The Black Watch has fought in nearly all of the British Army’s campaigns and during World War One raised 25 battalions for service. On our Battlefield Tours, we visit Black Watch Corner in Belgium, home to a memorial dedicated to the regiment. Created in Edinburgh the bronze Black Watch sergeant statue brazenly holds his gun whilst sporting a kilt - part of the regiments uniform up until 1940. It was unveiled in Ypres on this day in 2014.
The first year of World War One was particularly trialling for the regiment. They had incurred a large number of casualties from unrelenting assaults by the Germans since August. However, they would also go on to fight in the three battles that made up the Battle of Ypres through October to November. In early November the regiment was in a dire position with only 9 officers and 228 soldiers left. Added to the number of British Expeditionary Force (BEF) troops in Ypres at the time together they totalled around 7,850 men. While this may seem like a lot they were to go up against 25 German battalions which totalled 17,500, more than twice as many soldiers as the BEF had in the area. On November 11th the BEF, including the Black Watch, experienced one of the heaviest bombardments since the beginning of World War One.
The Kaiser ordered a division of the Prussian Guard to break through the British line no matter what. German troops attacked the Allies front line ferociously between Polygon Wood and Herenthage. Eventually, they were successful and broke through British defences. Up ahead, German troops came upon two bunkers one of which was held by the Black Watch and the Cameron Highlanders. They fired at the German soldiers causing them casualties and forcing them to take a different direction.
Some of the British retreated but a number of strong bases prevented the Germans from advancing further and getting reinforcements. This caused the battle to die down. One strongpoint consisting of only a trench and barbed wire was held by 40 men from the Black Watch who successfully caused the German army to retreat into Nonne Bosschen Woods. Pushed back further by other British troops - the battle was now over.
More than 8,000 members of The Black Watch sadly perished during World War one and over 20,000 were wounded. May we always remember them and their sacrifice.
You can find out more about the Black Watch in Scotland at The Black Watch Museum in Perth.