HMS Montrose Sailors Proudly Mark ‘Red Hackle Day’
Sailors from HMS Montrose proudly marked their Scottish links yesterday by fixing red feathers to their caps – as worn by their affiliates, the legendary Black Watch. For more than two centuries, the Scottish battalion has celebrated one of its greatest triumphs with a red feather – or hackle – in their caps, a tradition shared by the Devonport-based frigate.
The origin of the Black Watch wearing the red hackle is uncertain, although the most likely source is clash in the French Revolutionary Wars at Geldermalsen in the Netherlands in 1795.
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.
The tradition persists and whenever the opportunity arises the Black Watch celebrate ‘red hackle day’ on January 5 – or the nearest day to it.
“We are inordinately proud of our connections with the senior regiment of Highlanders, and our temporary deviation from naval uniform regulations is entirely justified to commemorate the close friendship between the Black Watch and the most Scottish ship in the Navy,” said Montrose’s CO Cdr James Parkin, who fixed a red hackle to his beret.
“We embarked a team of Scots from the battalion at sea last year – something which was greatly enjoyed by all – and look forward to sending a group of my sailors to Inverness to experience life in the field before we deploy overseas later this year.”
Naval Today Staff, January 9, 2013; Image: Royal Navy