Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Donald Where's Your Troosers?

Is it just me or do others find it odd to see kilted soldiers of the Royal Regiment of Scotland commemorate the men of the Lowland regiments at First World War Centenary events?

Since 2006 and the formation of the Royal Regiment of Scotland the uniform for all battalions, no matter what their precedence, has been the same – a Government tartan kilt. We’ve briefly covered this in a Blog before.

The First World War Centenary will be with us until 2019. At many events the Royal Regiment of Scotland will provide a contingent, and invariably they will be in No. 2 Dress – Khaki tunic, glengarry, kilt, sporran, hose and spats. It’s a very smart uniform, and appropriate for many WW100 events as the uniform looks very similar to the service dress worn by the Highland regiments in 1914.

What irks- and will undoubtedly continue do so throughout the next few years - is seeing the men of the Royal Regiment of Scotland parade in kilts when they are commemorating men of the Lowland regiments; or when they are at Centenary events in the former recruiting areas of the Royal Scots (RS), Royal Scots Fusiliers (RSF), King’s Own Scottish Borderers (KOSB) , Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)(SR) and Highland Light Infantry (HLI).

Apart from their pipers (and three Territorial battalions) the men of the Lowland regiments did not wear kilts in 1914. Until 1881 most Lowland regiments did not even wear tartan. They were proud of their Lowland status and their history of not being Highlanders; two Lowland regiments were first raised in 1689 to fight a Jacobite army full of Highlanders. Before 2006 only one Lowland regiment – the Highland Light Infantry  -  fought with the War Office to be uniformed in kilts because of its Highland regimental history. In the early twentieth century the HLI had two Territorial battalions in kilts  - but during the First World War it was not a kilted regiment. It was not until after the Second World War that the HLI once more parade in kilts after a one hundred and forty year hiatus.

Two recent First World War related occasions particularly stick in the mind where it would have been befitting for the Royal Regiment of Scotland to be wearing trews rather than kilts.

The first was the reburial of Private William McAleer of the 7th Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers in May this year. Private McAleer was killed in action at Loos in 1915 and his body was only found during building work on the battlefield in 2010. At a well attended event organised by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, he was re-buried with full military honours and the Royal Highland Fusiliers provided the burial party. How much more appropriate would it have been for the pall bearers to have been in trews on that day?

Thanks to John Duncan for the photograph
The second occasion was last week’s naming of the square outside the Usher Hall in Edinburgh to McCrae’s Place. This was to commemorate the centenary of the raising of the 16th (2nd Edinburgh) Battalion, Royal Scots by local man George McCrae. The Royal Regiment of Scotland were there to commemorate the men of the Royal Scots who served in the First World War in this battalion. How much more appropriate would it have been for them to be there in trews like the Royal Scots Association men they stood beside?

Next year we will see the Royal Regiment of Scotland take part in official commemorations for the Gretna Rail Crash (RS), Gallipoli (RS, RSF, KOSB,S, HLI), and Loos  (RS, RSF, KOSB,S, HLI). How much more apt will it be for the men of the Royal Scots Borderers, Royal Highland Fusiliers and the 52nd Lowland to be uniformed in trews for these events?

The Royal Regiment of Scotland already has an order of dress which combines the khaki tunic and the trews – According to the RHF’s dress regulations which are online it is No. 2c Dress.

Currently it specifies it is to be worn “..on Battalion duties during cold weather at the discretion of Commanding Officers. It is to be worn by all ranks on Regimental duties at Retreat-Staff Parade after 1800 hrs daily" but surely that could be changed for the two senior battalions of the regiment, and the Lowland volunteers, to allow trews instead of kilts to be worn on ceremonial occasions in place of 2a or 2b dress?

To try and rectify this sometimes incongruous use of kilts by the Royal Regiment of Scotland, an e-petition has been raised with the MoD to change the dress regulations to allow trews to be worn  by certain units on ceremonial occasions.

If you would like to see Scottish infantrymen parade in trews again, please take the time to sign the petition here: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/72626 and please spread the word.