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Ghillie History

The Ghillie Suit and the Lovat Scouts; a History.

The ghillie suit is a unique kind of camouflage that has been used for well over a century to hide men within their surroundings. The ghillie suit began in Scotland. The first ghillie suits were made by shepherds who wore them while attending their flocks. As poachers or predators would come near, the shepherds would wait quietly until they came very close and then attack them. The suit worked so well even keen predators such as wolves would pass by the veiled shepherd. Eventually, ghillie suits were seen on the lands of wealthy landowners in Scotland. These landlords would hire men known as ghillies to patrol their lands and hunt poachers who were after the game on the property.

Ghillies would wait patiently in the brush or high grass for poachers to come by and then either attack or arrest them. Poachers back in that day were punished harshly, even if it was a man trying to hunt food for his family. In addition to hunting poachers, ghillies would also occasionally hunt game themselves. They would hide in the bushes until the unsuspecting animal wonder wander very close and then jump out and grab it with their bare hands. Then the ghillies would take the trapped animals back to the aristocrat’s castles. The landlord would then kill the animal himself in a mock hunt.

The first time ghillie suits appeared on the battlefield was in the early 20th century. A commander in the Scottish army named Lord Lovat formed two companies of specially trained soldiers for service in South Africa in the year 1899. He chose men from the highlands of northern Scotland with wilderness experience such as ghillies and shepherds. These men brought skills they already had and received extra training from Lovat to become a powerful force. These men served in South Africa and attempted to improve the reconnaissance of their forces against the Boers.

The scouts put their tracking and stealth skills to the test and soon vastly improved intelligence using telescopic lenses for observation and ghillie suits to be able to hide for days at a time without being seen. The Lovat scouts continued their service in WWI and WWII as well. In 1916, a special unit of the Lovat scouts was formed to be a sniper unit. These men were unmatched in their ability to gather intelligence and strategically pick off commanders of the opposing army with their sharp-shooting tactics. They were so successful against the enemy that at one point the military attempted to provide every battalion with their own Lovat Scout sharpshooters. The Lovats were crucial in reconnaissance and tactical strikes against the enemy.

The Lovats continued their invaluable service in WWII against the Germans. They successfully completed many heroic missions that took place behind enemy lines. On D-Day, the very first casualty was a member of the Lovat Scouts as they charged across a bridge to assist their comrades. The Lovats have units that continue to serve even today and still implement their skills learned from the highlands to be a powerful force no matter where they are in the world.