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The Red Watch By J. A. Currie Characters: 6934

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


It was while doing duty in Scotland, shortly after the Jacobite rising, that the 42nd Highlanders came to be called the "Black Watch." The sombre color of their kilts and the work in which they were engaged combined to give them this nickname, which has clung to this famous regiment ever since. The 48th Highlanders of Canada wore a sombre tartan like the "Black Watch," interwoven with a broad red check, and it was whilst doing duty as patrol over a steel plant at Sault Ste. Marie that some striking Scotchmen first called the Canadian Regiment the "Red Watch." The name has been accepted and alternates with the "48th" in describing this corps. The brave Seaforths have a light grey check in their tartans, the gay Gordons a brilliant golden check, but the 48th have this check in red, and when the kilts are properly made the stripe comes on the fold of the tartan and gives a peculiar shimmering effect to the swaying kilts while the men are on the march. The nickname of the "Red Watch" is not as well known as that of the "Black Watch," but the Imperial Battalion of the "Red Watch" loyally earned the name at the great salient at Ypres, where they watched at the post of honor and halted the German masses in their second great drive to Calais. This story has most to tell about these stirring days, but a word about the Canadian Militia and this regiment in particular may be in order.

Reference in the foregoing chapter has been made to the Highland regiments that served in the Colonial Wars. These troops were regular troops, but always serving with or against them were the Canadian Militia.

From the very beginning of the Colonies there was a Canadian Militia. From its inception during the Indian wars down to the time of writing, this Militia has been distinguished for bravery. It came into being in the days of the early French settlement, and the Canadian Militia helped Montcalm to fight at Ticonderoga, Detroit and Fort DuQuesne. During the Seven Years' War, the Canadian Militia served continuously. At the capitulation of Canada it was stipulated that the Provincial Militia were to be allowed to return unmolested to their farms. They marched out of the fallen fortresses with all the honors of war, with arms and badges, drums beating, colors flying and matches lit. When Canada became British, the militia was incorporated into the new State organization. It distinguished itself again during the War of 1812 at Chateauguay, Detroit, Queenston Heights, Chippewa and Lundy's Lane. On numerous occasions the Imperial authorities commended the gallant conduct of the Canadian Militia.

When the Confederation of the Canadian Colonies was accomplished, in 1866, it was decided that the defence of the country should be left largely to the Militia, and a condition of Confederation was that this force was to be retained and strengthened, and a certain sum of money should be spent upon it annually.

When an invasion was threatened from the United States in 1866, the Canadian Militia sprang to arms and manned the frontiers. When General Louis Riel raised the banner of rebellion in the North-West Territories of Canada on two occasions, it was the civilian soldiers that suppressed the uprising. When the British power under Lord Wolseley went to the assistance of General Gordon in the Soudan, a contingent of Canadians, under Colonel Frederick Denison, C.B., M.P., helped to pilot the Nile

barges up that historic river. Again when war broke out in South Africa, the Canadian contingent covered itself with glory on the hard won field of Paardeburg, helping materially to win the first decisive victory in South Africa for the British Army.

The 48th Highlanders Regiment in the Canadian Militia was formed in 1891. A number of enthusiastic Scotchmen met in the City of Toronto and decided to organize a Militia Regiment wearing the tartan kilt and feather bonnet. Committees were formed and in a very short time sufficient funds were raised to enable the regiment to be uniformed. Sir George E. Foster, then Minister of Finance for the Dominion of Canada, Sir John A. Macdonald, the Prime Minister, and Sir Oliver Mowat, the Premier of the Province of Ontario, lent their patronage to the movement. The writer was associated in the work, and appeared in the first Gazette as a Captain of the new corps. The first Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel J.I. Davidson, Lieutenant-Colonel A.M. Cosby, Lieutenant-Colonel W.C. Macdonald, Lieutenant-Colonel Robertson and Lieutenant-Colonel William Hendrie were on the original committees of the regiment. At the time of writing this book, the regiment had one Colonel and five Lieutenant-Colonels on active service, namely, Colonel Currie, M.P., Lieutenant-Colonels Marshall, Hendrie, Dansereau, Miller and Chisholm.

One of the leading spirits in the formation of the corps was Hon. Lt.-Colonel Dr. Alexander Fraser, Ph.D., A.D.C., the noted Celtic scholar and antiquarian. The tartan chosen was the old Davidson tartan in honor of its first Colonel. The badge was the Celtic motto "Dileas Gu Brath." It was given the number "48" in the Canadian Militia list, which number on its bonnets and badges it has since proudly worn on two continents and in three countries, on tented ground and hard fought field. In the South African War the regiment sent its quota and the men served with much distinction.

Many Highland gatherings in Canada were held under the auspices of this regiment. A bayonet team was sent to the Royal Military tournament, at Islington, in June, 1897, and this team carried off the three principal events, viz.: the Colonial Individual Competition, the All-Comers' Individual Championship and the Team Championship. Private George Stewart it was that won the Championship, and a great reception was tendered him when he came home to Canada.

The regiment had always paid a great deal of attention to musketry and in 1913, the year the writer became Commanding Officer, the blue ribbon of Rifle shooting, the King's Prize, was won at Bisley by a member of the corps, Sergeant Hawkins. In that year the Colonel-in-Chief of the regiment, General Sir Ian Hamilton, arrived in Canada on a tour of inspection of the Overseas Forces of the Crown. He reviewed the regiment and expressed himself as well pleased. This visit was considered a great honor.

Early in the year 1914, the strength of the regiment was raised to a peace establishment of 867, rank and file, and the field training of the corps took place at Petawawa, where Lord Brooke had command of the Canadian forces in training. The regiment behaved well and showed evidence of the high standard of efficiency which it subsequently reached. The greatest enthusiasm prevailed, and the corps was in excellent form when the war was declared in August, 1914. It was the first to volunteer as a unit for Overseas service.

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