Tuesday, 15 May 2012

It's all about the badges…er, no

Cap Badge of the Royal Regiment of Scotland

There have been lots of articles in the newspapers (particularly broadsheets) on the rumours of the latest round of army reorganisations as part of the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR). The fate of the Royal Regiment of Scotland is of particular interest to the Scottish media and daily articles focus on the response of politicians of all hues to what Philip Hammond at the MoD is planning.

Most politicians and journalists have little grasp of the subject and are making mistakes. The most common one is that the seven battalions of the Royal Regiment of Scotland are still all wearing their own cap badges. That is not correct. All battalions wear the same badge and dress uniform. The badge and uniform were designed by committee to try and retain individual features from the six regular battalions in existence in 2006 when the regiment was formed (two regiments amalgamated into one after the RRS was formed).

We used to use terms like precedence, antecedents, perpetuating and lineage but now this has all been replaced by a snappy little piece of spin called "The Golden Thread". Seemingly this was the promise made in 2005 when the plans were being made for merging the Scottish regiments that individual pieces of the regiments' history would be retained by the new large regiment. It would allow the battalions to rebrand themselves as the Royal Regiment but retain supplementary titles to identify their old regiment e.g. The Royal Scots Borderers, 1st Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland (1 SCOTS).  In practice this meant people use 1 SCOTS instead of the unfamiliar name of the Royal Scots Borderers. Even the old regiments such as the Black Watch and Argylls, who had never merged since 1881, are now commonly called by the MoD’s preferential titles of 3 SCOTS and 5 SCOTS. Another piece of the Golden Thread was that each battalion would distinguish itself from another by the use of a coloured hackle. In some case the hackle was not new. The Royal Highland Fusiliers and Black Watch have used white and red hackles in their Tam o' Shanters for many years. For some battalions though the coloured hackle was a new addition to their bonnets.

What should not have been a surprise to anyone is that at some point in the future after 2006 the MoD would drop the supplementary titles and then reduce the number of battalions in the Royal Regiment of Scotland. The Army has been doing that since the 1960's which we covered in a recent blog post so I won't go into detail of that here.

Instead I'll produce a handy guide to the battalions which make up the Royal Regiment of Scotland. It lists their current name and their lineage, sorry, their Golden Thread. Some regiments like the Royal Scots retained their separate identity, from raising in 1633 to amalgamation in 2006 as part of the Delivering Security in a Changing World review. Others like the Highlanders had been through mergers in 1994 as part of Options for Change; 1961 as part of the 1957 Defence White Paper Review and in 1881 in the Childers Reforms (which we covered here)

Not covered here are the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) who chose disbandment over amalgamation at a Conventicle in Douglas in 1968 as part of the 1966 Defence White Paper Review (however a piece of their history is still retained by the Royal Scots Borderers); The Scots Guards who have never been "Scottish Infantry"; the Scottish Yeomanry regiments and the Highland and Lowland Gunners.

Royal Scots Borderers aka 1 SCOTS

Black hackle used by RSB since 2006. Based on Blackcock feathers used by Royal Scots and KOSB in dress uniform. Also used by Cameronians prior to disbandment and the Cameronians’ Lanarkshire recruitment area passed to the KOSB in 1968.
Based at Dreghorn Barracks in Edinburgh.
Primarily recruits from Lothians, Lanarkshire, Dumfries and Galloway and Scottish Borders

Formed in 2006 after amalgamation of Royal Scots, RRS and King's Own Scottish Borderers, RRS

Royal Scots (aka 1 RS pre-2006) had been known as 1st Royal Scots, Royal Regiment before 1881. Had been raised as mercenaries for French service in 1633

King's Own Scottish Borderers (aka 1 KOSB pre-2006) had been known as 25th King's Own Borderers before 1881. Had been raised in Edinburgh in 1689

Royal Highland Fusiliers aka 2 SCOTS (aka 1 RHF pre-2006)

White hackle. Used by Royal Scots Fusiliers in Tam o'shanter since at least the Second World War. Used by 21st Foot in fusilier cap since 19th Century.
Based at Glencorse Barracks in Penicuik
Primarily recruits from Glasgow, and South West Scotland

Formed 1957 after amalgamation of Royal Scots Fusiliers and Highland Light Infantry

Royal Scots Fusiliers had been known as 21st Royal Scots Fusiliers before 1881. Had been raised in 1678

Highland Light Infantry had been formed in 1881 after amalgamation of 71st Highland Light Infantry and 74th Highlanders
                        71st Highland Light Infantry had been raised in 1777 (as 73rd Highlanders)
                        74th Highlanders had been raised in 1787

Black Watch aka 3 SCOTS (aka 1 BW pre-2006)

Red hackle. Used by Black Watch for many years; origins debatable, possibly dates back to American war of Independence. Used in Tam o'shanter since First World War
Based at Fort George near Inverness
Primarily recruits from Fife, Perthshire, Dundee and Angus

Formed 1881 after amalgamation of 42nd Royal Highlanders, Black Watch and 73rd Highlanders
            42nd Royal Highlanders, Black Watch had been raised in 1739
            73rd Highlanders had been raised in 1779 (as 2nd Bn 42nd Highlanders)

The Highlanders aka 4 SCOTS (aka 1 HLDRS pre-2006)

Blue hackle. First used by Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders in 1940. Perpetuated by Queen's Own Highlanders and Highlanders
Based at Fallingbostel, Germany
Primarily recruits from Highlands, Islands, Moray and Aberdeenshire

Formed in 1994 after amalgamation of Queen's Own Highlanders (aka 1 QOHldrs pre-1994) and The Gordon Highlanders (aka 1 GH pre-1994)

Queens Own Highlanders had been formed in 1961 after amalgamation of Seaforth Highlanders and Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders

Seaforth Highlanders had been formed in 1881 from amalgamation of 72nd Duke of Albany's Highlanders and 78th Highlanders, Ross-shire Buffs
                         72nd Duke of Albany's Highlanders had been raised in 1778 (as 78th Highlanders)
                         78th Highlanders, Ross-shire Buffs had been raised in 1793

Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders had been renamed in 1881 from the 79th Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders
                         79th Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders had been raised in 1794

The Gordon Highlanders had been formed in 1881 from amalgamation of 75th Stirlingshire Regiment and 92nd Gordon Highlanders
                        75th Stirlingshire Regiment had been raised in 1787
                        92nd Gordon Highlanders had been raised in 1794 (as 100th Highlanders)

Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders aka 5 SCOTS (aka 1 A and SH pre-2006)

Green hackle. Used by Argylls since 2006. Based at Canterbury, England
Primarily recruits from Argyll & Bute, Dunbartonshire, Stirling, Falkirk, Kinross, Clackmannan, Renfrewshire and Inverclyde.

Formed 1881 after amalgamation of 91st Argyllshire Highlanders and 93rd (Sutherland) Highlanders
                        91st Argyllshire Highlanders had been raised in 1794 (as 98th Highlanders)
                        93rd (Sutherland) Highlanders had been raised in 1799

The following two battalions are the Territorial Army battalions of the regiment. Up until 2005 the battalions were made up of individual companies uniformed as their parent regiments, so you would have Black Watch T.A. and Highlanders T.A. serving in the 51st Volunteers. Their battalion hackle colours, which were only introduced in August 2010, were deliberately chosen to not be representative of any former regiment. Purple and green were colours associated with the Highland Division; with green being used by the 5 SCOTS it was an obvious choice of purple for 7 SCOTS.

The history of the Territorial units are too complicated to go into here so a brief explanation of their names is given instead.

52nd Volunteers aka 6 SCOTS

Grey hackle. Used by 52nd Volunteers since 2010

The 52nd Volunteers is the Territorial Army infantry battalion for most of the Lowlands of Scotland. It recruits in the same area as the Royal Scots Borderers and Royal Highland Fusiliers. It was originally formed in 1967 as the 52nd Lowland Volunteers after all the Territorial battalions of the Lowland Regiments were amalgamated into one regiment.

The name is taken from the 52nd (Lowland) Division. This division was numbered in 1915 when the then Territorial Force Lowland Division was sent overseas to Gallipoli. The 52nd (Lowland) Division served with distinction in both World Wars.

51st Volunteers aka 7 SCOTS

Purple hackle. Used by 51st Volunteers since 2010

The 51st Volunteers is the Territorial Army infantry battalion for the Highlands of Scotland. It recruits in the same area as the Black Watch, Highlanders and Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. It was originally formed in 1967 as the 51st Highland Volunteers after all the Territorial battalions of the Highland Regiments were amalgamated into one regiment.

The name is taken from the 51st (Highland) Division. This division was numbered in 1915 when the then Territorial Force Highland Division was sent overseas to France. The 51st (Highland) Division served with distinction in both World Wars.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Deal to save Dunkirk vessel is sunk

Back in February we reported on the hopes of getting a Dunkirk "Little Ship" re-floated. The Skylark IX had sunk at Balloch and was on sale for £1 on e-bay. Today the Dumbarton and Vale of Leven Reporter has the sad news that this has fallen through.

Deal to save Dunkirk vessel is sunk

HOPES of saving Scotland's last surviving Dunkirk rescue ship have been sunk after an 11th-hour deal fell through.
Campaigners wanted to raise the Skylark IX, rotting at the bottom of the River Leven at Balloch, in time to coincide with the 72nd anniversary of the Dunkirk evacuation.
Interest in salvaging the vessel, which played a vital part in the mission, peaked when owners Leven Cruising Club put the ship on eBay for just £1.
But costs involved in recovering the vessel added to the restoration estimates, have put off interested parties.
Last Thursday commodore of the club, Stewart Davidson, told the Reporter time is running out.
He said: "One day it was happening and then the next day it's all up in the air. It was all looking very positive within the last week but those interested have pulled out.
"We are still hoping it can be saved but it looks like the last chance saloon when it was all looking very positive which is a shame.
"That's why we took it over as we wanted to see the boat restored to its former glory. To get her back to that stage would be special.
"The plan is now to get her out of the water which is the difficult bit. We would need a crane large enough to lift it from the water as it is a few metres out from the shore.
"If anybody was to come forward with funding or a plan then by all means let us know and we'll see if we can work with them and get it sorted.
"The longer it goes on the less likely it is to come up in a reasonable condition."
The Skylark XI sank on June 6, 2010.
It was among more than 770 private boats which took part in Operation Dynamo in June 1940 to evacuate Dunkirk beaches of around 340,000 British troops from the clutches of the advancing German army.
It rescued some 600 British and French troops, ferrying them 150 at a time to waiting destroyers and battleships further out in the English Channel.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

What's in a name?

There have been rumours in the newspapers over the past few weeks that one of the battalions of the Royal Regiment of Scotland is to be disbanded. It may be 5 SCOTS or it may be 4 SCOTS. That is it might be the 4th (Highlanders) Battalion Royal Regiment of Scotland, or 5th (Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders) Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland. It is only to be expected.

Never mind excuses about austerity measures or the number of Fijians that fill the ranks; since the RRS was formed in 2006 it was only a matter of time until it would follow the practice of every large regiment formed since the 1960s and merge or disband one or more of its battalions just a few years after formation. To expedite this the MoD are probably going to remove the titles in brackets from the five battalions. This also follows the practice adopted in large regiments in England over the last forty-or-so years.

They have already removed uniform distinctions in the Royal Regiment of Scotland apart from the different coloured hackles; there are no Lowland regiments in the British Army only one Highland regiment. Apart from the historic names there is not much to distinguish the battalions. By removing even that distinction it will make it easier to remove one or more of the battalions. 

Scotland is relatively new to the large regiment. The Scottish Division was probably lucky there wasn't a Royal Regiment of Scotland in the late 1960s or at the very least a Lowland Regiment and Highland Regiment. Rumours say the Queen Mother had a hand in saving them to preserve the Black Watch but it was probably the operational needs in Northern Ireland in the 1970s which saved them. In England they were not so lucky and have been used to the large regiments for nearly fifty years.

The Queen's Regiment was formed in 1966 from four regiments from the South-East of England into a four battalion regiment. Two of those regiments had been only just been merged from four regiments in the preceding seven years so it was the inheritor of six famous regiments which had fought through the two World Wars. In 1968 the historic titles were dropped completely and in 1973 the 4th battalion was disbanded with every other 'junior' battalion of the large regiments.

Options for Change in the early 1990's under the last Conservative Government (which saw the merging of the Queen's Own Highlanders and Gordon Highlanders and nearly the end of the KOSB's) also saw the merging of the three battalion Queen's Regiment with the one battalion Royal Hampshire Regiment into the smaller two battalion Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment (Queen's and Royal Hampshires). It has inherited the battle honours of twelve pre-1881 regiments and a staggering 57 VC's.

1968 saw the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, Royal Warwickshire Fusiliers, Royal Fusiliers and Lancashire Fusiliers merge into the four battalion Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. It is now down to two battalions, neither retaining any titles reflecting their predecessors.

Another regiment formed four battalions from four regiments in 1964 and is now down to two battalions. It has retained its local affiliations though and each of the eight companies across the two current battalions of the Royal Anglian Regiment reflects an old regimental title.

I think it is unlikely that the Royal Regiment of Scotland will ever merge with an English regiment but how long will it be before the Royal Regiment of Scotland is reduced in size again? How long before it is reduced down to a two battalion regiment like other large regiments; one recruiting in the old highland regiment recruiting areas perhaps and another in the Lowlands.

Would they follow the Royal Anglians and name companies after old regiments to retain and encourage local affiliations? Would that see a return to old names like the Seaforth Highlanders, Royal Scots Fusiliers or even the disbanded Cameronians? Probably not but without the old names and affiliations removed who would really care if 3 SCOTS or 4 SCOTS follow 5 SCOTS into history?