Alexander “ Snacks ” Taylor (1862 –1954) : Crieff Soldier's Incredible Military Record

Alexander “ Snacks ” Taylor (1862 –1954)

Alexander “ Snacks “ Taylor was often referred to as “The Grand Old man of The Black Watch” This obituary to him appeared in the Perthshire Advertiser on the 31 July 1954.

Mr Alexander Taylor who was the oldest veteran of 2nd Battalion, The Black Watch and the oldest man in the 1939 – 1945 war to wear the King’s uniform, has died in Perth Royal Infirmary at the age of 92. He was a native of Auchterarder and until recently ran a one-man tobacconist’s business in Crieff. He served on Crieff Town Council for seventeen years including a spell as bailie. Mr Taylor who was in the Home Guard in the last war was at he age of 83 was thirty-three years with the Black Watch and attained the rank of Colour Sergeant. He wore ten medals ranging from the Egyptian Campaign Medal of 1885 to the Defence Medal of World War ll and including the M.S.M. Recently he was presented to the Queen Mother at Dundee as a Black Watch veteran. Last year Mr Taylor completed fifty years perfect attendance as an usher of Crieff Highland Gathering. He was pre deceased by his wife and is survived by a daughter and three sons.” **

** in actual fact he had four sons and three daughters !


2148 Alexander Taylor

That picture taken during World War Two is of particular interest. It is part of a group photograph of the Crieff Detachment of the Home Guard, somewhat unkindly referred to as Dad’s Army and became epitomised by Arthur Lowe’s Captain Mainwairing in the oft-repeated TV series of that name. Alexander Taylor was seventy-seven when war broke out. Despite his age he managed to enlist and in doing so succeeded in becoming the oldest person in uniform in the British forces all as mentioned in his obituary in the PA! His Army record is quite incredible and these details have kindly been supplied by the Black Watch Regimental Museum at Balhousie Castle in Perth.
1. Enlisted 20 September 1883; Corporal 1 January 1888; Lance Sergeant 5 November 1889; Sergeant 5 November 1890.

2. Re- engaged At Cape Town, South Africa to complete 21 years service, 19April 1895. To 2nd Battalion.

3.Egypt Medal. Clasps Nile 1884- 1885.

4.Married at Malta 10 September 1887.

The following information was abstracted from the sources under noted

5. Sergeants’ Records: 42nd / 1 BW. 1826-1873 with manuscript additions to 1919. BWRA 0261/2 – page 123.

6. He enlisted in 1883 and would have done his basic training at The Black Watch Depot, Queen’s Barracks, Perth.

7. He served in the Egyptian Campaign, 1884, receiving the Egyptian Medal with bar, the Nile Clasp, 1884-1885 and the Khedive’s Egyptian Star.

8. The Black Watch Medal Roll: 1801 – 1911, page 191 

He continued to serve with the 1st Battalion in Malta  (May 1886), Gibraltar (August 1889), Egypt (January 1893) and Mauritius and South Africa (March 1893). On his re - engagement in 1895, he was posted to the 2nd Battalion, and then stationed in Edinburgh. The Battalion moved to York (September 1896) and Aldershot (1898) before going on active service to South Africa (November 1899) to fight in the Boer War. He is listed as a Colour Sergeant in the Medal Roll (page 243) and received the Queen’s South African Medal with Bars for Paardeberg, Driefontein, Witteberrgen, Cape Colony and Transvaal. He received the King’s South African Medal with Bars for South Africa (1901) and South Africa (1902).

He was posted back to the 1st Battalion after the campaign and returned to Scotland serving at Edinburgh (October 1902) and Fort George (September 1904). He received the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal (with gratuity) on 1 July 1905.

He appears to have been discharged from the Regular Army about this time but the exact date is not to hand. He then joined the Volunteer Force as an Instructor on the Staff of the 4th Volunteer Battalion, The Black Watch. In 1908. with the formation of the Territorial Force , this unit became the 6th ( Perthshire ) Battalion , The Black Watch .  

 He served in the First World War, enlisting as a Reservist at Crieff on the 14th September 1914, aged 50. His number was now 3/3927.

Depot Roll Book, 1914 BWRA 0488

He had the rank as CSM (Colour Sergeant Major) and then WO2. He received the Star (1914-1915), The British War Medal (1914- 1920) and the Allied Victory Medal (1914 – 1918) and the Meritorious Service Medal. The records in the Archives are incomplete in parts so it was not possible to trace with certainty the Battalion with which he served. It may have been the 6th Battalion, which went to France in May 1915. The copy held in the Archives of the War Diary of the 6th Battalion, The Black Watch is incomplete lacking entries for 1915 and 1916.

Alexander Taylor’s Decorations and Medals

The decorations and medals of Mr Taylor were donated to the Museum by his Executors in 1954  (ref A2485) and are on display in the First World War Room in the Museum at Balhousie Castle.

2148 Colour Sergeant Alexander Taylor 

Alexander Taylor being introduced to the Queen ( Mother as she became  )  in the early 1950s in Dundee

Not everyone in Crieff realised that the old man in Mitchell Street who daily without fail, made his way towards the Square  to open his wee tobacco shop ( located between Boots and the EWM Shop ), had seen such service in the uniform of his country.  Such was his incredible Army record that it spanned over sixty years starting with the Egyptian Campaign, then the Boer War, the First and finally the Second World War.


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