1725 – 1793
From Independent Companies to Famous Regiment
The history of the 42nd Royal Highland Regiment of Foot "Black Watch" reaches back to the year 1725, when six independent companies were formed from Highland clan members loyal to the British crown. Their task was to police the Scottish Highlands and prevent further uprisings against the English rule. Most likely the famous nickname "Black Watch" also dates back to these times and refers to the mission of the companies as well as the dark colours of their tartan.
In 1739 the independent companies were formed into the 43rd (Highland) Regiment of Foot. The regiment was inspected by its first Lieutenant Colonel, Sir Robert Munro of Foulis, in May 1740 near Aberfeldy. The baptism of fire for the new regiment came during the War of Austrian Succession at the battle of Fontenoy in Flanders on May 11th, 1745, where they performed outstandingly.
During its stay in Ireland from 1749 to 1756 the regiment was renumbered into 42nd (Highland) Regiment of Foot due to the disbandment of another unit. Between 1756 and 1763 the regiment saw action in the "French and Indian War" in North America. For the action at the unsuccessful siege of Fort Ticonderoga in 1758, of which an officer wrote: "I have seen men behave with courage and resolution before, but so much determined bravery can hardly be equalled.", the regiment was awarded the title "Royal". During the same time a second battalion was raised in Scotland. Fort Ticonderoga finally fell into British hands in 1762 and both battalions took part in the fight.
In 1775 the regiment returned to Scotland after 34 years of campaigning in North America, the West Indies and Ireland. The appalling conditions especially in the West Indies and the resulting diseases had cost many lives, so that the two battalions were amalgamated. The badge and the motto "Nemo me impune lacessit", Latin for "Nobody provokes me without being hurt", had been granted to the Regiment in 1768 during its stay in Ireland.
The 1st Battalion left Scotland again on May 1st, 1776, to fight in the War of Independence. Until 1783 they took part in several famous battles, e.g. White Plains, (1776), Brandywine Creek (1777) and Germantown (1777). From 1783 on they were stationed in Canada and returned to Scotland 1789. The second battalion, which was raised again in 1779, fought in India during the same time and there was reformed as 73rd (Highland) Regiment of Foot on April 18th, 1786. From 1789 to 1793 the Black Watch remained in Scotland.