Black Watch by Tom Renouf – Book Review

This is a campaign history written by a veteran of 5th Bn Black Watch who later became the secretary of the Highland Division Association. Direct personal accounts, both from the author and other veterans, are used to tell the story of the 51st Highland Division in a very personal way. This book offers some new perspectives on the battles of the 51st, especially those in the final months of the war in which the author was personally involved.

The book starts with some background on the author’s family and his early life. His link to the Highland Division starts with his father’s WW1 service. When war comes he is still too young to be involved, but at the earliest opportunity he volunteers for service in the hope that he can join the 51st Highland Division. However the ways of the Army don’t work out as he would have preferred, and he ends up in a replacement company of the Tyneside Scottish (a Black Watch battalion) and spends the first few weeks after D-Day in Normandy waiting to be assigned as a replacement. Eventually though he is assigned to a rifle company and blooded.

After the breakout his battalion is broken up and he is assigned to the 5th Black Watch. Shortly afterwards he is wounded and spends time recovering and then working his way through the replacement system to re-join his company in the Autumn. All the period when he is out of the line he uses other veterans stories to tell what happened to the Division (and indeed also for context around his personal accounts too).

Whether you have an interest in the Highland Division, in the infantry experience in the Second World War or the campaigns it is well worth reading.

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