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Issue 24 - Capital's military connection

History & Heritage

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Scotland Magazine Issue 24
January 2006

 

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Capital's military connection

In the final part of our series on Scotland's army regiments, Mark Nicholls looks at the Edinburgh-based Royal Scots, the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards and the role of the Scots Guards

Edinburgh is a city steeped in the military history of Scotland. Few locations hold that closer than Edinburgh Castle, soaring above the capital. It hosts two regiments – the Royal Scots and the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards – and their museums, and it is also home to the National War Museum of Scotland and the Scottish National War Memorial.

And every summer, this magnificent history is brought so vividly to life in the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

For anyone seeking an insight into the military history of Scotland, Edinburgh Castle is a must-see destination.

The Royal Scots Regimental Museum has paintings, artefacts, silver and medals telling the story of the regiment with collections displayed to give a chronological progression, while the museum of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards depicts the life and times and the colourful history of the cavalry regiment.

Yet if you are starting with the military museums at Edinburgh Castle, also take time to explore the castle further and enjoy panoramic views across the city.

Within its walls is the 900-year-old St Margaret’s Chapel – the city’s oldest building – the Stone of Destiny, the Scottish Crown Jewels and the famous 15th century gun Mons Meg, the One O’ Clock Gun.

From a military history perspective, not one regiment in the British Army can trace its line as far back as that of the Royal Scots.

It was formed in 1633 when Sir John Hepburn raised a body of men in Scotland for service in France under a Royal Warrant granted by King Charles I.

His force was of 1200 men but by 1635 this had grown to 8000.

Yet for the Royal Scots, a merger lies ahead that will see it disappear from the ranks of the British Army as a selfcontained regiment.

From next year the Royal Scots is being absorbed into a new Scottish super regiment under a planned reorganisation of Scotland’s six infantry regiments.

Under the process the Royal Scots would merge with King’s Own Scottish Borderers and form one battalion of the new Royal Regiment of Scotland. The other four battalions would be made up by the Black Watch, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, the Royal Highland Fusiliers and the Highlanders.

Wearing the tartan of Royal Stewart, the Royal Scots has a proud history and since its early days has fought in many campaigns from Tangier to The War of the Spanish Succession, The Napoleonic Wars, The Peninsular War and both World Wars

During the first world war, the number of battalions in the regiment soared to 35 but after the Second World War the two regular battalions were amalgamated, the first time since 1686 that it had only a single battalion.

In celebrating its 350th anniversary in 1983, the Queen’s daughter Prince Anne became Colonel in Chief. The regiment operates as a Light Role Infantry Battalion and has more recently seen service in Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Iraq.

The recruiting footprint of the Royal Scots covers Edinburgh and tracts of the Lothian region, across which are spread numerous landmarks, memorials and other sites associated with its soldiers over more than three-and-a-half centuries, including the Royal Scots Monument in the capital’s Princes Street Gardens.

Two other famous Scottish regiments, both with an equally long and flamboyant history and strong links to Edinburgh and beyond, have escaped the defence cuts and mergers.

They are The Royal Scots Dragoon Guard and the Scots Guards, a cavalry and guards regiment respectively, which both recruit across the whole of Scotland.

The Scots Guards can trace its origins back to 1642. With rebellion in Ireland, King Charles I sanctioned the raising of 10 Scottish regiments for service. Among them, the King commissioned Archibald, 1st Marquis of Argyll, to raise a Royal regiment of 1,500 men to be the King’s Royal Guard and from that date they became known as the Scots Guards.

Since then the regiment has been fiercely proud of unbroken service to the monarch, carrying out the highest standards of ceremonial duties in front of Buckingham Palace in the heart of London.

Yet the Scots Guards is also an active service unit having been involved in the Peninsular War, the Napoleonic War, the South African War (1899-1902) and in both World Wars. More recently, the regiment has been on duty in Northern Ireland and the Gulf.

As a Guards regiment, its museum is that of the other Guards regiments, at the Guards Museum, Wellington Barracks, Birdcage Walk, London.

The Royal Scots Dragoon Guard (Carabiniers and Grey) is Scotland’s only regular cavalry regiment. It was formed as recently as 1971 from the union of the 3rd Carabinieres and the Royal Scots Greys, which itself was formed in 1678 providing the regiment with the oldest surviving cavalry line in the British Army.

Like other cavalry regiments, it is now part of the Royal Armoured Corps and while tanks and armoured cars have replaced horses, it is that spirit of the past that underpins its history.

More recently, it has served in modern hotspots such as Northern Ireland and the Balkans as well as in Iraq and Kuwait in 1990-91.

The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards has a unique affinity with Edinburgh, a capital with buildings which ooze elegance, grandeur and beauty: modern, historic and innovative.

And there is literally so much to do and see in Scotland’s capital.

There a few more stunning city views than from Princes Street to the Old Town and the castle while history abounds in the Royal Mile linking Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyrood House, a walk that takes you by the new Scottish Parliament building.

There is also the Royal Museum and the Museum of Scotland with gallery after gallery of international treasures, The National Galleries of Scotland or if it is something a little more modern, take in the Gallery of Modern Art and the Dean Gallery. Edinburgh is also a remarkably green city with parks and gardens, including the Royal Botanic Garden.

Edinburgh is, of course, the festival city: the Science Festival in April; The Children’s Festival, Royal Highland Show and local festivals in May and June; before August’s Edinburgh International Festival, Military Tattoo, the Fringe and book, film and jazz festivals.

And just out of the city, across Lothian, there are some fabulous towns to visit such as Dunbar with its lively harbour, the remarkable Rosslyn Chapel or the palace at Linlithgow, which was the favoured home of the Stuart monarchs.

For great architectural wonders admire the Forth Bridge, a miracle of engineering.

You can also see the Royal Yacht Britannia moored at Ocean Terminal, two miles from the city centre.

And for a day of sport, go to Musselburgh for the races before returning to enjoy the fabulous nightlife, fine dining and pure ambience of Scotland’s capital.

LINKS

The Royal Scots:
www.army.mod.uk/ royalscots

The Royal Scots Regimental Museum, Edinburgh Castle:
Tel: +44 (0)131 310 5014

The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards:
www.mod.uk/scotsdg

The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Regimental Museum, Edinburgh Castle:
Tel: +44 (0)131 310 5100

The Scots Guards:
www.army.mod.uk/ scotsguards

The Guards Museum, Wellington Barracks, Birdcage Walk, London:
Tel: +44 (0)207 414 3428

Edinburgh:
www.edinburgh.org
The Royal Museum and the Museum of Scotland:
www.nms.ac.uk

Edinburgh – The Festival City:
www.eventfuledinburgh .com

Edinburgh Castle:
www.historicscotland.

gov.uk Rosslyn Chapel:
www.rosslynchapel.org.uk