“But Mons as a pinnacle time in world history, being the end of the First World War and the official signing of the armistice on 11th of November, 1918, makes our participation in it even more important,” Kerr said. “And the fact that the 42nd Battalion is marching into Mons, pipe band leading, is going to be extremely significant for the participants. I was very honoured to be asked to lead that pipe band. I’ll have many buddies from over the years in the band. I’ll have chaps that I’ve never met before in the band that have all volunteered and paid their own way to go to Mons to do this.”
“The Black Watch has always been a family regiment. It started in 1862 in Montreal, a cosmopolitan, multi- national, multilanguage city,” said Kerr, “and the regiment always reflected that profile of the city. All languages. All religions. Even as a Scottish regiment in a French-speaking city it reflected Montreal.”
He said members were from all walks of life from the working districts of the city.
“Their brothers, their uncles, were all members and that’s the way it remained since the beginning. We all had relatives in the Black Watch,” said Kerr. “In my case, every male relative on both sides of the family, except for my father, who decided to be a military policeman and a civilian policeman. My kid brother, my brother-in-law, my kids as cadets – same regiment. It’s just because it’s a family. We call it the Black Watch Family.”
He said that family dynamic was extremely important.
“That makes you cohesive as a regiment, makes you cohesive as troops, and you’d do anything for the regiment,” he said. “In wartime, that made that regiment – and others that follow similar traditions – very successful, because you were fighting for your country, of course, but also for your buddy, and your uncle, and your cousin down the street. Because they were all there at the same time, and that’s how it stayed strong and how it remains strong to this day.”
“In the first war, the Germans nicknamed the Black Watch the Ladies from Hell because they wore kilts -- came at them playing bagpipes and wearing kilts,” Kerr said. “They didn’t know what was coming. They nicknamed us at that point the Ladies from Hell. And that stuck.”
The 42nd Battalion Pipes & Drums will also be participating in the Menin Gate ceremony in Ypres, Belgium as well as attending the Vimy Ridge Memorial in France, but Kerr said the crowning glory will be re-entering Mons as it did 100 years ago, as the first group into the public square after the signing of the Armistice in 1918.
“We’re fielding volunteer pipers and drummers from across the country, as well as one from Ore- gon and one from England, who also have ties to the original World War One players,” Kerr said.
Kerr is also making the Black Watch tour meaningful to some Canadian school children.
“I’ll be taking over mascots from both Annapolis East Elementary School and Bridgetown Regional Community School and will give them both photo coverage as we move around the region,” he said.
The majority of the pipe band leaves from Montreal on Nov. 6.
Members of the serving modern day Regimental Pipe Band of The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada will also be participating in events in Europe as part of the Canadian Forces Pipe Band, which will take part in ‘The Parade of Liberation’ on Nov. 11.
In addition to the 42nd Bat- talion Pipes & Drums, a Black Watch Battlefield Tour is also being conducted, which has many former members of the regiment attending as well as relatives of members who fought and died in the First World War.
They are keeping a running blog of the expedition at this web site and encourage people to follow:
Andy Kerr of Hampton works on his pipes before he heads to Europe to take part in the centenary services marking the end of the First World War. Kerr will portray real-life Pipe Major Thomas Johnston who led the 42nd Battalion Royal Highlanders of Canada Pipes and Drums through the streets of Mons, Belgium on Nov. 11, 1918. Kerr, a 30-year member of the Black Watch, will lead a modern day version of the pipes and drums through Mons exactly 100 years later.
The First World War 42nd Battalion Royal Highlanders of Canada Pipes and Drums marched into Mons, Belgium as the first group after the Armistice was signed on Nov. 11, 1918. The pipe band has been resurrected with modern day Black Watch members portraying their war-era comrades.
Andy Kerr will lead a resurrected version of the First World War 42nd Battalion Royal Highlanders of Canada Pipes and Drums through the streets of Mons, Belgium Nov. 11. That original pipe band was the first group into the public square after the signing of the Armistice in 1918.