5th Black Watch

The 5th Battalion Black Watch Royal Highlanders

The source of the regiment's name is uncertain. In 1725, following the Jacobite rebellion of 1715, General George Wade was authorized by George I to form six "watch" companies to patrol the Highlands of Scotland, three from Clan Campbell, one from Clan Fraser of Lovat, one from Clan Munro and one from Clan Grant. These were to be "employed in disarming the Highlanders, preventing depredations, bringing criminals to justice, and hindering rebels and attainted persons from inhabiting that part of the kingdom." The force was known in Gaelic as Am Freiceadan Dubh, "the dark" or "black watch".

This epithet may have come from the uniform plaids of dark tartan with which the companies were provided. Other theories have been put forward; for instance, that the name referred to the "black hearts" of the pro-government militia who had sided with the "enemies of true Highland spirit", or that it came from their original duty in policing the Highlands, namely preventing "blackmail" (Highlanders demanding extortion payments to spare cattle herds)

The regiment was created as part of the Childers Reforms in 1881, when the 42nd (Royal Highland) Regiment of Foot (The Black Watch) was amalgamated with the 73rd (Perthshire) Regiment of Foot to form two battalions of the newly named Black Watch (Royal Highlanders). The 42nd became the 1st Battalion, and the 73rd became the 2nd Battalion.

In 1908, the Volunteers and Militia were reorganized nationally, with the former becoming the Territorial Force and the latter the Special Reserve; the regiment now had one Reserve and five Territorial battalions

5st Battalion in the Second World War

5th Battalion:
June 1942 - 09 Apr 1943: North Africa
May 1943 - October 1943: Sicily
06 Jun 1944 - May 1945: D-Day etc'
After the capture of the 51st Highland Division at St Valéry in June 1940, it was decided to reconstitute it in the UK around a nucleus provided by the 9th Scottish Division. Less than thirty members of the old 1st Battalion were available, but it was rebuilt and joined by the 5th and 7th Battalions which had not yet gone overseas.
June 1942 - 23 October 1942: Record same as 1st and 7th Battalion.
3 November 1942: The 5th Battalion in 153 Brigade was withdrawn from the front. They became part of the force following the retreating Germans beyond Benghazi and Tobruk.
15 January 1943: It was involved in an attack on Buerat.
Mid February 1943: The next close contact came near Medenine when the battalion was again in exchange of information with the 51st Division.
6 March 1943: The Germans attacked. (1st & 7th had caught up by now.) The 1st Battalion was nearly overrun but despite this the enemy decided to withdraw. The 5th Battalion then captured some high ground overlooking the next hurdle on the road to Mareth, Wadi Zigzaou which 50th Division were to attack. This attack failed, but later once again the Germans withdrew. The next, on the route to Tunis, ahead approximately 15 miles or so, between the coast and Roumana Ridge was Wadi Akarit.
6 April 1943: The battalion helped 152 Brigade to take the southern end of the ridge which proved to be successful. Although the attack by 154 Brigade failed to take the northern end, the Germans again decided to withdraw.
9 April: It entered the town of Sfax. This was the battalion's last action in North Africa.
May 1943: The battalion was moved to Djidjelli in Algeria to be trained in amphibious landings.
10 July 1943: They landed just west of Pachino Point on the coast of Sicily.
14 July 1943: It found Germans in possession of Francafonte and Vizzini. Vizzini is perched on top of a hill and there was no way to get round it. The Battalion was successful in driving the enemy out of the town by night fall. Next the Battalion advanced across the Catanian Plain towards Paterna.
18 July 1943: The battalion crossed the river Dittaino during the night to attack the village of Sferro near Paterna. Unable to take the village, they had to lie up between it and the river throughout the next day. This was constantly under shell-fire. The next night The Gordon Highlanders managed to take the village but the front then became static.
22 July 1943: The 5th Battalion along with the Gordon Highlanders were relieved by 1st and 7th BlackWatch.
August 1943: The battalion was involved in some minor conflicts during the subsequent push to Messina.
8 September 1943: The battalion with the 51st Division, crossed to the mainland of Italy.
Late October 1943: It was on its way back to the UK.
After its return to the UK the battalion remained there in training for the invasion of France.
6 June 1944, D-Day: The 5th Battalion was the first of the Black Watch units to land in Normandy. It landed on Juno Beach just after 20:00hrs.
8 June 1944: The 5th Battalion was engaged in a short but intense battle at the Château de Bréville. Some men were captured and shot in cold blood by the Germans.
Early July: It attempted unsuccessfully to take Colombelles a village on the outskirts of Caen. Casualties were high. (Caen finally fell on 11 July.)
31 August 1944: Expected to be part of the battle of Le Havre, the battalion crossed the Seine. However, Le Harve fell after very little resistance.
8-21 February 1945: The battalion was involved in some fighting to force crossings of the River Maas in Holland. The Germans opened the sluice gates higher up eventually forcing them to withdraw to higher land. It followed the 1st and 7th battalions shortly after they had led the attack into Germany itself through the Reichswald.
For the next few weeks it was in almost continuous action, steadily gaining ground against Germans who inflicted many casualties with their artillery.
22 March 1945: At 21:00hrs the Battalion crossed the Rhine. This took place a few miles downstream from Rees. It came under severe shellingand there were some fierce battles to follow in taking the small towns, Rees in particular where the battalion was involved in house to house fighting.
30 March 1945: The battalion had some rest after the Guards' Armoured Division passed through the bridgeheads and had made secure. There were further fights to come, in particular 20 miles or so from of Bremen, before VE-day.