The Pipes & Drums of 3rd Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland
(The Black Watch)
The Black Watch was raised in a unique way. In the wake of the 1715 Jacobite rebellion companies of trustworthy Highlanders were raised from loyal clans, Campbells, Grants, Frasers, Munros. Six companies were formed from 1725 and stationed in small detachments across the Highlands to prevent fighting between the clans, deter raiding and assist in enforcing the law.
In 1739 King George II authorised the raising of four additional companies and these all to be formed into a Regiment of the Line of the regular army with the Earl of Crawford as the Colonel. The men were to be “natives of that country and none other to be taken".
The first muster of the new Regiment took place near Aberfeldy in the Scottish Highlands the following year and is commemorated by a monument in this town in the form of a highland soldier dressed in a dark tartan kilt, jacket and waistcoat with leather belt (the uniform of those days).
Since then The Black Watch has gained a number of battle honours over the last 250 odd years. From Fontenoy in 1745 to Fallujah with the US Marines Corps in 2004, with Ticonderoga, Waterloo, Alamein and two World Wars in between the Black Watch has been there when the world’s history has been shaped.
FORMATION OF THE ROYAL REGIMENT OF SCOTLAND
As part of restructuring in the British Army over the last decade the Royal Regiment of Scotland was created in 2006 and consists of a total of seven battalions, including five regular infantry battalions and two territorial battalions. Subsequently they form one of the largest infantry regiments in the British Army. Of all of the new regiments formed in recent years the Royal Regiment of Scotland is the only one where the former regimental titles have been prominently retained. Common to each battalion is the regimental cap badge, the Glengarry or Tam O’ Shanter headdress, TRF, tartan and stable belt. However, given the considerable antecedent regimental histories of each battalion, distinctively coloured hackles are now worn by each separate battalion on the Tam O' Shanter so that a degree of individual identity can be maintained. And it is here that The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland with its distinctive red hackle, worn proudly by all members since 1795, finds itself. Additionally the pipes and drums of each battalion continue to wear the ceremonial uniforms and tartans of their former regiments.
The Royal Regiment of Scotland is also one of only two line infantry regiments to maintain its own regular military band within the Corps of Army Music, which was formed through the amalgamation of the Highland Band and Lowland Band of the Scottish Division. In addition, there are two Territorial bands, The Highland Band and The Lowland Band of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, which are administered by the Regiment's two Territorial battalions.
Regimental Headquarters is located at Edinburgh Castle, although each regular battalion continues to maintain their own former regimental headquarters and museums within their respective recruiting areas.
Today, The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland is based at Fort George, Inverness and continues to serve as a fully operational infantry battalion in the British Army. It has deployed to Afghanistan in support of the ongoing ISAF mission there twice in recent history. In 2009 the Battalion was based in Kandahar and were deployed in an air assault role often operating hundreds of kilometres from established bases in order to strike known insurgent strongholds in the country. As part of Operation Panther’s Claw, the soldiers of the Battalion famously seized crossing points across the Nahr-e-Burgha Canal and the Shamalan Canal after a number of combat engagements. Most recently in 2011-12 the Battalion deployed as a ground holding battlegroup in Helmand Province.
Over the years the Pipes and Drums of The Black Watch have carried out eleven band tours to North America on behalf of Columbia Artists. They were often accompanied by the Band of The Black Watch, who were accomplished military musicians and in 1963 even played at the White House for President Kennedy, eight days before his assassination. The Pipes and Drums then played at his State Funeral.
For many years, soldiers from both bands had war roles and whilst the Band of The Black Watch was disbanded in the early 1990s, the Pipes and Drums remain and are still a favourite at the world famous Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
Music has always been an important part of the life of the Black Watch. Often piped into battle, the sound of the pipes raised the spirits of the Highland soldiers and put fear into the hearts of the enemy. Even in recent history the Pipe Major, with his musicians, has been found practising and playing under the unyielding Afghan sun and dust of the desert. The spirit of the Black Watch is summed up in the title of the Regimental Quick March “Hielan Laddie”.
FIRE SUPPORT GROUP
Modern day pipers and drummers in The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland fulfil a dual role in the working environment. Not only do they shoulder the responsibility of fulfilling the musical requirements of the Regiment’s and Battalion’s ceremonial duties, and as such are handpicked and trained as musicians, but they also remain operationally deployable professional infantry soldiers and provide the Battalion with its specialist weapons capability as members of the Fire Support Group (FSG). This ability to combine musical instrument with machine gun, heavy weapon or anti tank weapon ensures that the members of the Pipes and Drums fulfil a unique place in the Battalion. In recent deployments to Afghanistan the FSG in agile lightly armoured vehicles have provided a much needed mobile weapons platform to other soldiers in the Battalion and enabled success in numerous military operations.
In 2013 the Pipes and Drums took part in a three month tour of the USA and this year are very pleased to venture to the mid-Atlantic for the Bermuda Tattoo. Interestingly, the Black Watch were garrisoned in Bermuda from 1847 to 1851 and famously dug a well which bears their name, a name that was later attached to the huge cut in the limestone of Langton Hill known as Black Watch Pass and leading to the well.