with the Sutherland Highlanders as part of a scheme drawn up by Secretary of State for War Edward Cardwell to link different regiments for recruiting purposes.
Under Cardwell’s scheme, while one of the linked battalions was overseas policing the British Empire, the other would be recruiting and training reinforcements for it. Every few years the two battalions would switch duties.
The new Secretary of State for War Hugh Childers decided the system of linking could be improved if the one battalion regiments were welded together into two battalion regiments. Each of the new regiments would be assigned a specific recruiting area.
These shotgun marriages created some disappointing combinations for the Highland purists.
The Gordons were “married” to the 75th Stirlingshire Regiment in 1881. The 75th had previously been linked for recruiting and training purposes to the Dorsetshire Regiment.
The only possible justification for the union was that the 75th had been raised as a Highland Regiment in 1787 but when the flow of Highland recruits dried up around 1809 it was decided to abandon the kilt in a bid to recruit more Lowlanders, English and Irishmen into its ranks.
For the same reason, three other Highland regiments were deprived of the kilt in 1809. Childers re-organization would put all three back into the kilt. The Duke of Albany’s Own Highlanders, who had reclaimed at least part of their Scottish identity in 1825 by donning tartan trews, became the 1st Battalion of the Seaforth Highlanders; the 73rd Perthshire Regiment put the kilt back on as the 2nd Battalion of the Black Watch; and the 91st Argyllshire Highlanders became the 1st Battalion of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.
The controversy over the future of the Highland regiments became a major sore point for Childers. The powerful Anglo-Scottish community in London were ignorant of the serving officers proposal to form one kilted regiment, and were lobbying to “save” all five.
Childers, in a humorous letter to Lord Reay, joked about the London Scots’ campaign.
“The tartan question is one of the gravest character, far more important, as your friend suggests, than the maintenance of the union with Ireland,” he wrote.
“All the thoughts of the War Office are concentrated upon it, and the patterns of tartans -past and present - fill our rooms.
“We are neglecting the Transvaal and Ashanti for the sake of weighing the merits of a few threads of red, green, or white.”