January 13, 2021

New Black Watch book highlights role of pipers in regiment

The Black Watch in the Great War: Rediscovered Histories from the Regimental Family (Tippermuir Books Limited, £15) is a new hard-bound book that relates stories of the renowned Scottish regiment by serving soldiers who served during World War I.

According to the publishers, “almost every chapter including some reference to pipers, but there are also several on that very theme that will be of interest to pipers and drummers and those who are interested in the pipes and drums.”

An entire chapter, “The Heirs of Hugh MacKay – Black Watch Pipers in the Great War” by Alistair Duthie, is dedicated entirely to serving players. There are various other sections devoted to stories of pipers’ experiences.

Contrary to the common notion that pipers didn’t see combat, Duthie writes:

When the public as a whole look at the Pipes and Drums on parade they are often unaware of the non-musical role they play in the life of the battalions they serve with. Regardless of regiment, all pipers are and always were combatants, so while like military musicians in general they are part of the ceremonial life of their regiments and corps, nevertheless in time of war, unlike military bandsmen these men were – and still are – soldiers and combatants. Today the Pipes and Drums of The Black Watch battalion are the Assault Pioneer Platoon, but at different times they have also been a Rifle Platoon and the Head Quarters Defence Platoon. During the Great War on the other hand, on mobilisation, all pipers except for the Sergeant Piper and five pipers reverted to the ranks and were then deployed at the discretion of the commanding officer.

The famous piper Brian Donaldson was a sergeant in the Scots Guards. He saw armed action in the Falklands War. He discussed his battlefield experience in his pipes|drums Interview.

The Black Watch had some 23 battalions involved in World War I, with tens of thousands of Black Watch soldiers serving in Europe and the Middle East. More than 8,000 gave up their lives in the war. The regiment received 69 battle honours. Four Black Watch soldiers received the Victoria Cross, the most prestigious award of the British honours system, awarded for bravery to the British Armed Forces members.

The regiment still exists in name as the Black Watch, 3rd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland (3 SCOTS) as an infantry battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, created in 2006 contentious amalgamation or dissolution of most Scottish regiments.

The publishers offer a £5 discount to members of the Black Watch Regimental Association and “wider regimental family” with the code BW2020.



Brian Donaldson: the pipes|drums Interview – Part 3
October 24, 2020

Honoured military pipe-majors
May 6, 2019

Black Watch drummer killed on duty in Iraq
November 30, 2004





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