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This Won't Please Many

Reports are that the British Government has backtracked on stripping the battalions of the Royal Regiment of Scotland of their historic names. In a weak sop to national and regimental pride, when the new regiment was formed in 2006 four of the five battalions were allowed to retain their old names in addition to their new battalion numbers. The exception was Royal Scots Borderers (1st Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland), which had been formed by the merger of  The Royal Scots and King’s Own Scottish Borders. The British Army would rather the present battalions were simply referred to as 1 SCOTS or 2 SCOTS, and so forth, and their historic identities forgotten. But the battalions have clung to their old identities, such as the Royal Highland Fusiliers, the Black Watch or the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and also to their distinctive coloured Tam o’ Shanter hackles. A forthcoming shake-up of the Army was expected to see the historic names being axed. That’s now supposedly off the table but it still looks as though one of the five battalions will be getting the chop. There’s talk that whichever battalion is disbanded, and that seems likely to be either the Highlanders (4 SCOTS) or the Argylls (5 SCOTS), its historic identity should be perpetuated by one of the Scotland’s two Territorial Army battalions. In view of the two most likely candidates for the chop, this will mean a change of identity for 51 Highland (7 SCOTS). That name was chosen to honour the 51st Highland Division which served with distinction in both World Wars. It also neatly avoided giving precedence to any of the Highland regiments based in its recruiting area. The proposed name change will alter that. I wonder how, say,  the Dundee-based Territorials, with their strong historic links to the Black Watch, will feel about becoming Argylls. The regional and historic name links are actually more relevant to the part-timers than they are to the regulars, many of whom have from sometime been assigned to the Scottish battalions almost regardless of home town. That’s not to say that individual regimental pride and tradition are not important when it comes to morale and efficiency, but the most important thing is the quality of a battalion’s present-day senior officers. Some battalions have had better luck than others in recent years when it comes to keeping things on an even keel. I can’t help feeling that Scotland’s infantry would not be in such a state of disarray if some of the senior officers had been less politician, Whitehall Warrior, and more soldier.

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