Lovat Scouts Scout Section

Supporting regiment
The Lovat Scouts
About

The Territorial soldiers of The Lovats Scouts were chosen to provide the training staff for XII Corps Observation Unit. The Lovat Scouts were recruited in the Highlands and Islands, particularly from ghillies, keepers and other Highland estate staff. The Scouts had been a mounted unit, but lost their horses early on in the war. In the First World War they had become a specialist sniper unit and were the first British troops to use the Ghillie suit - a camouflage outfit for snipers to break up their outline. This meant they were well suited to train the men who would likely have to operate behind German lines. However, the unit had ended up operating piecemeal in the First World War and they were keen to try and remain a cohesive unit in the Second World War.

The Lovat Scouts were sent to the Faeroes In May 1940, possibly as the Highlanders were thought able to cope with the primitive conditions there! Indeed one North Uist Scout was impressed to find mains electricity in the capital of the Faeroes, which had yet to reach his home island.

Peter Fleming was keen to bring in the Lovat Scouts having been involved with discussions to try and incorporate them into the Independent Companies, but alos perhaps because his brother was serving as Training Officer. The Lovats had rejected this suggestion as they were concerned to keep the regiment together, after piecemeal deployment in World War 1. On June 19th a War Office Telegram requested the transfer of Captain Richard Fleming, a sergeant and 13 other ranks to Tunbridge Wells in Kent. Again the Scouts resisted, the Commanding Officer noting that "This can be done once or twice, but will be impossible to comply with often". The Scouts had supplied men to Bisley as instructors, where they were pictured in the National Press. The Scouts were already short handed in the Faeroes and the depot CO acted quickly, sending a dozen men from the Home Detail the next day instead of depleting the field units. This was to be a feature of subsequent Scout Section recruitment across Auxiliary Units, with men coming from the depots rather than field units, avoiding accusations of impacting on their war fighting capability. However further requests arrived requesting Capt. Fleming and he left the Faeroes on 2nd July for Kent, along with his batman. The Scouts were still present on 9th August when their return was requested from XII Corps.

Captain Calvert, working alongside Captain Peter Fleming, considered that part of the role of the Lovat Scouts was to "pump prime" the guerrilla operations. They would lead the first round of covert operations and assassinations, provoking German retaliations and thereby prompting the Home Guard patrols into action, when they might otherwise have held back to protect friends and neighbours.
 

Pictures
Image
Operational Base

Most Scout Sections would have at least two OBs. It is not known if the Lovat Scouts had their own, though the famous "Airship Hole" OB was close to the Garth and could have accommodated the whole section.

Scout section personnel
Name Occupation Posted from Until
Captain Richard Evelyn Fleming 02 Jul 1940 1940
Sergeant William MacDonald 1940 1944
Corporal Angus MacKenzie 1940 1941
Private John Norman Unknown 03 Dec 1944
Other personnel

A photograph of the section shows a Lieutenant, Sergeant and nine men. They would have had two Royal Army Services Corps drivers attached.

Weapons and Equipment

The Lovat Scouts focused on fieldcraft and sniping. Auxilier Jack French recalled their incredible skills. Along with twenty odd colleagues they were asked to watch a rough meadow at the Garth. They were told Sergeant McKenzie and Corporal McDonald would cross and to speak out when they spotted them. The two Lovats made their way across completely unobserved by any of them.

In addition to the normal weapons used by Scout Sections, Peter Fleming is known to have experimented with bow and arrows. He particularly considered this for the silent despatch of sentries, but also to silently send incendiaries onto the roof of a building.

References

General Thorne, commander of XII Corps, was taken to see one of the Kent OBs. Captain Peter Fleming took him with his ADC into the woods above Charing. They looked around unsuccessfully for a while and had to be shown the hinged lid with tree stump camouflage. The OB had been expanded from a badger sett and inside were some Lovat Scouts and a few of the Home Guard Patrol members, sat on boxes of explosives and rations. General Thorne was said to have “simply loved it”, having conceived of the idea of the units himself originally.