Beta site: we’re developing a new website to help make your trip to Scotland even better. Get a sneak peek of our new website.


The Black Watch

The Black Watch is an elite battalion of the British Army, with a reputation of honour, bravery and dedication to king and country. Their history stretches back to the dramatic Jacobite risings, military campaigns in foreign countries and the trenches of World War I. 


  • Formed in 1725 when George II authorised General George Wade to create six 'watch' regiments to patrol the Highlands and maintain law and order, following the Jacobite Rising of 1715.
  • Soldiers were recruited from Clans Campbell, Fraser, Munro and Grant - those loyal to the Crown.
  • Originally named the Regiment of the Line, they became known as Am Freiceadan Dubh - 'The Black Watch' in Gaelic.
  • Black Watch was possibly a reference to the dark tartan of the regiment's uniform, because some Highlanders thought they were 'black-hearted' for enforcing the law of a harsh government, or due to the defence against protection rackets, or 'black mail' at the time.
  • Joined forces with the 73rd (Perthshire) Regiment of Foot in 1881. Together they formed the two battalions of the newly created Black Watch (Royal Highlanders).
  • Prior to World War I the regiment served in India, Egypt, Sri Lanka and South Africa during the Second Boer War.

Facts and figures


After their parent regiment, the 42nd (Royal Highland) Regiment of Foot, 'the Forty Twa'.

Other regiments referred to them as the 'Black Jocks'.

As the soldiers wore kilts and were fearless in battle, German troops called them Die Damen aus der Hölle, 'the Ladies from Hell'.


Many regiments have their own marches which were traditionally used to rally the troops and boost morale before battle.

  • All the Bonnets are o'er the Border (quick march)
  • The Garb of Old Gaul (slow march)
  • Hielan Laddie (pipes and drums quick march)
  • My Home (pipes and drums slow march)
  • Highland Cradle Song (pipes and drums slow march)


Officially known as the Government Tartan.

The same tartan or near-identical variations were worn by six original Highland companies which comprised the 43rd Royal Highland Regiment, later to become the 42nd (Royal Highland) Regiment of Foot.

World War I

  • 25 battalions of the regiment fought over the course of the World War I, mainly in Flanders and France, except the 2nd and 10th battalions which served in Mesopotamia (Iraq), Palestine and the Balkans.
  • Awarded 25 battle honours, 4 Victoria Crosses and lost 8,000 men.

Discover more at The Black Watch Castle and Museum.