Friday, July 22, 2016

Red Hackles in the Royal Navy

Royal Navy Lieutenants Chris Paulson (left) and Daniel Sercombe (right) keep watch as they guide HMS Montrose safely on passage. Oh, and they’re wearing red feathers – or hackles – to celebrate their affiliation with the legendary Black Watch. For more than 200 years, officers and men of 3rd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland – better known as the Black Watch – have been granted a privilege unique in the British Army of wearing a red hackle (a cluster of feathers) in their headgear. And every year, for one day only, the sailors of Montrose are granted sailors the right to wear the distinctive red ‘vulture feather’ in their headgear, for one day only.
AB Tom Hardman (pictured), the most recently-joined member of Montrose’s ship’s company, said: “I had no idea about the Red Hackle before I joined the Ship but I was proud to wear it, to mark our links with the Army. I can't wait to go on exercise with the Black Watch later in the year.” The origin of the red hackle is uncertain, although the most likely story is that the tradition arises from a 1795 action at the Battle of Geldermalsen (Netherlands), when a British cavalry regiment retreated, leaving two field guns for the French. The Black Watch promptly mounted an attack and recovered the guns and, 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 bonnet.

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