Affiliation raises crew’s hackles

Commander James Parkin (centre) and crew are pictured sporting their red hackles.
Commander James Parkin (centre) and crew are pictured sporting their red hackles.

THE CREW of HMS Montrose have paid tribute to their army colleagues in the Black Watch by sporting the regiment’s famous red hackle in their berets.

The commanding officer and officers marked the annual Red Hackle Day by sporting the feathers for the day to celebrate the close links between the battalion, which traditionally recruits in the Angus, Dundee, Perth and Fife areas, and its affiliated ship.

Commander James Parkin, commanding officer, said: “We are inordinately proud of our connections with the senior regiment of Highlanders, and our temporary deviation from naval uniform regulations is entirely justified in order to commemorate the close friendship between the Black Watch and most Scottish ship in the Navy. We embarked a team of ‘Jocks’ from the battalion at sea last year, which was greatly enjoyed by all, and look forward to sending a group of my sailors to Inverness to experience life in the field.”

For more than 200 years, officers and men of the Black Watch have been granted a privilege unique in the British

Army of wearing the red hackle in their headgear, and every year HMS Montrose also marks the tradition by granting sailors the right to wear the distinctive red feather in their berets, for one day only. The regimental tradition is that whenever the opportunity arises the Black Watch itself celebrates Red Hackle Day on January 5.

For more than 200 years, officers and men of the Black Watch have been granted the unique privilege of wearing a red hackle in their headgear and every year the HMS Montrose also marks the tradition by granting sailors the right to wear the distinctive red vulture feather in their berets, for one day only.

Although the Royal Navy is the ‘senior service, the Black Watch can trace its roots back to the Highland Watch which was formed in 1667 on the orders of King Charles II, although it was later disbanded. King George II caused the regiment to be re-established in 1725 following the 1715 Jacobite rebellion and used it to pacify the troubled Highlands area. It was incorporated into the British regimental system in 1739. The government-issue tartan they were required to wear was dark and may have contributed to the name they were given locally, Am Freiceadan Dubh - The Black Watch.

The origin of the regiment wearing the red hackle is uncertain and although there is evidence that it was worn by the 42nd Regiment of Foot in North America in the 1770s, a 19th century tradition is that it relates to an action at the battle of Geldermalsen in 1795 during the French Revolutionary Wars when the 11th Light Dragoons retreated, leaving two field guns to the French. The Black Watch promptly mounted an attack and recovered the guns.

As a reward, during a King’s birthday parade later that year, a red hackle was given to every man on parade to wear in their bonnets.