|A Brief History|
While the American Civil War and the creation of a large American Federal Army were creating a necessity of establishing a united Canada, Canadian citizens were demanding the creation of local militia units to guarantee the fundamental rights of British North America. Montrealers were no exception, and early in 1862 the 5th Battalion, Volunteer Militia Rifles of Canada, the forebear of The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada, came into existence. See lineage chart . From the beginning in 1862, Canada's senior Highland Regiment, has been privileged to serve Canada in its obligations not only to the Empire and the Commonwealth, but also to international organizations such as NATO and the United Nations.
The Black Watch of Canada's birth and growth is thus analogous to that of the Parent Regiment, which was formed in 1739 to guarantee peace in the highlands of Scotland and eventually to fight for Monarch and Country in conflicts throughout the world. It is therefore not surprising that both Regiments share a common heritage, spirit, and a distinctive highland dress. The tartan of the Black Watch and the Royal Stewart tartan of its pipers, are known the world over as hallmarks of outstanding service in peace and war.
Although members of the Regiment served side by side with the Black Watch of Scotland in the Boer War, the formal alliance between Regiments did not occur until 1905. The great battles of World War I and World War II served to strengthen the alliance, and constant liaison and exchanges of officers and other ranks are fitting expressions of our wish to maintain this valuable affiliation.
During World War I, 11,954 officers and enlisted men fought in the three battalions of the Canadian Regiment, winning twenty-six battle honours. Of those who served, 2,163 were killed, 6,014 were wounded and 821 were decorated. Six of the decorated members were awarded the Victoria Cross.
During World War II, the Canadian Regiment joined with battalions of the Black Watch from all parts of the Commonwealth in the struggle to defeat the Axis Powers. The Regiment first saw action at Dieppe, where its "C" Company and Mortar Platoon were key components of the assault force. Landing in Normandy shortly after D-Day, the Black Watch participated in some thirty battle actions throughout France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany. Members of the Regiment won 211 honours and awards for the campaign.
While the immediate post-war years saw the Black Watch (RHR) of Canada revert back to its role as a one-battalion militia regiment, in 1953, the 1st and 2nd Canadian Highland Battalions (Active Force) were re-designated 1st and 2nd Battalion Black Watch (RHR) of Canada while the Montreal Militia Unit became 3rd battalion. See Regular Force
The designation "3rd Battalion" has now been removed from the Militia Unit and The Black Watch (RHR) of Canada has reverted to its traditional role as being a Militia Regiment in Canada's Armed Forces. In August 1992, the Regiment was granted the Freedom of the City of Montreal. The towns of Ormstown and Huntingdon, Quebec granted the Regiment the Freedom of their cities in 1997 and 1998, respectively.
And in the fall of 1999, the City of Verdun, Quebec, bestowed the Freedom of the City upon the Regiment. Verdun has provided many Black Watch soldiers from the First War onwards.
Today the Black Watch is a modern infantry battalion providing trained soldiers to augment regular force units and to aid civil authorities in times of crises. Currently, the Regiment has soldiers serving in Afghanistan. To fulfill these tasks, the soldiers undergo extensive infantry and more specialized training.
THE STORY OF THE RED HACKLE
While many have believed that the Red Hackle began as a campaign distinction of the parent Regiment for its services during a British retreat through the Flemish village of Geldermaisen in January 1795, recent evidence has more or less debunked this myth. In fact, many now believe that this Regimental icon traces back to the 42nd Regiment's service during the American War of Independence (1775-1781). In any case, what is certain is that in 1822, the exclusive right of the 42nd Regiment to wear the Red Hackle was cemented by a Horse Guards General Order: "The red vulture feather prescribed by the recent regulations for Highland regiments is intended to be used exclusively by the Forty-Second Regiment."
CANADIAN BLACK WATCH
In 1895, the Canadian Black Watch (then known as the 5th Battalion, Royal Scots of Canada) was officially permitted by General Order to wear the Red Hackle: "5th Battalion, Royal Scots of Canada: The Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers and Men of this Battalion are permitted to wear the Red Hackle in the feather bonnets." It appears, however, that the 1895 General Order simply recognized a long standing internal regimental dress regulation. Indeed, as far back as 1863, one of the Regiment's flank companies wore a red feather in its full dress headgear.
Although there is strong evidence of the Canadian Regiment wearing the red hackle prior to deploying for the First World War, the Black Watch battalions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force-the 13th, 42nd, and 73rd Battalions CEF-did not immediately wear the hackle overseas. According to Col. P.P. Hutchison, author of Canada's Black Watch: The First Hundred Years (1962), "The Royal Highlanders of Canada had not thought they were entitled to do so overseas, at least until they had won their spurs in actual battle" (p.91). After the 13th Battalion's magnificent stand at 2nd Ypres, and the exploits of all three battalions at the Somme, there was little doubt that the Royal Highlanders had proven themselves. Accordingly, the war diary of the 13th Battalion dated 16 November 1916 states that "as many men as possible were fitted out with Balmorals and Red Hackles an honour which they greatly appreciated." A year later, on 30 November 1917, the war diarist of the 42nd Battalion recorded that "the Battalion, pursuant to a request received some time prior from the 1st Bn of Imperial Black Watch, adopted the Red Hackle as part of its head-dress."
Today's Black Watch (RHR) of Canada are easily recognized owing to their unique red hackle, and continue to wear it with pride.
Battle Honours (43)