Private Charles Robert Harling Black Watch 2nd Batt

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Private Charles Robert Harling Black Watch 2nd Batt

Postby Hank Hill » 18 Nov 2017 06:44

Hello, I am researching the above soldier who was my Great grandfather. Born in 1874 in Southwark he enlisted with the Royal Highlanders in 1890. I have a couple of questions about this - 1) Would 16 have been a normal age to enlist at that time? 2) Being from London it seems strange that he would end up in the Royal Highlanders - would it have been normal to try to recruit in major cities such as London?

I actually found out by pure chance that he was even in the Black Watch as initially I was looking at his WW1 record where he was involved at the age of 45! On his form he answered yes to being in the forces previously and after clicking back a page I found the following information for him:

Reg number: 4295 Black Watch 2nd Batt.

UK - 9/1890 - 3/1892
Gibraltar - 3/1892 - 1/1893
Egypt - 1/1893 - 3/1893
South Africa 3/1893/ - 8/1894
Mauritius - 8/1894 - 2/1896
India - 2/1896/ - 1/1898
UK - 1/1898 - 10/1899
South Africa - 10/1899 - 8/1902
UK - 8/1902 - 9/1902

During the Boer War he was entitled to the clasps for Paardeberg, Dreifontein, Johannesburg, Diamond Hill, Belfast, and Cape Colony. I would love to find out more about those particular battles - I have a book that gives a general overview of the war, but as I say getting to know those battle better would be nice. Also, I would love to know more about the rest of his service, for instance, the time in India - the likelihood that he was just barracked there, or was there a possibility he may have been involved in a battle there too? Is there any way in which to find out where he would have been stationed in the different countries?

Finally, and this is a long shot I realize -but is there a chance I could find a picture of him somewhere?

Thanks for reading and I appreciate any pointers or advice.
Hank Hill
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Re: Private Charles Robert Harling Black Watch 2nd Batt

Postby jf42 » 19 Nov 2017 21:34

Greetings, Hank-

Although the Black Watch (Royal Highlanders) had been an assigned a depot at Perth with an associated recruiting area in Perthshire, Angus and Fife, the regiment still received a leavening of recruits from other parts of Scotland and the rest of Britain. By what course your forebear came to enlist in the regiment has to be a matter of speculation. As you point out, the big cities were always a rich source of recruits, London more than most, and despite its being at the opposite end of the country, a regiment with the reputation and esprit de corps of the Black Watch could easily pick up volunteers there if it sought them. When there was a shortage of recruits in a regiment's designated area, this could be made up from surpluses elsewhere.

1890 was a comparitively quiet year in the Empire but four years previously, in 1886, the Black Watch had returned to Malta after four years of tough campaigning in Egypt and the Sudan and, following losses on campaign and from disease, they may still have been making up numbers.

However, although your forebear's surname does not at first glance suggest Scottish origins, he may have had a family connection with the Black Watch- or perhaps with the former 73rd Regiment, which in 1881, as a result of wide ranging regimental reforms, had become the 2nd Battalion, The Black Watch. The 73rd had been formed in 1786 from the 2nd Battalion of the 42nd (Royal Highland) Regiment. Despite being assigned the title '73rd (Perthshire) Regiment' in 1861, in the 100 years since its formation the 73rd had effectively become a standard 'British' line regiment and took recruits where it could find them. The 73rd had effectively been absorbed by the 42nd when the two regiments were 'reunited' in 1881 to form the 1st and 2nd Battalions of The Black Watch, but perhaps some sort of family connection remained. Perhaps there were other family members already serving.

Recruits were supposed to be eighteen but it seems well set-up younger men of a minimum height might be accepted, and of course lying about one's age to recruiting sergeants was an honourable tradition. There have been a number of discussions on the forum regarding minimum recruiting ages, etc., which you should be able to find through the VWF search engine. There are a number of members who very knowledgable about this aspect of service.

I am not sure whether you are aware, but having been assigned initially to 2nd Bn. BW, your list of postings shows that in 1892 Charles Harling was transferred to the 1st Bn. which had just moved from Malta to Gibraltar. This was a usual process. Twice a year, drafts were sent out from the home battalion to the 'foreign' battalion, usually selected from the young soldiers who had been longest with the home battalion, with a minumum of one and a half years' service, assumed to be "thoroughly trained, serviceable men."

As far as your forebear's active service is concerned, after they left Egypt, the 1st Bn. had a quiet time of it in the Mediterranean, South Africa, Mauritius and India, and even after they were sent to South Africa in 1901 they saw little action. However, your man had by that time rejoined the 2nd Bn. in 1898 and sailed out with them to South Africa in 1899 to take part in the campaigns you have listed.

If you would like some more information on the regiment's service in South Africa, the recently published Volume Two of Victoria Schofield's history of the Black Watch- 'In The Front Line'- opens with a 25-page account of the Boer War. It's a massive tome however, which I imagine you would have to order online in Texas, and quite expensive, although you might enjoy reading the rest of its 700 pages! Alternatively, the more portable 'The Black Watch: The History of the Royal Highland Regiment' written by Eric and Andro Linklater, published in 1976, contains a briefer account of the regiment's service in South Africa. An attractive book to have, it is still the best single volume history of the regiment (up to 1975) and can still be acquired cheaply online. Those are your two best options.

However, to whet your appetite, here is a short passage on the Black Watch at Magersfontein from another recent history published a few years ago
https://books.google.co.uk/books?redir_ ... in&f=false

I hope some of that is helpful,

My regards to Peggy.
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Re: Private Charles Robert Harling Black Watch 2nd Batt

Postby Hank Hill » 20 Nov 2017 00:30

jf,

Thanks very much for your lengthy reply! I think the notion that they were rebuilding the numbers when he joined makes sense. As far as I am aware Charles Harling's father was not a military man, but I suppose there could have been a family connection somewhere (perhaps another research avenue for me to do). I did not know that he had gone to the 1st Bn. I had assumed he was 2nd Bn the entire 12 years, but from other military research I have done I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise. I assume because of the year and place I entered you were able to connect him to the 1st instead?

You mention them having a quiet time - does this mean his time in Egypt and India would have been more in a capacity of maintaining the empire rather than participating in any further battles? Was the 6 battles that he was involved in more than usual? Curious, because the other soldiers I saw on the page averaged around 4.

Thanks again, and I'll pass on your regards to Peggy :D
Hank Hill
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Re: Private Charles Robert Harling Black Watch 2nd Batt

Postby Maureene » 20 Nov 2017 22:59

The FIBIS Fibiwiki has two related pages
https://wiki.fibis.org/w/42nd_Regiment_of_Foot 42nd Regiment of Foot
https://wiki.fibis.org/w/73rd_Regiment_of_Foot 73rd Regiment of Foot

There are some links to some online histories, although most do not cover all the period of your grandfather's history.
The is however a link to
A Short History of the Black Watch (Royal Highlanders); 42nd, 73rd, 1725-1907. To which is added an account of the second battalion in the South African War, 1899-1902 by [Arthur Grenfell Wauchope] 1908 Archive.org
https://archive.org/details/shorthistoryofbl00waucuoft

Cheers
Maureen
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Re: Private Charles Robert Harling Black Watch 2nd Batt

Postby jf42 » 21 Nov 2017 08:27

Thanks Maureene, I clean forgot the Wauchope Short History.

Hank, as you will see, the "account of the second battalion in the South African War, 1899-1902" is over 70 pages long, so should keep you busy for a while.

https://archive.org/details/shorthistoryofbl00waucuoft

Just to confirm, the 1st Bn. BW did not see active service between 1886 and 1901.
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