May 12, 2012

What’s in a name? Just centuries of military tradition

Filed under: Britain, Bureaucracy, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 11:33

The military bureaucrats and their civilian masters are well on the way to stamping out all those awfully old-fashioned names and symbols of the Scottish highland regiments:

Senior Downing Street sources said David Cameron is not yet at the stage of overruling Philip Hammond, his Defence Secretary, over his proposal to replace iconic names like the Black Watch with battalion numbers.

But they were keen to emphasise that no final decision has been made and the Prime Minister is aware of the potential political damage to the campaign to prevent Scotland separating from the UK.

[. . .]

Fury has been mounting since the Defence Secretary told the Daily Telegraph earlier this week that the “ancient cap badges have largely gone” and some traditional regimental names are now just “attached in brackets”.

Under Mr Hammond’s proposals, the Black Watch, 3rd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland (3 SCOTS), would become just 3 SCOTS and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlands would be names 5 SCOTS.

[. . .]

The former Labour Government faced a fierce backlash when the battalions were amalgamated in 2005 to form the Royal Regiment of Scotland, but they were promised they could keep their historic names.

Jeff Duncan, who managed the Save Scotland’s Army Regiments campaign, said yesterday it had restarted and nearly 1,500 had signed up in only 48 hours using the social networking site Facebook.


  1. the Black Watch, 3rd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland (3 SCOTS), would become just 3 SCOTS

    Hunh. For years and years the British Army was held up as ‘the’ way for an army to retain traditions and etc.

    “So it goes.”

    Comment by Brian Dunbar — May 12, 2012 @ 17:17

  2. Bureaucrats believe there is no particular advantage to assigning distinctive names to military units. This is why the Ministry of Defence would prefer to be launching HMS CVA 01 and HMS CVA 02 rather than HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.

    It’s also easier to amalgamate the 17th and 21st battalions of infantry without having to worry about superannuated colonels writing letters to the Times and having dinosaur Conservative MPs raising questions in the House of Commons. Emotion and tradition get in the way and have no effect that can be measured on a spreadsheet, so they can be safely ignored and/or dispensed with at the earliest convenience.

    Comment by Nicholas — May 12, 2012 @ 17:37

  3. The whole idea behind regiments was loyalty. I’m afraid by getting rid of the honourable names of long standing regiments, it is an attempt to create a blancmange fighting force…to fight for the EU.

    Comment by Wallhouse Wart — May 13, 2012 @ 09:06

  4. Canada tried this in WWI. We learned…

    Comment by Dwayne — May 13, 2012 @ 22:15

  5. The argument against using traditional names is supposedly made by the fate of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment on 1 July, 1916: “It was a magnificent display of trained and disciplined valour, and its assault only failed of success because dead men can advance no further.” 780 men started the advance, less than 1 in 7 ended the day alive and unwounded, and 68 men answered the roll call on 2 July.

    Comment by Nicholas — May 15, 2012 @ 15:05

  6. The argument against using traditional names is supposedly made by the fate of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment on 1 July, 1916:

    You’re going to have to explain the logic.

    The ‘crats would rather what … the soldiers involved voted on whether or not to attack? Declined to obey orders? Wrote their mom and complained?

    Comment by Brian Dunbar — May 17, 2012 @ 11:03

  7. You’re going to have to explain the logic.

    It’s along the lines of naming regiments/having units drawn from a named geographical area means that losses in combat will be concentrated in the home recruiting areas, creating morale problems on the home front and raising political pressure to make peace/reduce combat tempo/pull that unit out of “dangerous” combat assignments.

    The RNR example is pretty extreme, as Newfoundland casualties were (I believe) the highest ever suffered in one battle by an Imperial or Commonwealth unit, and Newfoundland was then (and is still) lightly populated compared to other colonies/dominions in the Empire. In more human terms: there were very few families in Newfoundland who were not mourning a dead soldier after 1 July, 1916.

    Comment by Nicholas — May 17, 2012 @ 11:21

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