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The British Army.
To an outsider, it looks like
one single fighting force.
In reality, it's divided into more than 40 independent regiments,
each with its own culture and traditions.
And if you want to understand the British Army,
these regiments are the best place to start.
In this programme, we go back over 300 years to meet a regiment
borne out of the bloodshed of Scottish rebellion.
# La pom pom pom pom! #
That's the charge.
The signal to attack of a cavalry regiment
that led the charge for the newly United Kingdom
at one of the greatest battles in British history.
It was glorious! It was colourful, it had an effect.
And the Battle Of Waterloo was fought and won,
and we were part of it.
A regiment famous for its grey horses.
Having a grey horse is a bit of a nightmare.
Percy does seem to get covered in utter, utter crud.
These men were the romantic heroes of the scarlet-clad cavalry.
I have a skew-whiff bearskin.
It's nothing to do with the shape of your head?
Bound together by Scottish roots...
which once carried them all the way to number one.
Jimmy Saville met us at the door. Top of the Pops, this was,
fighting with the Beatles.
It's a modern tank regiment,
but one still inspired
by its cavalry past.
That ethos, that spirit
of speed, shock action, strike, manoeuvre,
boldness, all the traditions of the cavalry
went from horseback into main battle tanks.
And that's how we see ourselves to this day.
This is the British Army's senior Scottish regiment,
the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards.
The 10th of March 2011. Fallingbostel Camp, Germany.
They're not glued on the Tarmac, are they?
The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards are gathering for the last time
before their regiment deploys to Afghanistan.
The nature of the army nowadays is such that
it's pretty rare
that you manage to get a whole regiment together in one place.
So this is quite special for us.
On the count of three. Straight at the camera lens...
The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards is a cavalry regiment of 381 soldiers
and 45 officers. One of ten armoured regiments in the British Army.
In preparation for Afghanistan, the regiment has been training
with new armoured vehicles called warthogs.
It's the modern age and, well, things have changed.
Just instead of horses, we use
brand new vehicles.
With this vehicle in particular, it could go almost anywhere.
It's just a modern horse, really.
I'd say they are manoeuvrable, fast, agile,
and it can deal with any terrain. I think it's amazing!
One of the regiment's jobs in Afghanistan will be to protect
convoys of slow-moving supply vehicles.
We see this as very much a traditional role for the cavalry.
One task of our warthog squadron is to keep vulnerable areas
and vulnerable points safe to allow the convoy to move through.
We're all going to a spot of high ground
where we can over-watch the convoy
and, at the same time, look all about the areas for enemy activity.
The Dragoons' last job of the day is always to check their vehicles.
There's an old cavalry mantra that goes back hundreds of years,
but we still live by it today,
and it goes, very simply, "Horses, men, self".
Horses or your vehicle come first.
You need to make sure that that piece of equipment
is fighting fit before you can achieve anything,
and that's almost the essence of being a cavalry soldier.
The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards can trace their roots back
to Edinburgh in November 1681.
Their first colonel was a ruthless royalist and ex-mercenary,
Tam Dalyell, also known as "Bloody Tam".
His 300 troops scoured the hills on horseback
to hunt down the rebellious countrymen.
Thousands of rebels were slaughtered and executed.
It became known as "The Killing Time."
The regiment's loyalty to the crown was rewarded in 1692
when it became "Our Royal Regiment Of Scots Dragoons."
To this day, it's the only regiment
allowed to fly the Scottish royal flag.
The ancient Royal Standard of Scotland
flies outside regimental headquarters
whenever the commanding officer is in the building or barracks.
And stencilled on the side of the commanding officer's
main battle tank is a picture of the Lion Rampant as well.
Boys, if you're being a girl, if you want to put a jumper round your waist
so we can at least have a hope of recognising you as such.
OK, Ross is being the girl, so Ross then turns...
In the mess, the officers regularly practise Scottish reels.
SCOTTISH COUNTRY DANCE MUSIC
Not too aggressive!
As a Scottish regiment,
it's very important that we keep these traditions alive.
Inevitably, it turns a bit chaotic, but it's about having a good time
and it's a very important part of what we do.
About two thirds of the soldiers in the regiment are Scottish
and, for some, the regiment is in the blood.
My name is Captain Kev McDowell,
currently the Quartermaster of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards.
Primarily, I joined the regiment cos my father was in it.
My name is Billy McDowell and I served with the regiment
for the best part of 22 years, and I left as a rank of Staff Sergeant.
I'm Trooper William McDowell and I'll be at the regiment in a couple of months.
We have a great family tradition within the regiment.
In fact, I had two brothers who served alongside me.
Between us, including my two uncles,
we've done 85 years' service within the regiment.
In the early 18th century, the Scots Dragoons
were called to the battlefields of Europe,
taking up the cavalry charge for the first time.
Previously, dragoons had always fought as infantry.
Now, they would fight from the saddle to break the enemy lines.
In May 1706, at the Battle Of Ramillies in Belgium,
the regiment proved it had mastered the art of the charge.
Led by the Duke of Marlborough,
the Scots Dragoons routed the French cavalry.
The charge was still practised in the early years of World War Two,
when Jim Randall was a 24-year-old trooper in the regiment.
If you had 30 horses
cantering side by side, they soon
became practically knee to knee,
very close to each other.
And one or two chaps would bite the dust.
They still carried
the cavalry sword,
and performed the same drills as 18th-century dragoons.
First, you would reach across, grasp the hilt of the sword,
draw it from the scabbard, hold it overhead,
and then drop it down to point at any enemy that might approach.
Veteran bugler Bill Cross still remembers
sounding the order to charge.
# La pom pom pom pom. #
That's the charge!
BUGLE CHARGE CALL
# Pom pom pom. # That's "halt."
And you used to practise going over a jump, blowing it!
Horses are still an important part of regimental life.
But now, they're only used for battling it out on the polo field
and for ceremonial occasions.
Grey horses like these were first used by the regiment 300 years ago.
They gave the regiment a name that stayed with them for centuries.
The Scots Greys.
In grooming terms, having a grey horse is a bit of a nightmare.
They do become a lot muddier than others.
Percy does seem to hop into the fields
and just find the muddiest bit
and roll in it and just get covered in utter crud.
And it's quite hard work to get it out of his coat.
Just make sure the snaffle is behind...
This kit is about 300 years old.
These are original reigns from the Scots Greys
and you can see they've got thistles embedded in the leather.
Very tricky to clean, but very smart!
In 1940, every new recruit still had to learn to ride.
During our training, of course, we were inside a riding school.
Some of the recruits had never sat on a horse's back before.
I'd never been on a horse in my life!
And, of course, I was scared stiff when I first went on.
Then I had a horse bit me once.
Bit me on the bloody nose!
Quite a lot of them found themselves rolling on the floor.
Also with the Scots Greys, they had to be scrubbed down
and washed every Sunday morning, and you used to have to buy
a tablet of soap, which cost me about... Lux.
..to wash my horse's mane and tail, that's it!
If I were to poke this stick into your toe caps, it wouldnae really
make a difference, as there's nae polish on it. There's no shine on it.
The regimental Sergeant Major is preparing the troops
for a royal visit from the regiment's Deputy Colonel in Chief,
the Duke of Kent.
We've got the Duke Of Kent's visit this week
and this is the honour guard, so they need to be immaculate,
cos this is the first eyes-on the royalty will get of the regiment.
So things like boots not being well prepared are not a good start.
Fluff under there as well.
All right, Charty, it's not a race!
For the royal visit, some of the soldiers will wear scarlets,
a similar uniform to the one worn by the regiment in the 18th century.
Quartermaster Kevin McDowell is in charge of the regimental wardrobe.
Something quite unique to the Scots Dragoon Guards is the fact
that we wear the white bearskin.
This is normally worn by the likes of Corporal Harnetti
when he's on the drum horse.
If he's not on parade, then it's given to the drummer.
Now, the story goes with this particular bear skin
that it was made from this hide of a polar bear,
which is still the rest of it in this box.
And this, the story goes,
was presented to the regiment by President Ronald Reagan.
-How high do these belts go?
-Really high up.
-Really high up.
Oh, you broke it, you broke it.
This uniform is only worn by the regiment for ceremonial duties
every couple of years.
Now, which side does it go on?
-I think I have a skew-whiff bearskin.
It's nothing to do with the shape of your head?
How does it attach? And these sword loops feel like
I've got a tail attached!
You can't really do it yourself.
I find it extraordinary to think that this is the kind of uniform
that the regiment would have fought in and worked in on a daily basis,
and they'll have had to go through this process
of getting themselves ready every day.
There's a lot of history with the uniforms we wear
and everything means something, rather than just being clothing.
The cross belt with the pouch on the back
was used for carrying ammunition
and the belt for carrying the sword whilst on horseback.
Some people might not think it's right to wear polar bear,
but it's part of the regimental history, so, yeah, I like it.
By the early 19th century, the cavalry
was capturing the public's imagination
as the heroes and villains of romantic fiction.
I think the stereotype for a cavalry officer,
certainly the 19th-century stereotype,
is of a figure who is dashing, charming, on the good side,
but on the bad side, a sort of hard-drinking, gambling,
womanising, roguish type of figure.
And I think that most junior cavalry officers like to sort of aspire
to this Flashman-esque stereotype of being very stylish,
conducting themselves with dash and elan,
and that's part of what makes us who we are.
It was so embarrassing!
Officers' mess dinners are always really traditional events.
The first time you go to one, it is a little bit strange,
and it's quite overwhelming, cos it's quite a formal atmosphere.
But I think it gives you a sense of pride and duty.
It's about maintenance of history and remembering where we've come from.
This is the officers' last formal dinner
before they deploy to Afghanistan.
Traditionally, a Gaelic toast is proposed
before the regiment goes to war.
Deoch slainte na ban Righ. Slainte, Alba gu brath. Agus slainte
nag u huiles gu leir, slainte mhath.
In June 1815, under the command of the Duke of Wellington,
the Scots Greys were preparing to fight Napoleon.
They hadn't seen action for more than 20 years,
but were about to take part in a battle that would decide
the fate of Europe and come to define their reputation.
On the 18th of June, the Scots Greys were positioned here, on this ridge.
They formed part of a force of 900 cavalry.
The Union Brigade.
England, Scotland and Ireland,
the three nations of the newly United Kingdom, were all represented
and they were fighting together for the first time
under the new Union Jack flag.
Wellington's troops were formed up here along this ridgeline
on the high ground, defending Brussels to the north,
and Napoleon's troops were formed up down to the south.
Faced with an army larger and more experienced than his own,
Wellington's only hope was to hold his position
until reinforcements arrived.
Around 1:30, Napoleon launched 18,000 of his infantry troops,
under the command of one of his best commanders,
in the direction of La Haye Sainte.
This put Wellington's line under serious pressure.
Wellington's infantry began to give way, so he turned to his cavalry.
Corporal John Dickson, of the Scots Greys, was in the left flank.
He later wrote an account of the battle.
"Immediately, Colonel Hamilton shouted out,
"'Now then, Scots Greys, charge!'
"and waving his sword in the air, he rode straight at the hedge in front,
"which he took in great style.
"At once, a great cheer rose from our ranks
"and we too waved our swords and followed him.
"I dug my spur into my brave old Rattler
"and we were off like the wind."
As they charged, they passed a fellow Scottish regiment,
the Gordon Highlanders.
"They shouted, 'Go at them, the Greys! Scotland forever!'
"Many of the Highlanders grasped our stirrups
"and in the fiercest excitement, they dashed along with us into the fight."
In a matter of minutes,
the cavalry had cut through hundreds of enemy soldiers,
smashing the French line and pushing back the attack.
The charge was described as, "the greatest thunderbolt ever launched by the British cavalry."
Napoleon was overheard cursing "those terrible grey horses!"
On horseback, you've got that ability to manoeuvre around the battlefield
when a battle might go either way and really seize the moment.
The bugle call sounded the halt and rally.
But the Scots Greys pushed on towards the French artillery,
spurred on by their commanding officer.
"Colonel Hamilton rode up to us crying, 'Charge! Charge the guns!'
"And we went off up the hill.
"We got among the guns and we had our revenge. Such slaughtering!"
James Hamilton was unstoppable.
He was slashed by a French lancer on his wrists, but he carried on.
He carried on against the odds, leading his regiment in battle,
and he did so by gripping the reins of his charger in his teeth.
Hamilton was never seen again.
Now leaderless, the charge of the Greys continued.
In the front rank was Sergeant Charles Ewart,
one of the regiment's finest swordsmen.
Ewart saw a French Standard up ahead. Raising his blade,
he made a bid to take the Imperial Eagle.
"The enemy and I had a hard contest for it. He thrust for my groin,
"I parried it off and I cut him through the head,
"after which, I was attacked by one of the lancers.
"I cut him from the chin upwards through his teeth.
"Next, I was attacked by a foot soldier with his bayonet,
"but I parried him and cut him down through the head
"so that I finished the contest for the eagle."
Ewart is absolutely a hero.
His tomb's on the esplanade at Edinburgh Castle.
And the first pub on the Royal Mile is named after him,
so, aye, we all think he's a hero!
Edinburgh Castle is the regiment's home headquarters.
Here, it displays the trophy of its proudest victory.
This is the eagle captured from the French. Napoleon adopted
these eagles for each of his regiments
from the Roman legions, who carried the Imperial Eagle.
The piece is in metal and covered in gilt, and it's quite heavy.
This is a very special item for the regiment
because of its significance from Waterloo.
The gold-leafed eagle is so important to us
because it's a symbol of the decisive manoeuvre, speed
and enormous bravery that our forefathers performed on that day
in June in 1815 on the battlefield at Waterloo.
It's what we are and who we are.
The French Imperial Eagle appears on the regiment's war memorial
in Edinburgh, on horses' livery, epaulettes and on the cap badge.
The Scots Greys paid a heavy price for victory.
Of the 391 who charged, 104 were killed and 98 wounded.
But their sacrifice helped win the battle
and brought peace to Europe after nearly 20 years of war.
One piece rear...march!
And we blew that one, didn't we?!
Get back there.
The regiment is getting ready for the final parade before Afghanistan.
Sergeant Chart and Corporal Harnetty will have a ceremonial role
in the parade.
It's always good to get the horses out, get their kit on,
get dressed in the regalia so when the Duke of Kent arrives,
we'll be off to the side, on the horses...um...
The Scots Greys' last mounted action came in 1940 in Palestine,
when they formed patrols
to help keep peace between the Arabs and the Jews.
I have wonderful memories of those days.
I can see, in my mind's eye,
the whole regiment of 300 horsemen
winding its way down the Jordan valley.
A year later, the regiment received the order
to give up its horses for tanks.
I didn't want to lose the horses.
I hated the thought of having to travel
in a motor vehicle of any sort
because lots of the chaps, including myself,
had never driven a motor vehicle in their lives.
In 1945, the Scots Greys fought their way into Germany.
When the war ended, the regiment remained with NATO forces to counter
the Soviet threat. The regiment is still based in Germany today.
On the 2nd of July 1971,
the Scots Greys united with a fellow cavalry regiment,
the 3rd Carbiniers.
'The new cap badges are fitted, hats replaced,
'and the new regiment is formed.'
Together, they took the name the "Royal Scots Dragoon Guards."
To mark the occasion,
the regiment's band recorded an album, A Farewell To The Greys.
We recorded it in the gymnasium with blankets round the walls.
RCA was the record company.
And at end, they said, "Have you got anything else to put on record?"
We said, "Well, we've got this new tune called Amazing Grace.
"Can we put that on?" They said, "If you must."
It was played once by BBC and, of course, after that,
they rang up RCA, and said, "You have a hit on your hands."
MUSIC: "Amazing Grace" by the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards
Amazing Grace sold four million copies worldwide.
On the 11th of April 1972, it reached number one in the UK charts,
where it stayed for five weeks.
Now what I suggest is take a pass at it, straighten it all out,
take a solo pass, so we've got a choice...
The regiment's band is now recording a new album.
So, here we go. A slightly straighter version.
A new take, new pass and we're off.
I'm 21 now, I started playing the pipes when I was four.
I'm just mad for it.
For some strange reason, I wanted to play the pipes.
Obviously, I like being a soldier,
but piping is my thing, to be honest.
To get paid for doing something I enjoy is superb.
Royal Scots Dragoon Guards!
March on the Standard!
The final parade in Germany before deployment to Afghanistan.
His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent is here to bid the troops farewell.
I come and see them whenever I can and it's always a great pleasure
to come back, cos they're my old regiment.
I think when you've belonged to an organisation like this,
it's something that you feel you belong to for life.
And although, in my case, it's now getting on for 30 years or more
since I actually left, I still feel that I'm a member of the regiment
and that they're my friends.
This is my first tour.
We've done a lot of training for it,
and we've waited our turn, should we say.
So I'm really looking forward to going.
The guys are really like family, so it's worth fighting for each other,
and you know that each man's got each other's back.
My son, Kevin, and all the lads that are in the regiment,
at the moment have gone through a lot more than I have.
And our heart, mine and my wife's, go out to them every time they're on a tour.
And I don't think people realise how much it does mean having a family,
which is the regiment to people like myself,
around you when they are away,
because although they are away, the regiment still keeps in contact
with people like me and my wife, telling us what our sons are up to.
The history and the traditions of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards
are all around us.
And when you're about to deploy on what will be a demanding tour,
by anyone's measure, the pride that my soldiers
and officers have in their regiment, that bond,
that ethos, that strength that comes from being a member of a proud
and honourable organisation, that will see them through.
And, to me, that sums up what this fine regiment is all about.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
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