|13th Battalion (Royal Highlanders of Canada) First World War cap badge. Source: 'Spañiard'|
The regiment's Scottish character took shape during its first decades of operation, when it adopted Scotland's "Black Watch" as its model. The famous Scottish regiment was formed in 1739 to "guarantee peace in the highlands of Scotland" and later served with the British Army in conflicts around the world. The Voluntary Militia Rifles adopted its dress, clothing its soldiers in Black Watch tartan while its pipers wore Royal Stewart kilts.
The Montreal militia unit changed its name to the 5th Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers on February 27, 1880, at which time it was officially designated a Scottish regiment. In 1905, a formal agreement with Scotland's Black Watch led to exchanges of officers and 'other ranks' as well as military liaison between the two units. This connection was formally acknowledged on October 1, 1906, when the Canadian regiment was renamed the 5th Regiment, Royal Highlanders of Canada. While First World War documents used its Scottish counterpart's famous moniker in references to its Canadian affiliate, the battalion did not formally adopt the title "The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada" until January 1, 1930.
|Black Watch Recruitment Poster.|
A second battalion - the 42nd CEF (Royal Highlanders of Canada) - was authorized on November 7, 1914 and sailed for England on June 10, 1915 with a complement of 40 officers and 978 'other ranks'. Its personnel landed in France on October 9, 1915 as part of the 7th Infantry Brigade, 3rd Canadian Division and also served in Flanders and France for the duration of the conflict. As combat depleted its numbers, the unit drew reinforcements from the 20th Reserve Battalion. The 42nd returned to England on February 8, 1919 and departed for Canada on March 9, 1919. Its personnel were demobilized two days after returning home.
A third Royal Highlanders battalion - the 73rd CEF - was officially authorized on July 10, 1915 and embarked for England on March 31, 1916. The unit arrived in France on August 13, 1916 as part of the 12th Infantry Brigade, 4th Canadian Division. The 73rd was deployed in the front trenches throughout the autumn and winter of 1916-17. While it participated in the Canadian Division's April 9, 1917 assault on Vimy Ridge, the battalion was officially disbanded ten days later and its personnel were dispersed as reinforcements to other units.
|Regimental cap badge and Red Hackle.|
The 13th and 42nd Battalions - along with all other CEF fighting units - were officially disbanded by General Order on September 15, 1920. Altogether, 11,954 men served in the Black Watch's three CEF battalions during the war. A total of 2,163 men were killed, 6,014 wounded and 821 decorated for bravery during service. Six Victoria Crosses were awarded to Canadian Black Watch soldiers in recognition of acts of outstanding bravery.
The Montreal militia unit continued to operate after the war ended and once again provided volunteers for combat during the Second World War. Members of The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada participated in the disastrous August 1942 raid on Dieppe, France and landed at Normandy shortly after the successful June 1944 D-Day invasion. The unit once again reverted to its role as a one-battalion militia unit after the war. The Black Watch continues to operate as a militia regiment in Canada's Armed Forces, training soldiers who support regular units in military assignments as well as civilian authorities in times of emergency.
|World War I Black Watch Veterans.|
42nd Battalion. Canadian Expeditionary Force Study Group - "The Matrix Project". Available online.
42nd Battalion in the Great War. The Black Watch of Canada Living History Association. Available online.
The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada. National Defence and the Canadian Forces. Department of National Defence, Canada. Available online.
The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Available online.
The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada - A Brief History. Available online.
The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada Lineage. Canadian Expeditionary Force Study Group discussion thread. Available online.