Red Hackle Day

4. Red Hackle

Today is Red Hackle Day. This annual celebration on 5 January commemorates the award to The Black Watch of the right to wear the Red Hackle. Originally thought to be as a reward for their achievement at the Battle of Geldermaisen in 1794, in fact there is evidence to show that the Red Hackle was worn by the Regiment during the American War of Independence 1775-1783.

The idea behind the modern day celebration was to highlight the importance of the role of the ordinary soldier without whose support officers would not be able to achieve their goals.
The pattern for the day would start with soldiers being brought tea, liberally laced with whisky, known as “Gunfire”. by an officer or senior NCO. At 10am there would be games between officers and NCOs then at 1pm the officers would parade to the cookhouse and proceed to serve lunch to the soldiers. The day would end at 7pm when senior ranks would be invited to the Officers’ Mess for drinks and a buffet.



About blackwatchmuseum

The Museum of The Black Watch offers an insight into one of the British Army's if not the world's most famous fighting units. Scotland's Black Watch is an elite military regiment whose history stretches back almost three centuries.
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6 Responses to Red Hackle Day

  1. Roger Kirwin says:

    Interesting reference to the hackle being worn during the American revolution. Could I enquire what is the primary source document(s)?
    Thanks, Roger (USA)

  2. Hi Roger,

    Thanks for your interest. A letter was written by Lt Col Sir Robert Dick to General James Stirling on 8 Sept 1822; both were former commanders of the 42nd, the latter having served during the Revolutionary War. Dick, in his letter, enquired as to the history of the red hackle. Stirling, in his reply, stated that the origins of the red hackle commenced in 1776 when Sir William Howe ordered the 42nd to wear red feathers in their bonnets to provide a uniform distinguishing feature for the Regiment.

    • Paul Pace says:

      Then Sgt. James Stirling was the Brevet-QM to the “provisional” 2nd Battalion, 42nd Regt. at the beginning of the American War and would likely have been involved in the obtaining and distributing the red feathers, and is thus a very creditable source. Paul Pace, Kilts & Courage

  3. Cameron donald morrison says:

    I have just spent the last 4 hours reading up on the black watch- on computer. I tip my hat to one and all. And it is the early hours of the 5th of jan 2017 in melb. Australia. And to read that this is ‘red hackle day’ strikes a cord in my heart. For i am not a military member, however i come from a strong military family that has represented and fort for australia in both world wars. .’there is no glory in war’- only in ‘the battle of good over evil is there true glory to be found’…
    In closing, the black watch has always been in my heart, i guess it is the Scottish heritage in my blood. Have a Bonnie day. ☺

  4. Angie Fraser says:

    The Black Watch of the Battles❗️
    The First to Fight❗️
    The Last to Withdraw❗️

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