|No. 4007 Sergeant Major Alexander Millar, DCM, 2nd Battalion, the Black Watch (Royal Highlanders)
Mela Ram - Photographer
Peshawar, Cherat & Sialkot Cantonment, India
Alexander Millar was born about 1871 at Alyth, Perthshire, Scotland one of at least three children of George and Janet
Millar. His short service attestation paper described his trade or calling as that of a painter which in all likelihood refers
to house painting as opposed to portrait or landscape painting. He attested on 4 January 1890 at Perth standing 5 feet, 5
3/4 inches tall, weighing 116 pounds with a pale complexion, grey eyes, and brown hair. His religious affiliation was
Millar was posted to the 2nd Battalion of the Black Watch on 3 April 1890 and quickly appointed lance corporal on 15
December 1890. Receiving his first good conduct pay on 4 January 1892 he was promoted corporal on 18 March 1892.
Millar continued his steady climb up the ladder in the ranks and was appointed lance sergeant on 12 October 1895 and
on 27 April 1896, he was permitted to extend his service to complete 12 years with the colours.
Promoted sergeant on 16 December 1896 and then to colour sergeant on 19 February 1900. On 21 July 1902, he was
permitted to extend his service to complete 21 years with the colours. Granted Class I Service Pay on 1 April 1904 he
was promoted quartermaster sergeant 8 September 1909. Alexander Millar received his final promotion to sergeant
major on 28 September 1910. It is possible that Millar had his portrait taken to commemorate this event. This final
promotion fits almost perfectly with the note on the back of his photograph. The following day he was granted
permission to extend his service beyond 21 years.
Alexander Millar's service deployment was as follows:
Home: 4 January 1890 - 21 October 1899
South Africa: 22 October 1899 - 22 October 1902
India: 13 October 1902 - 14 March 1912
Home: 14 March 1912 - 29 March 1912
He would spend 12 years, 149 days of continuous service overseas.
Millar was no mere parade ground soldier and the exemplary behavior and conduct he exhibited while in garrison would
manifest itself on the battlefield as well. He was extensive action during the Anglo-Boer War and received four clasps
for this Queen's South Africa Medal: "Cape Colony", "Praadeberg", "Wittebergen" and "Transvaal". He was also
entitled to the King's South Africa Medal with its two clasps.
Millar was slightly wounded at Magersfontein (11 December 1899) when General Lord Methuen's advance to relieve
Kimberly was halted by the Boers. The Highland Brigade to which Millar was attached received the worst casualties
and the Black Watch suffered the most heavily, losing 303 officers and other ranks.
In February 1900 Millar would be wounded again, this time severely at the Battle of Praadeberg when Field Marshal
Roberts handed the Boers a major defeat capturing some 4500 Boers including their commander General Piet Cronjé.
Millar would receive two Mention in Despatches during the war. The first was from Lord Roberts on 4 September 1901
and the second from Lord Kitchener on 23 June 1902. It was as a result of one of these two mentions that Millar would
eventually receive the Distinguished Conduct Medal. While his Military History Sheet gives that specific dates of
Millar's Mention in Despatches it fails to note the date that he was Gazetted for the DCM.
Missing from Millar's service papers is his medical history sheet which is unfortunate since the information contained
would probably have shed light on the nature of the wounds he suffered at Magersfontein and Praaderberg.
With the end of the Anglo-Boer War, the 2/Black Watch sailed for India and Millar would spend, with the exception of
the final 15 days, the last nine years of his enlistment on the Subcontinent. Millar would be presented with his Long
Service & Good Conduct Medal in 1908 and in 1911 took part in the Delhi Durbar of George V and received the medal
for that event.
When Alexander Millar took his discharge at Gosport on 29 March 1912 he had served 22 years and 85 days with the
colours. He had served that entire time span with the 2nd Battalion and had an absolutely spotless record. He was now
40 years old and had grown a full 1 1/4 inches in the intervening years.
As of 1911 when the Census was taken in India, Alexander Millar was listed as single. I have not been able to locate
any records relating to a possible marriage or children that such a union may have produced. I believe that former
Sergeant Major Alexander Millar, DCM died on 9 December 1923 at Dundee, Scotland.
Below: The reverse side of Millar's photograph showing the old pencil caption that formed the basis for the above
|Bandsman Johnie Lawson, 2nd Battalion, The Black Watch (Royal Highlanders)
Thomas Paar - Photographer
|I have not been able to find any definite information regarding this soldier. The photograph bears two period pencil
inscriptions on the reverse. One in the soldier's own hand reads: "From Johnie your old pal to Bill". The somewhat
unusual spelling of his name is interesting and is repeated on the second inscription which reads: "Johnie Lawson
killed in France 1914". My guess is that "Johnie" was a nickname for the more common John or Jonathan since I
have been unable to find any official documentation using Johnie.
Looking at the photo I know that Johnie Lawson was a member of the 2nd Battalion, the Black Watch. He had been in
the army for at least five years when the photograph was taken based on his two long service stripes. Based on the
harp badge on his upper right sleeve he was a bandsman in his battalion. Since this photograph was found grouped with
the other two pictured here he probably knew Sergeant Major Millar and the three unidentified soldier below.
Even with that I have been unable to find a John (or variation of the name) Lawson who was a 1914 casualty of the
2/Black Watch. When the 2nd Battalion left India for the Western Front in late 1914 it did so as part of the Bareilly
Brigade, 7th (Meerut) Division and saw it first action in October - November of that year. Looking through casualty
lists I have been able to locate only two John Lawsons of the Black Watch who were killed in action in 1914: No. 734
Acting Sergeant John Lawson of Abbotshill, Fifeshire who was killed on 10 November 1914 and No. 9440 Private John
Lawson of Lochgelly, Fifeshire who perished on 8 October 1914. Both dates fit in with the time line for the 2nd
Battalion but unfortunately both men were members of the 1st Battalion which had not served in India prior to the
So until more information can be found concerning the Johnie Lawson in this photograph the precise nature of his fate
in 1914 will remain unknown.
|Three un-named members of the 2nd Battalion, the Black Watch (Royal Highlanders). The on the left is a bandsman. If he
was a piper of drummer he would have had a drum shaped badge on his upper right sleeve. He appears to have one good
conduct stripe on his left cuff.
The seated private is wearing a Queen's South Africa Medal with five clasps and two good conduct stripes on his left cuff
denoting at least 5 years of continuous good service. He could actually have been performing outstanding duty for much
longer that five years since the third badge would not be awarded until 12 years had been competed. He was also wearing
the crossed rifle badge of a qualified marksman above his good conduct stripes. He is the "old sweat" in this group.
Standing at right is a lance corporal who wear one good conduct stripe on his left cuff.
One thing I find very interesting about this photograph are the three helmets that sit at the feet of these soldiers. The
helmets at center and right appear to be of the relatively modern standard issue Wolseley Pattern that was commonly
seen in India, Africa and the Middle East during and after World War One. The helmet on the far left seems like a rather
odd hybrid of the Wolseley pattern and old Foreign Service patten helmet from Victorian times. The dome of this helmet is
higher and more conical that the other two and it completely lacks the extended wrap around brim of the other two. At the
same time its forward a rear peaks extend much further out than those of the old Foreign Service variety.
Mela Raam - Photographer
Peshawar Contonment, India