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The Black Watch was formed as part of the Childers Reforms in 1881 when the Royal Highland Regiment (The Black Watch) was amalgamated with the 73rd (Perthshire) Foot to form two battalions of the newly named Black Watch (Royal Highlanders). During World War I the 25 battalions of Black Watch fought in France and Flanders, Mesopotamia and Palestine and the Balkans. In World War II, battalions of the Black Watch fought in almost every major action of the British, from Palestine to Dunkirk to Normandy and as Chindits (42 and 73 columns) in Burma.
The 1st Battalion was despatched to France in May 1940 and forced, under the assault of the German blitzkrieg, to withdraw to Dunkirk. Along with most of the 51st Highland Division, it was ordered to surrender at St Valery.
In August 1942 the re-formed 1st Battalion along with the 5th and 7th Battalions arrived in North Africa as part of 51st Highland Division in time to take part in the battle of El Alamein, the turning point in the war. This was followed by pursuit across North Africa with hard-fought victories at Mareth and Wadi Akarit, and the entry into Tripoli.
Still under the 51st Highland Division, the 1st Battalion Black Watch was part of the invasion of Sicily. After heavy fighting by the 1st Battalion at Gerbini and by all at Sferro, Sicily was conquered.
The 1st, 5th and 7th Battalions, still in the 51st Highland Division, were all landed in Normandy on or shortly after D Day, 6 June 1944. All three battalions were employed in the operations to stem the last German offensive into the Ardennes in January 1945. It then fought in the battles of the Reichswald Forest on the Dutch-German? border, with the 1st Battalion being the first Allied troops on German territory.
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List of those who served in The 1st Battalion The Black Watch during The Second World War.
Select a story link or scoll down to browse those stories hosted on this website
- Harry Dalby 1st Battalion Read his Story.
- L/Cpl. James Draine 1st Battalion (d.23rd March 1945) Read his Story.
- Pte. Ernest Gavin Grant 1st Btn. D Company Read his Story.
- Pte. Robert Gourdie Kirk 1st Btn Read his Story.
- Cpl. James Low Sharp MM. 1st Battalion
If you have any names to add to this list, or any recollections or photos of those listed, please get in touch.
Harry Dalby 1st Battalion The Black Watch, 51st Highland Division
My late grandfather Harry Dalby was a POW in Stalag XXA. I have had his prisoner of war records translated and they give 2.K Batlingen, Batlingen 20 and Reigersfeld as work camps.
My grandfather, while in one of the camps, had what can only be described as a large hankie or part of a sheet with his Battalion's badge and two soldiers in highland dress on either side of it. This was drawn in ink we were told. It also has HE YDEBRECK written on the top of it which I believe is Batlingen. We have no idea who made this for him so if anyone has any idea or info I would be very greatful.
He was in the 1st Battalion The Black Watch, 51st Highland Division captured St.Valery 16/6/40.
Pte. Ernest Gavin Grant 1st Btn. D Company The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment)
Any info on Ernie Grant? He was wounded at St Valery with The 51st Highland Division and captured. He was also shot at some other point whilst a POW.
He remembered being liberated by the Americans and working in the salt mines. If any one remembers him or any stories please get in touch
Pte. Robert Gourdie Kirk 1st Btn Black Watch
Private Britcher is a relative of my wife's. All we know about him is that he was killed near Dunkirk and lies buried there. If anyone can give me some information regarding his death and service it would be gratefullly received especially as this month is the 70th anniversary of that terrible day. It would be good for us to remember him.
L/Cpl. James Draine 1st Battalion Black Watch (d.23rd March 1945)
My Great Uncle Jimmy Draine was a regular soldier from the age of 18, to 31 years old at his death. He fought in all the major battles and died at Speldrop/Klein Esserdren crossing the Rhine on the 23 March 1945 on their way to final victory. He served with Major D. Johnstone, 1st Battalion Black Watch and was on the forward Company on the night of 23rd of March 1945 when himself and others got a direct hit from a shell and died. He is buried in Reichswald Forest War Cemetery.
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