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Black Watch

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Prior to 28 March 2006, the Black Watch was an infantry regiment in its own right; The Royal Highland Regiment (The Black Watch) from 1881 to 1931 and The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) from 1931 to 2006. Part of the Scottish Division, it was the senior regiment of Highlanders.

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 the nickname for the 42nd (Royal Highland) 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 Royal Highland Regiment (The Black Watch)', with The Black Watch becoming the regiment's official designation in 1931.

The uniform changed over time, but the nickname has been more enduring. The regimental motto was Nemo me impune lacessit (No man provokes me with impunity). The Royal Stewart Tartan is worn by the battalion's Pipes and Drums due the royal designation. Six independent companies were first formed from 1725 to stop fighting among the clans.

Naming Conventions

The full title of the Black Watch is now 'The Black Watch, 3rd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland'. This is normally shortened to 'The Black Watch, 3 SCOTS' for everyday use and just '3SCOTS' for map marking and OSW.

21st Century History


A soldier of the Black Watch wearing the distinctive red hackle on his Tam o'Shanter.

During the 2003 Iraq War, the Black Watch fought during Operation TELIC in the initial 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 United States Army requested British forces to be moved further north outside of the British-controlled Multi-National Division (South East), in order to replace forces temporarily redeployed for the Second Battle of Fallujah. Despite objections in Parliament, the deployment went ahead.

Based at Camp Dogwood, located between Fallujah and Karbala, in an area later dubbed the 'Triangle of Death', the Black Watch came under sustained insurgent attack from mortars and rockets. On the 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 by a car bomb at a check point and on 8 November another soldier was killed. The high profile nature of the deployment caused a magnification of these events back home in Britain.

Under a plan devised by Alistair Irwin and approved 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, The Highlanders and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders - to form the Royal Regiment of Scotland, a single regiment consisting of 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 a well co-ordinated campaign backed by politicians, retired soldiers and the Scottish public. It was claimed by proponents of the plan that the establishment of a large regiment would 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, The Royal Regiment of Scotland; in addition, the battalion is also permitted to retain its most famous accoutrement, the red hackle on the Tam o'Shanter. The Black Watch's primary recruiting areas are in Fife, Dundee, Angus and Perth and Kinross, with the Battalion Headquarters located at Balhousie Castle.

Recent Moves and Current Operations

Post the return from Iraq for the second time, the Battalion served out it's remaining time in Warminster and was then posted to Northern Ireland. It spent just over two years in the Province based at Palace Barracks in Belfast. During its time in Northern Ireland it sent a reinforcement Company to Iraq and a Company (-) to support the Royal Welsh during their tour of Iraq. During the tour with the Royal Welsh the Battalion lost another two soldiers KIA.

The Battalion is currently based in Fort George, Inverness. and has reroled to become part of 19 (Light) Brigade. They are currently Spearhead Lead Element for the MOD

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