Today is Red Hackle Day! This annual celebration on 5 January commemorates the award to The Black Watch (3rd Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland, 3 SCOTS) of the right to wear the Red Hackle in their caps.
The origin of the wearing of the Red Hackle is uncertain. There is evidence that it was worn by the 42nd in North America in the 1770s, however a 19th Century tradition ascribes the award of the Red Hackle to an action at the battle of Geldermalsen in 1795 when the 11th Light Dragoons retreated, leaving two field guns for the French. The Black Watch promptly mounted an attack and recovered the guns.
It was for this action that the Red Hackle was allegedly awarded and on the King’s birthday on 4 June 1795, there was a parade at Royston in Hertfordshire, when a Red Hackle was given to every man on parade. It was not until 1822 that the Adjutant General issued an order, confirming that only The Black Watch would have the privilege of wearing the red “vulture feather” in their bonnets.
In 1919 the Central Committee of The Black Watch Association formalised the date on which the Regiment should celebrate “Red Hackle Day”.
The tradition is carried on to this day.