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The 42nd (Royal Highland) Regiment of Foot was an infantry regiment of the British Army. The regiment's lineage could be traced back as far as the 1660s, when independent companies of men were formed to police the Highlands by the local clan chiefs.


Early history

"An Officer & Serjeant of a Highland Regiment."
Illustration depicting soldiers of the 42nd (Highland) Regiment of Foot, c.
After the 1715 Jacobite Rising the British government did not have the resources or manpower to keep a standing army in the Scottish highlands. As a result, they were forced to keep order by recruiting men from local Highland clans that had been loyal to the Whigs. This proved to be unsuccessful in deterring crime, especially cattle rustling, so independent companies (of what would be known as the Black Watch) were raised as a militia in 1725 by George Wade to keep "watch" for crime. The militia was recruited from local clans, with one company coming from Clan Munro, one from Clan Fraser, one from Clan Grant and three from Clan Campbell. These companies were commonly known as the Am Freiceadan Dubh, or Black Watch, taking their name from their task and from the dark green government tartan they were issued , and eventually recruited many young gentlemen from both Jacobite and Whig clans.


The Regiment of the Line was formed officially in 1739 as the 42nd Highland Regiment of Foot under John Lindsay, 20th Earl of Crawford, and first mustered in 1740, at Aberfeldymarker. In May 1740, when the Independent companies were formed into the 43rd Highland regiment (later the 42nd Royal Highlanders), Sir Robert Munro was appointed lieutenant-colonel, John Earl of Crawford and Lindsay being its colonel. Among the captains were his next brother, George Munro of Culcairn, and John Munro, promoted to be lieutenant-colonel in 1745. The surgeon of the regiment was his younger brother, Dr James Munro.

First action and Mutiny

The regiment's earliest days were inauspicious; ordered to Londonmarker in 1743 for an inspection by King George II, rumours flew that they were to be shipped to the West Indiesmarker to fight in the War of Austrian Succession, and many left for Scotland. They were recaptured, three of the leaders shot in the Tower of Londonmarker, and the remainder of the regiment shipped to Flanders. The regiment's first full combat was the Battle of Fontenoymarker in Flanders in 1745, where they surprised the Frenchmarker with their ferocity, and greatly impressed their commander, the Duke of Cumberland. Allowed "their own way of fighting", each time they received the French fire Col. Sir Robert Munro ordered his men to "clap to the ground" while he himself, because of his corpulence, stood alone with the colours behind him. For the first time in a European battle they introduced a system of infantry tactics (alternatively firing and taking cover) that was not superseded. Springing up and closing with the enemy, they several times drove them back, and finished with a successful rear-guard action against French cavalry

When the 1745 Jacobite Rising broke out, the regiment returned to the south of Britain in anticipation of a possible French invasion. From 1747 to 1756 they were stationed in Irelandmarker and then were sent to New Yorkmarker.

The Americas

During the French and Indian War, at the first battle of Ticonderoga, also known as the Battle of Carillon marker, the regiment lost over half of its men in assault. At that time they were already officially recognized as a Royal regiment. The second battalion of the Black Watch was sent to the Caribbeanmarker but after the losses of Ticonderoga, the two battalions were consolidated in New Yorkmarker. The regiment was present at the second battle of Ticonderogamarker in 1759 and the surrender of Montrealmarker in 1760. They were sent to the West Indies again where they saw action at Havanamarker, Martiniquemarker and Guadeloupemarker.

Between 1758 and 1767 it served in America. In 1763, the Black Watch fought in the Battle of Bloody Runmarker while trying to relieve Fort Pittmarker, modern Pittsburgh, Pennsylvaniamarker, during Pontiac's Rebellion. The regiment later defeated Native Americans at the Battle of Bushy Runmarker in August 1763. The regiment went to Corkmarker, Irelandmarker in 1767 and returned to Scotland in 1775.

During the American Revolutionary War, the regiment was involved in the defeat of George Washington in the Battle of Long Island and the later battles of Harlem, Brandywinemarker, Germantownmarker, Monmouth, the siege of Charlestonmarker, and the final Battle of Yorktown. The regiment returned to Glasgowmarker in 1790. The Royal Highland Regiment never officially recognized the battle honours for their part in the American War of Independence, because it was decreed that Battle Honours should not be granted for a war with kith and kin.


The Black Watch fought in a dozen battles of the Napoleonic Wars. During the battle of Alexandria in 1801 a major in the regiment captured a standard from the Frenchmarker.

Corunna and the Peninsular

At the battle of Corunnamarker it was a soldier from the 42nd Highlanders who carried the mortally wounded General Sir John Moore to cover and six more who carried him to the rear, but only after he had witnessed the victory in which the stout defence of the Black Watch played a major part. Moore's army was evacuated from Spainmarker and the 1st Battalion of the 42nd Highlanders went with them.

As the 1st Battalion left the 2nd Battalion was dispatched from Irelandmarker to Spain where it served through out the Peninsular War with great distinction in the Duke of Wellington's Army.


Black Watch at Quatre Bras
The 42nd was at the disorganised Battle of Quatre Bras on 16 June 1815 where it was one of four Battalions mentioned in despatches by Wellington, and two days later at the Battle of Waterloomarker , where the future 2nd Battalion, Black Watch the 2nd/73rd Highlanders were both in some of the most intense fighting in the battle and lost 289 men.

It is said that without Quatre Bras there would never have been a Battle of Waterloo.

The Empire

It was one of the component parts of the Highland Brigade in the Crimean War, at Cawnporemarker and Lucknowmarker in 1858, and the Anglo-Boer War.

The regiment captured its regimental gong during the Indian Mutiny. After that the gong has tolled hours in Black Watch quarters. As part of the Childers Reforms of 1881, the 42nd Regiment of Foot was amalgamated with the 73rd Regiment of Foot to form a new regiment. In recognition of its famous nickname, the new regiment was named the The Royal Highland Regiment , being officially redesignated The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) in 1931. In a further reorganisation in 2006 this regiment in turn became an infantry battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.


a major production called Black Watch debuted at the Edinburgh Festival on Saturday, August 5, 2006 at the former University of Edinburgh Officer Training Corps' Drill hall.

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