The Lovat Scouts was a British Army unit first formed during the Second Boer War as a Scottish Highland yeomanry regiment of the British Army. They were the first known military unit to wear a ghillie suit and in 1916 formally became the British Army's first sniper unit, then known as "sharpshooters". It served in the First World War and the Second World War and today forms A (The Lovat Scouts) Company within the 2nd Battalion, 51st Highland Volunteers.
Cap badge of the Lovat Scouts
|Size||1900s: Two battalions|
World War I: Six regiments
World War II: Two battalions
|Motto(s)||Je suis prest (I am ready)|
|Battle honours||South Africa 1900–02|
France and Flanders 1916–18
|Major Simon Joseph Fraser, 16th Lord Lovat |
Captain Simon Fraser, 17th Lord Lovat
Formation and early historyEdit
The regiment was formed in January 1900 for service in the Second Boer War by Simon Fraser, 14th Lord Lovat as the Lovat Scouts. Recruited initially from gamekeepers on Highland estates, the unit was commanded by an American, Major Frederick Russell Burnham, the British Army Chief of Scouts under Lord Roberts, who fittingly described Lovat Scouts as "half wolf and half jackrabbit". Burnham would later go on to become one of the founders of the Boy Scouts. Well practiced in the arts of marksmanship, fieldcraft and military tactics, they were also phenomenal woodsmen always ready to tempt fate, but also practitioners of discretion: "He who shoots and runs away, lives to shoot another day." Lovats scouts have the distinction of being the first military unit to wear a Ghillie suit.
Lovat scouts were attached to the Black Watch, but were disbanded in July 1901 while two companies (the 113th and 114th) were formed for the Imperial Yeomanry. After the end of the Second Boer War in June 1902, the two companies of the Imperial Yeomanry returned to the United Kingdom on SS Tintagel Castle two months later, and were disbanded. The unit was reformed the following year, consisting of two regiments, titled the 1st and 2nd Lovat Scouts. From these scouts a sharpshooter unit was formed and formally become the British Army's first sniper unit. The regiment was disbanded in August 1902 but reformed as Lovat's Scouts Imperial Yeomanry in March 1903. It reverted to the Lovat's Scouts in April 1908. The regiment was based at Croyard Road near Beauly at this time (since demolished).
First World WarEdit
In accordance with the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907 (7 Edw. 7, c.9) which brought the Territorial Force into being, the TF was intended to be a home defence force for service during wartime and members could not be compelled to serve outside the country. However, on the outbreak of war on 4 August 1914, many members volunteered for Imperial Service. Therefore, TF units were split in August and September 1914 into 1st Line (liable for overseas service) and 2nd Line (home service for those unable or unwilling to serve overseas) units. Later, a 3rd Line was formed to act as a reserve, providing trained replacements for the 1st and 2nd Line regiments.
1/1st and 1/2nd Lovat ScoutsEdit
The 1/1st Lovat's Scouts Yeomanry landed in Gallipoli in September 1915. It was evacuated to Egypt in December 1915 and then converted into 10th (Lovat's Scouts) Battalion, the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders in September 1916. It landed at Salonika and under the command of 82nd Brigade in the 27th Division in October 1916 and then became Line of Communication troops in France in June 1918.
2/1st and 2/2nd Lovat ScoutsEdit
The 2nd Line regiments were formed in 1914 and in January 1915 joined the 2/1st Highland Mounted Brigade. On 31 March 1916, the remaining Mounted Brigades were ordered to be numbered in a single sequence; the brigade became the 1st Mounted Brigade and joined 1st Mounted Division in Norfolk.
In July 1916, the 1st Mounted Division was reorganised as the 1st Cyclist Division and the regiments were converted to cyclist units in the 1st Cyclist Brigade of the division at Somerleyton near Lowestoft. In November 1916, the 1st Cyclist Division was broken up and the regiments were merged to form 1st (Lovat's Scouts) Yeomanry Cyclist Regiment, still in the 1st Cyclist Brigade. In March 1917, they resumed their identities as 2/1st Lovat's Scouts and 2/2nd Lovat's Scouts at Gorleston. By July 1917, the regiments had moved to Beccles, where they remained until the end of the war, still in 1st Cyclist Brigade.
3/1st and 3/2nd Lovat ScoutsEdit
The 3rd Line regiments were raised in July 1915 at Beauly and affiliated to a Reserve Cavalry Regiment at Aldershot. They provided drafts to 1st and 2nd Line regiments. In June 1916, they moved to Perth. The regiments were disbanded in January 1917 with personnel transferring to the 2nd Line units or to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion of the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders at Invergordon.
In 1916 the regiment formed detachments known as "sharpshooters" which used for observation and sniping work in France.
Between the warsEdit
Postwar, a commission was set up to consider the shape of the Territorial Force (Territorial Army from 1 October 1921). The experience of the First World War made it clear that cavalry was surfeit. The commission decided that only the 14 most senior regiments were to be retained as cavalry. Eight regiments were converted to Armoured Car Companies of the Royal Tank Corps (RTC), one was reduced to a battery in another regiment, one was absorbed into a local infantry battalion, one became a signals regiment and two were disbanded. The remaining 25 regiments were converted to brigades[a] of the Royal Field Artillery between 1920 and 1922. The Lovat Scouts was reduced to a single regiment, but remained mounted as a "scouts" unit—as did the Scottish Horse.
Second World WarEdit
From May 1940 to June 1942, the Lovat Scouts provided the garrison in the Faroe Islands, protecting against the feared German invasion. After a period based in northern Scotland and Wales, the regiment was sent to Canada in December 1943 for specialist ski and mountain training. They sailed on the Mauretania for 11 days. They pulled into Grand Central Station, New York and then travelled on the Canadian Pacific Railway eventually arriving in Jasper National Park after five days. The training started with basic ski training, with the emphasis on cross country work with the type of load that would have to be carried in action e.g. sleeping bag, rations for two or more days, and a rifle. This was followed by survival instruction—what to do and what not to do to exist and function in very cold conditions e.g. by digging snow holes in which to sleep, or erecting simple shelters from the virgin pine and spruce forests. After this stage, there was instruction and practice in ascents on snow and ice, use of ice axe, crampons etc.
Typically, men would spend three or four weeks at a mountain base, in the vicinity of Mount Edith Cavell, or in the Tonquin Valley—all within the 4200 square miles of Jasper National Park. In that time, squadrons would practice their survival work in expeditions usually lasting about two or three days at a time, with the men sleeping in snow holes. For the remainder of the time, they were billeted in canvas marquees, each accommodating about 25 men, with a large wood-burning stove in the middle that was kept on night and day with logs sawn from the fallen or naturally dead trees in the area.
At the end of the three or four weeks on Mount Edith Cavell or in the Tonquin Valley, the men would come down for a few days' rest and recreation in the chalets in Jasper, Alberta. Alberta was then a "dry" province, so there was no alcohol. When a few days' leave was given, most made the 500-mile journey to Vancouver or Halifax, Nova Scotia or Windsor, Ontario, where they were entertained by the many Scottish expatriates, or their descendants, who were able to get limitless supplies of liquor from over the U.S. border.
By late April, spring was well on the way, and the regiment embarked by train for a journey to Halifax. Their intended embarkation there was delayed when some fell ill with scarlet fever, but training continued with work on river crossing, whether or not the individual soldiers could swim, and route marches. Eventually, all embarked on the converted liner Andes on convoy, which had an uneventful crossing, being in mid-Atlantic on 6 June, the day of the Normandy landings. On landing at Liverpool, the regiment entrained for Aberdeen Kittybrewster railway station, where it spent about three weeks, including spells of home leave.
As a consequence of its training in Jasper, the Scouts was sent to Italy. The Scouts arrived in Naples, Italy in July 1944, to take their part in the relatively fluid situation between the fall of Monte Cassino. As part of, successively, the 10th Indian Infantry Division, II Corps (Poland), and latterly the recently arrived Jewish Brigade, the regiment took part in the remainder of the Italian campaign, and the German surrender in early May 1945.
At the end of the war in Europe, the regiment drove north, through the Brenner Pass, into Austria, where they sought out senior members of the Nazi party. In early 1946, the regiment moved to Greece by plane, landing in Salonika in support of the Greek Civil Power during the communist insurgency. Upon the reconstitution of the Territorial Army in 1947, the regiment was reduced to a squadron (C (Lovat Scouts) Squadron) of The Scottish Horse, part of the Royal Armoured Corps. It was converted to artillery becoming the 677th Mountain Artillery, RA (Lovat Scouts) in 1949 and the 540th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, RA (Lovat Scouts) in 1950.
After the defence cuts of 1967, the unit became A (The Lovat Scouts) Company, 2nd Battalion, 51st Highland Volunteers. The unit was re-organised as two separate platoons in two different companies of 51st Highland Volunteers in 1981 and as two separate platoons of 3rd (Volunteer) Battalion, The Highlanders (Seaforth, Gordons and Camerons) in 1995. The Lovat Scouts lineage was reduced to one platoon, the Lovat Scouts Platoon, of C (Highlanders) Company, 51st Highland Regiment in 1999. The lineage was maintained by the Orkney Independent Cadet Battery (RA) Lovat Scouts from 2012 until 1 January 2018 when the unit amalgamated with Shetland Independent Cadet Battery (RA) forming the Orkney and Shetland Battery (RA) Lovat Scouts.
- The basic organic unit of the Royal Artillery was, and is, the Battery. When grouped together, they formed brigades, in the same way that infantry battalions or cavalry regiments were grouped together in brigades. At the outbreak of the First World War, a field artillery brigade of headquarters (4 officers, 37 other ranks), three batteries (5 and 193 each), and a brigade ammunition column (4 and 154) had a total strength just under 800 so was broadly comparable to an infantry battalion (just over 1,000) or a cavalry regiment (about 550). Like an infantry battalion, an artillery brigade was usually commanded by a lieutenant colonel. Artillery brigades were redesignated as regiments in 1938.
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