It's been an interest of mine, when time allows, to research the men listed upon the 1914 and 1914-15 star medal roll for the Black Watch.
Here i will share the statistical breakdown of these results, so far. These will be updated as more research is done.
The 1st, 2nd and 5th battalions of the Royal Highlanders (Black Watch) reached France and Belgium in the qualifying period for the awarding of the 1914 Star, between 5th August and midnight on the 22nd of November 1914.
Composition of the men.
90% of the other ranks, with known places of birth, were Scottish born. English born men made up almost 7% of the remainder, with a sprinkling of Irish, welsh and dominion born men making up the rest.
The average age of a soldier that died was 24. The youngest being two 16 year olds and the oldest a 48 year old.
Previous war service.
About 400 men of the regular battalions have service numbers that indicate they may have served in the 2nd Boer War, that's 14% of the other ranks listed in the 1914 star roll. A handful of the territorials had been in South Africa also as regulars with the Black Watch, other regiments or with the local volunteer units that volunteered to go.
Of the officers of the regular battalions, 28 saw active service in South Africa. Therefore over 3,500 of the Black Watch soldiers who qualified for the 1914 Star had no experience of soldiering in wartime.
Black Watch 1914 Stars awarded (1st, 2nd & 5th Bns) - 3699
Deceased - 1327 (36%)
The territorials were used as lines of communication troops when they arrived in late Autumn, so they did not have the same experience of open warfare the regulars had in 1914.
So taking only the two regular battalions as a whole, the 1914 casualties present a slightly different overall picture of a 40% fatality rate.
The initial cohort of the 1st battalion: 33 officers and 1,153 other ranks (slightly different numbers are given by other sources, but these are the star roll numbers) arrived on the continent on the 13th of August, 1914.
The 1st battalion were never at Mons. The first time they engaged the Germans, aside form the odd Uhlan scout and being lightly shelled on their march, was on the 8th of September at the Marne. This is where the battalion suffered its first fatal casualties.
The most recently enlisted soldier to go with this first contingent, whose date of enlistment is known, joined on the 27th of June, 1914, only 6 weeks before departure.
There were 4 large reinforcement drafts made up almost exclusively of reservists and special reservists consisting of 32 further officers and 722 other ranks.
1st Btn 1914 Star - 1939 awarded – 777 dead - 40%
Officers – 65
Deceased – 31 (48%)
Year - deaths - % of total dead
1914 – 22 (71%)
1915 – 5 (16%)
1916 – 2 (7%)
1917 – 0
1918 – 1 (3%)
1919 – 0
1920 – 0
1921 – 1 (3%)
Other Ranks - 1874
Deceased – 746 (40%)
Year - deaths - % of dead
1914 – 352 - (47%)
1915 – 246 - (33%)
1916 – 70 - (9%)
1917 – 30 - (4%)
1918 – 42 - (6%)
1919 – 5 - (0.6%)
1920 – 1 - (0.1%)
The 2nd Btn arrived from India, landing at Boulogne, on the 12th of October, 1914. Almost all depot reinforcements were fed into the 1st battalion, only a few, other than those who arrived from India, are on the roll.
The 2nd btn missed out on the open warfare of 1914, but once in the line at the end of October, they did suffer considerable casualties throughout November and December, the flooded shallow trenches providing little protection.
2nd Btn 1914 Star - 944 awarded – 383 dead - 41%
Officers - 21
Deceased – 13 (62%)
Year - deaths - % of dead
1914 – 1 (7%)
1915 – 7 (54%)
1916 – 4 (32%)
1917 – 1 (7%)
Other Ranks - 923
Deceased – 370 (40%)
Year - deaths - % of dead
1914 – 57 - (15%)
1915 – 182 - (50%)
1916 – 84 - (23%)
1917 – 18 - (5%)
1918 – 20 - (5%)
1919 – 5 - (1%)
1920 - 4 - (1%)
The Territorials of the 5th (Angus & Dundee) Black Watch left for France on the 1st of November 1914, landing at Le Havre in the early hours of the 2nd.
It wasn't until the 17th they were engaged in trench digging work, about a mile behind the firing line. In letters home they complained of the lack of excitement of the work!
The first casualties occurred in early December, by which time they were engaged in night time trench digging parties, under Royal Engineer instruction, at the front.
5th Btn 1914 Star – 816 awarded – 167 dead (20%)
Officers - 29
Deceased – 3 (10%)
1915 - 1 - (33%)
1916 - 2 - (66%)
other ranks. - 787
Deceased – 164 (21%)
1914 - 5 - (3%)
1915 - 61 - (37%)
1916 - 46 - (28%)
1917 - 28 - (17%)
1918 - 25 - (15%)
1919 - 1 - (1%)
1914-15 Star (other ranks only)
The numbers (so far) show that for 7,500 entries - Dead = 3,000 - 40.0% (the roundness of these numbers at this stage is remarkable)
It's interesting to see the lethality of service throughout the war for 1914-15 star men is the same as that of the 1914 star men (the 5th btn aside). This however may be a skewed figure, as many slightly wounded, but medically downgraded men, would be transferred to support arms such as the Labour Corps or Army Service Corps and be listed upon their 1914-15 star medal roll, these have yet to be included.
Approximately 11,500 men may be listed in the 1914-15 star roll for the Black Watch. This will include those who initially served abroad with the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, (4th/5th), 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 13th and 14th Battalions. Unfortunately does not include an unknown number who initially served with the regiment before transferring out, who are now subsequently listed upon their later regiments roll.
* 5 men who went abroad in 1914, qualifying for the 1914-15, but not the 1914 star, died before the end of 1914.
* There are two men, in different battalions, with the same name, rank, army number and embarkation date.
While Perth and Perthshire are the historical home of the regiment, there's no doubt Dundee was the beating heart of the Black Watch. Men born or residing in the city make up by far the largest contingent, across all regular and service battalions.
(Once all the 1914-15 star roll is transcribed and researched, with as many as possible of the transferred out men on other regiments rolls added, then more statistics can be looked at. I may add more analysis on the 1914 star men at a later date also)
Edited by Derek Black