Scottish Military Disasters
As promised, a sample chapter from Scottish Military Disasters. I first became aware of this battle at a bus stop in Norway. My Norwegian language skills were almost non-existent but there seemed to be a road sign announcing "This Way to Dead Scottish People". Sadly, I had a bus to catch and didn't have time to go where the sign was pointing. But a little research back in Scotland quickly solved the mystery.
Massacre in Norway
The ambush and massacre of a party of Scottish mercenaries in 1612 proved a key historical event for Norwegian nationalists trying to foster an independence movement from Sweden in the early 17th century. The myth-makers fastened onto the so-called Battle of Kringen as an example of gallant Norwegians banding together to repel a foreign foe. The fact that many of the 116 Scots murdered after the ambush had been virtually kidnapped and forced into mercenary service appears to have been conveniently forgotten.
But what were the Scots doing in Norway in 1612 anyway?
If you didn't find the information you're looking for on this site; why not ask me? If I can't help you, I may be able to suggest where to look to get the answer.
For instance, a red overstripe on a Black Watch kilt of the mid 1700s means the wearer is a member of the Grenadier Company.
So, here's some of the information people have been looking for -
* The Scottish regiments at Waterloo were 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.
* The old Territorial Army 15th Battalion of the Parachute Regiment wore a Hunting Stewart tartan patch on their maroon berets. Comedian Billy Connolly was perhaps one of the best known members of the unit.
*The Royal Artillery's 75th (Highland) Field Regiment morphed into the 75th Heavy Regiment (Highland) in 1943.
*I think there's been a mix-up and the regiment referred to is the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment; Lancashire, not Lanarkshire.
*Carey's Regiment, otherwise known as the 64th Foot, was stationed in the Highlands 1760-63.
*There's book about about former members of the German SS serving in Vietnam with the French Foreign Legion called "The Devil's Guard" by George Robert Elford. Some bookshops stock in the fiction section.
*The Black Watch abandoned their kilts when they fought in the American War of Independence, 1776-1783,in favour of canvas trousers and again in 1873 in Ghana when they took part in the campaign against the Ashanti. In the latter war the Highlanders were kitted out in grey-ish trousers and Norfolk-style jackets.
* No, the 26th Foot, better known as the Cameronians, was never a kilted regiment.
*The difference between the Mackenzie tartan worn by the HLI and the tartan worn by the Seaforths was that HLI sett was a little more open. The white over-stripes were seven inches apart, while on the Seaforth sett (No2) they were 5 ½ '' apart. The red overstripes in the HLI sett (No 5) were 14 inches apart, with the No.2 sett they were 11 inches apart. The white over-stripes on the No. 2 sett were edged in black but un-edged in the HLI sett. The blue, black and green stripes in the No. 5 sett are slightly wider than on the Seaforth sett.
* There would be nothing in the uniform of the Royal Scots at Waterloo in 1815 to distinguish them from the other British regiments of the line. The regiment wore the standard British infantry uniform with nothing to indicate its Scottish connections.
Batang Kali Revisted
It’s been several years since I first wrote about the 1948 Batang Kali Massacre in Malaya. Since then, there has been a resurgence in interest regarding the actions of the Scots Guards patrol which is reported to have shot around two dozen ethnic Chinese rubber plantation and tin mine workers in cold blood – while claiming the men died in a failed mass escape from questioning.
I thought when I wrote the incident up for my book Scottish Military Disasters that there was at least some agreement on the basic facts. But the various reports which have cropped up in the past couple of years show that there is little agreement on anything except the names of some of the patrol members and of some of the people living on the plantation.
I wrote that the patrol from G Company of the 2nd Scots Guards which raided the workers’ camp at Batang Kali looking for Communist guerrillas on 11th December consisted of 14 men. Now I find figures of 16 or 18 Guardsmen are being thrown around. But the figure of 14 might just be technically correct when it comes to Scots Guards; or it might not. Most accounts agree there was a Malaya policeman with the patrol but some also mention a Chinese-speaking detective, maybe even two ethnic Chinese detectives. So that would bring the total patrol strength up to 17 or 18.
The Malaya policeman, Inche Jaffer bin Taib, reported counting 25 bodies after the shooting stopped. The Scots Guards claimed at the time to have killed 26 men. Most reports refer to 24 men dying. One report says there were 28 adult males at the settlement. Another says that an ethnic Chinese man arrived in a truck during the raid and was imprisoned with the workers. One man claims to have survived the killing because he fainted when the Scots Guards opened fire and was left dead. It seems to be agreed that one of the workers was shot within an hour of the Scots Guards arriving in the village, while the mass shooting took place next morning, on December 12. Where the accounts differ is in whether he was shot while trying to escape or was executed in cold blood.
Scotland's Forgotten Regiments
Who out there knows which war the 78th Fraser Highlanders fought in? Or where Keith’s Highlanders fought their battles? Whatever happened to the 70th Glasgow Lowland Regiment?
I’m guessing that some of you do – but my point is that history is not only written by the winners, it’s written by the survivors. The exploits of the Black Watch, Royal Scots, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and the Cameronians are all reasonably well known. But what about the regiments that were raised and disbanded in the space of a couple of years? Or the Scottish regiments which morphed into Irish or English regiments? Some of these Scottish regiments had fighting records which equalled the Black Watch or the Camerons, but they have been consigned to the dustbin of history.
The British Government has always tried to keep the Army as small as possible – often in reality too small to do all the jobs required of it. The “can-do” attitude and making do with inferior equipment that has characterised the British Army has often meant men, and these days women, have died unnecessarily – a look at Iraq and Afghanistan shows nothing has changed.
Scottish Regiment Recruiting Areas
The counties assigned to the various Scottish regiments as recruiting areas by the time of the First World War were as follows –
Royal Scots – City of Edinburgh, County of Edinburgh (Mid Lothian), Haddingtonshire (East Lothian) and Linlithgowshire (West Lothian)and Peeblesshire.
Royal Scots Fusiliers – Ayrshire
King’s Own Scottish Borderers – Berwickshire, Drumfrieshire, Roxburghshire, Kirkcubrightshire, and Selkirkshire.
Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) – Lanarkshire and Parts of Glasgow
Black Watch – Fife, Forfarshire and Perthshire.
Highland Light Infantry – Glasgow.
Seaforth Highlanders – Caithness, Cromarty, Elginshire, Nairnshire, Orkney, Ross-shire, Sutherland.
Gordon Highlanders – Aberdeenshire, Banffshire, Shetland and Kincardineshire.
Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders - Inverness-shire.
Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders – Argyllshire, Bute-shire, Clackmananshire, Dumbartonshire, Kinross-shire, Renfrewshire and Stirlingshire.
The Royal Scots Greys and the Scots Guards recruited from across Scotland.
For more information on the regiments check out the Quick Guide to the Scottish Regiments