THE announcement last week by the Tory Government that the British Army was to be reorganised into four divisions should have come as no surprise to politicians, pundits and the public alike as such a change had been well trailed over many months.

What was a surprise, and indeed a considerable shock, to many in the military and elsewhere was the name chosen for one of the new groupings - the Union Division. Deny it all they want, but Boris Johnson and his Tory cronies have dished out a calculated insult to the many soldiers from Scotland, Wales and in Northern Ireland who serve in the Army.

The name reeks of a political ploy by Boris Johnson and his British nationalist mob who are determined to impose Union Jackery on the devolved nations. The Ministry of Defence cravenly followed the Tory line that it is all a matter of mere administration and has no effect on the army's identity.

No-one argues that the army is a British concept and is emblematic and protective of the British state - just like the BBC. Having the Royal Regiment of Scotland in the Union Division is nothing other than a piece of Johnsonian affrontery and an insult to the proud history of Scottish regiments, which is why I'm going to spend the next six weeks telling the history of these regiments.

I am well aware that many people in Scotland would like this nation's military history and traditions to be forgotten about, but I think that is very short sighted. Scottish soldiers and our regiments are very much part of Scottish history and their importance in our past simply cannot be denied.

Later in this series I will be referring to regiments which have long since ceased to exist but with the Royal Regiment of Scotland as my template I will start with two of the most famous regimental names in Scottish military history namely the Royal Scots and the King's Own Scottish Borderers (KOSB). I will tell the story of the latter regiment next week but in deference to their age I will begin with the regiment nicknamed Pontius Pilate’s Bodyguard because they have been around so long. The Royal Scots was the oldest infantry regiment in the British Army, officially designated the Senior Regiment of the Line, until it ceased to be a regiment in its own standing when it amalgamated with the KOSB in 2006, shortly after the formation of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

They jointly became the Royal Scots Borderers, and are now designated 1 SCOTS, The Royal Scots Borderers, 1st Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland. That amalgamation had been proposed as long ago as 1990, in the Defence White Paper Options for Change, but had been dropped by Prime Minister John Major in the face of a strong public campaign after both regiments had served in the 1991 Gulf War in what the British military called Operation Granby.

Yet when the Strategic Defence Review of 2004 proposed reducing the number of soldiers and battalions still further, the writing was on the wall for the Royal Scots and the KOSB and the amalgamation came to pass on Tuesday, August 1, 2006 – ironically that was Minden Day on which the KOSB celebrate their participation in the 1759 Battle of Minden, a key victory in the Seven Years War. Let’s start with the Royal Scots, however. One of the army's enduring traditions is that the battle honours and achievements of a regiment are taken on by a successor regiment, so the Royal Scots can look back on a very long history of battlefield engagements.

They were founded in 1633 by a career soldier, Sir John Hepburn, who had fought in the Thirty Years War, at one time being appointed colonel of his own brigade of troops in the Swedish army.

Hepburn fell out with the Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus shortly before the latter’s death at the Battle of Lutzen in November, 1632, and returned to Scotland to seek approval from King Charles I to raise a regiment for service in France. The king’s warrant is preserved in the record of the Privy Council, and Hepburn lost no time in recruiting 2,000 men for his Régiment de Hebron as it became known.

Most of them were men with whom he had served in Sweden, and were well-drilled as pikemen and musketeers. Records show that first regiment at one time in 1635 had 153 officers and 8,000 other ranks, including a piper and two chaplains. Hepburn became a field marshal in the French army but died in the siege of Sauverne in 1636.

When Lord James Douglas became colonel in 1637, the regiment’s name changed as per military tradition and became the Régiment de Douglas.

Lord James’ younger half-brother George took command in 1653, and it was from his stint as Earl of Dumbarton that the regiment got its famous march Dumbarton’s Drums – note, not the same as the folk song of that name. The current Earl of Dumbarton, Prince Harry, probably doesn’t even know of his predecessor’s history… The Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660 saw Douglas’s Regiment summoned home from France by King Charles II. I am much indebted to the website for their insights into the regiment’s history and it sums up the early years thus: “It was by virtue of the 1633 Royal Warrant that the entire Regiment was considered as British; a regular force in a standing Army which could be recalled to Britain at will.

In 1661, the Regiment was, in fact, summoned to Britain to bridge the gap between the disbandment of the New Model Army and the creation of a Regular Army, organised along the same lines as the British units in foreign service. The Regiment was thus the original model for all others.”

The first battle honour accorded to the Royal Scots came in 1680. It happened during the Great Siege of Tangier when the small English colony there was threatened with annihilation by a huge Moroccan army. King Charles sent out the Earl of Dumbarton’s regiment and they managed to stave off the siege though Tangler was eventually abandoned in 1684.

Serving with them as a major, Sir James Halkett kept a diary of his service at Tangier. It is believed to be one of the first war diaries and did not shirk from bad news.

“In this time we had disputed hotly with our two battalions of Dumbarton's with the Moores (Moroccans), that was posted about the mines of Sandhill fort, till we beat them from thence, and was Masters of the place, notwithstanding, they were sustained with all their force, and we being flanked from James fort, which did gall us extremely, so that our loss was very great above 250 soldiers and 24 officers of our two battalions.”

On its return to barracks in England, Charles II conferred on the regiment the title of The Royal Regiment of Foot, the Royal Scots. It colours were listed as “the white cross of St Andrew on a blue ground; in the centre, the Thistle and Crown in gold surrounded by the circle of St Andrew and the motto “Nemo me impune lacessit” in gold.”

They fought for King James II against the forces of the Duke of Monmouth during his 1685 rebellion which ended with defeat for the Duke at the Battle of Sedgemoor.

The Earl of Dumbarton went into exile with James II at the time when William and Mary usurped the Crown. The regiment briefly mutinied but returned to give valiant service during the Nine Years War and the War of the Spanish Succession during which the commander John Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough, deployed them during his four great victories at Blenheim, Ramillies, Oudenaarde and Malplaquet.

After being sent to garrison Ireland, in 1742 the regiment was split into two battalions, with the First going off to the Continent to join in the War of the Austrian Succession while the Second battalion stayed in Britain and was deployed against the Jacobite army in the Rising of 1745-46.

At Culloden in 1746, the Royal Regiment had a place of honour on the right of the front line of the Duke of Cumberland’s army. This was where the Jacobite attack was weakest and the regiment suffered no deaths and only four wounded. Culloden does not feature on the list of battle honours for the Royal Scots, for very few such honours were awarded before 1800, including the many battles that the Royal Scots fought in North America in the latter part of the 18th century.

They did win honours that were recorded on the regimental colours for the wars against Napoleon that ended at Waterloo in 1815.

The Third Battalion had been formed in 1804 specifically for service against the French and had been utterly valiant at the Siege of San Sebastian in Spain in 1813. The Royal Scots website records it as “probably being the greatest single feat of arms in the long and distinguished history of the Regiment. “The Battalion, numbering some 1,000, in twice storming breaches in the walls, the second time successfully, suffered a total of 530 killed and wounded.”

At Waterloo the Battalion lost more than half its strength including 15-year-old Ensign Kennedy. He had been carrying the King’s Colour and when a sergeant went forward to recover it, he could not release he Colour from the dead Ensign’s grasp. He then hoisted Kennedy and the Colour on his shoulder to retreat to the lines, and the French were so impressed by his bravery that orders were given not to shoot him.

Back down to just two battalions, in 1851 the regiment was officially recognised as the senior regiment of the British Army, and a few years later the Royal Scots recorded their first Victoria Cross, won by Irish-born Private Joseph Prosser at the Battle of Sebastapol.

His citation read: “On the 16th June, 1855, when on duty in the Trenches before Sebastopol, by pursuing and apprehending (while exposed to two cross fires) a soldier of the 88th, in the act of deserting the enemy.

“On the 11th August, 1855, before Sebastopol, by leaving the utmost advanced Trench, and carrying a soldier of the 95th Regt. who lay severely wounded and unable to move. This gallant and humane act was performed under very heavy fire from the enemy"

Many more medals were to come the way of the regiment, especially in the First World War.

In admirably brief terms, the Royal Scots website records: “World War I saw the number of battalions increased to 35 of which 15 served as active front line units. More than 100,000 men passed through these battalions, of whom 11,213 were killed and over 40,000 wounded. Seventy-one Battle Honours and 6 VCs were awarded to the Regiment as well as innumerable individual medals.”

One of those battalions was the 16th known as McCrae’s Battalion after Lt Col Sir George McCrae who recruited many volunteers from Scottish football teams, most notably Heart of Midlothian FC from which eleven professionals joined up – many of the battalion died at the Somme. There was also disaster at home. On May 22, 1915, the 7th Battalion was involved in the catastrophic train crash at Quintinshill near Gretna. Carriages exploded into fame and some 216 people died – still the worst fatality rate of any British rail crash.

In World War II, just four battalions of the Royal Scots participated, but they still won 39 battle honours, and many men died in POW Camps in Asia and Europe. During the fighting around Dunkirk, some 20 officers and men were massacred by the SS.

The Royal Scots saw service in many of the post-war conflicts, including Northern Ireland’s Troubles and the Gulf War. The name might have changed, but their proud history lives on in 1SCOTS.