INFORMATION SHEET No. 23
Early connections between the
Clan Munro and The Black Watch
A series of Independent Companies had been keeping watch and ward in the Highlands off and on since 1667, and it was from these, as reformed under General Wade in 1725, that the senior Highland Regiment in the British Army grew. Letters of service were issued to John Earl of Crawford in 1739 to raise a new Regiment in the Highlands, consisting of ten companies of 78 men each plus Officers, to be formed partly out of the six Independent Companies then existing one of which was a Munro Company.
Crawford was recovering from wounds received while fighting with the Russians against the Turks, and he did not himself assume command; Hugh Lord Sempill another experienced Officer who succeeded him as Colonel in January 1741 is also said to have been 'generally absent1. So the main responsibility of command in the Regiment's formative years fell on the Lieutenant Colonel, Sir Robert Munro of Foulis, who had served under Marlborough in Flanders with the Royal Scots, and commanded one of the Independent Companies 1714-16. Two of his ten Company Commanders were Munros - his brother George Munro of Culcairn (also an Independent Company Commander) and a cousin John Munro of Newmore who had previous experience as an Officer in two other Regiments; George Monro of the Auchinbowie line, a distant kinsman, was the first surgeon.
Owing to the loss of the Regiment's early records, we have no means of knowing how many Munros were serving in the ranks and as NCO's but with the Chief and his close relations serving Officers it would be fair to surmise that men of the name would at least have amounted to a Company in strength.
The Regiment's uniform had to be approved by the King (George II), and Sir Robert duly presented a 'Serjeant and Centinel' in London in January 1740, wearing the Highland dress with kilt and plaid of dark green 'Government' tartan (which the clan still proudly wears as a hunting sett). They 'performed their exercise' to the royal satisfaction before a group of general Officers and the King's son William Duke of Cumberland, 'with such dexterity' that the King ordered them a handsome gratuity (which it is said' they gave to the porter at the palace gate as they passed out'). The first muster was held in May beside the River Tay at Aberfeldy, where a figure dressed in the approved uniform crowns a monument erected in 1887.
The Regiment received their baptism of fire against the French at Fontenoy, after a campaign in which their behaviour towards the civilian population made them a favourite choice as guardians of property, and the Elector Palatine told his London envoy that this was owing to Sir Robert's care 'for whose sake he should always pay a regard to a Scotchman1. At Fontenoy the day-long battle began well but ended with a British withdrawal which The Highland Regiment of Foot (later The Black Watch) were chosen to cover; allowed "their own way of fighting" by the young C-in-C (Cumberland), each time they received the French fire, Sir Robert ordered them 'to clap the ground1 while he being old and fat, was unable to and stood alone unscathed with the colours behind him, then springing up and closing with the enemy they several times drove them off in confusion before they could reload and finished with a successful rearguard action "The Highland furies," wrote a French officer, "rushed in upon us with more violence than ever did a sea, driven by a tempest... We gained the victory, but may I never see such another."
They (The Highland Regiment of Foot) lost three Officers and at least 100 men. Sir Robert was promoted to the command of the 37th Foot, later the Hampshire Regiment which he led at the Battle of Falkirk. (John Munro of Newmore took over as Lieutenant Colonel for his conduct in the Battle of Fontenoy, superseding a Major and three Captains). Sir Robert was deserted by his new Regiment when the Jacobites charged the ill prepared Government army. He was attacked by six of Lochiel's Regiment, two of whom he managed to kill before a seventh came up and shot him in the groin before dispatching him with two strokes across the face with his claymore. His unarmed brother Dr. Duncan ran to his assistance but he too was killed. Thus died a brave man, his body was the only one identified on the Battlefield and he was given a honourable funeral, attended by all the rebel Chiefs and is buried in Falkirk.