The Royal Highland Regiment, commonly known as The Black Watch due to their dark tartan uniform, is a Scottish infantry regiment. The uniform has changed but the nickname has been more enduring. The regimental motto is Nemo me impune lacessit (no one attacks me with impunity). The original uniform was altered by the addition of a red line to the tartan after the royal designation of the regiment. The Royal Stewart tartan is worn by the regimental pipers due the royal designation.
The first independent companies of the Black Watch were raised as a militia in 1725 by George Wade to occupy and keep peace in the Scottish Highlands after the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion. In these early days, members were recruited from local clans, the first six companies were three of Campbells and one each of Frasers, Grantss and Munros.
The Regiment of the Line was formed officially in 1739 as the 43rd Highland Regiment of Foot under John, the Earl of Crawford, and first mustered in 1740, at Aberfeldy. The regiment's earliest days were inauspicious; ordered to London in 1743 for an inspection by King George II, rumors flew that they were to be shipped to the West Indies to fight in the War of Austrian Succession, and many left for Scotland. They were recaptured, three of the leaders shot in the Tower of London, and the remainder of the regiment shipped to Flanders. The regiment's first full combat was the Battle of Fontenoy in Flanders in 1745, where they surprised the French with their ferocity.
When the Second Jacobite Rebellion broke out, the regiment returned to the south of Britain in anticipation of a possible French invasion. From 1747 to 1756 they were stationed in Ireland and then were sent to New York.
During the French and Indian War, at the first battle of Fort Ticonderoga (1758) the regiment lost over half of its men in assault. At that time they were already official recognized as a Royal regiment. The second battalion of the Black Watch was sent to the Caribbean where they saw action at Havana, Martinique and Guadeloupe. After the losses of Ticonderoga, the two battalions were consolidated in New York.
The Black Watch fought in a dozen battles of the Napoleonic Wars. During the battle of Alexandria in 1801 a regiment major captured the standard of Napoleon's Imperial Guard. It also served in the Battle of Waterloo where its 73rd Battalion was in the most intense fighting and lost 289 men. It was one of the component parts of the Highland Brigade in the Crimean War, at Cawnpore and Lucknow in 1858, and the Anglo-Boer War.
The regiment captured its regimental gong during the Indian Mutiny. After that the gong has tolled hours in Black Watch quarters. The regiment received its current name from Queen Victoria in 1861 when it became The Royal Highland Regiment (The Black Watch).
During World War I the 25 battalions of Black Watch fought mainly in France and Flanders, except for 2nd Battalion which fought in Mesopotamia and Palestine, and the 10th Battalion which was in the Balkans. Only the 1st and 2nd battalions were regulars.
Battalions of the Watch fought in almost every major action of the British in World War II, from Palestine to Dunkirk to Normandy. After the war, in 1948, the two regular battalions were merged into one.
The regiment won honours after the Battle of the Hook during the Korean War in November 1952, and were subsequently involving in peacekeeping in various parts of the world, ironically the same activity for which the regiment was raised 250 years earlier. It was the last British military unit to leave Hong Kong in 1997.