Military Raitts

Over the centuries, Raitts have served in the Armed Forces all over the world - many in Victorian and earlier times joining the Army or the Navy of their own free will, albeit following in family footsteps. This page is mainly devoted to those whose service careers, by virtue or rank and/or decorations, are more well-known. It does not include merchant seamen, many of whom will be found on the various Raitt Mariner pages. Several other Raitt soldiers or sailors and their careers are mentioned on the Raitt Anecdotes page and further details about yet others will be found on their respective family pages or on the separate Raitts in World War 1 page.


The Soldiers and Marines

Major George Raitt, Ensign, 36th Regiment, May 1795, stationed at Waniore (East Indies); Lieutenant in 72nd Regiment, Ceylon, Jan 1796;  captain, June 1803, accompanying his company in the expedition under Sir D. Baird against the Cape of Good Hope, from 1805-1810; Major of brigade (Nov 1810) to the troops, destined to cooperate with those from India in the attack on the island of Mauritius, where he continued until the return of the 72nd Regiment to the Cape of Good Hope in June 1814. Joined 2nd Battalion, 72nd Regiment in Ireland in June 1815, remaining there until Sept 1816, when after 21 years of uninterrupted service in the 72nd Regiment, he was compelled to effect an exchange to the 2nd battalion, 84th Regiment, his private affairs not permitting him to leave Europe. He was placed on half-pay on 12 Apr 1818.

Arthur John Rait, Esquire, Companion of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, Lieutenant-Colonel {retired) Royal Artillery, Justice of the Peace and Deputy-Lieutenant for the county of Forfar, was born in 1839 and was the eldest son of James Rait of Anniston, Captain 15th Hussars and Lieutenant-Colonel 1st Lancers British Auxiliary Legion in Spain, and Knight of St. Ferdinand.  He was entitled to wear the Military Cockade. Arthur was present at the capture in 1854 of the fortifications at Bomarsund which the Russians had built on the Aaland Islands in the Baltic during the Crimean War. Having joined the Royal Artillery in 1857, he served in the Rakamundel Field Force in 1859, and as a Lieutenant in the 4th Brigade Royal Artillery he fought during the Maori Wars in New Zealand in 1864-1866, becoming a Captain and earning his Brevet-Major for services against the Ashanti in West Africa. He was one of the first people to use the Gatling gun in 1874 and, while in Africa, he raised a force of native soldiers which became known as Rait’s Artillery.

Arthur’s only son, Walter Garnet Rait, was born in November 1878 and was educated at Rugby. He entered the King's Own Scottish Borderers in August 1898 and as a 2nd Lieutenant embarked for South Africa with his battalion in December 1899. He served in the Cape and Orange River Colonies, was present at the battle of Paardeberg and took part in the advance on Bloemfontein. He died of enteric fever at Wynberg on 22 June 1900 and is buried there (see also Raits of Anniston).

Lieutenant-Colonel George Edward Raitt was the son of Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Raitt, 2nd Regiment and was born on 17 December 1780.  As an Ensign, 2nd Regiment of Foot in July 1796, he served with the Queen's Royals in Ireland during the Rebellion of 1798, and was present at the capture of Wexford from the rebels, and at the surrender of the French at Ballinamuck. He accompanied the expedition to the Helder in 1799, and was present at the subsequent battles in September and October. He became a Captain-Lieutenant in 1800 and served as Aide-de-Camp to Major-General Hamilton in the Egyptian campaign of 1801, being present at the siege and capture of Fort Aboukir, battle of the 21st March, siege and capture of Fort St. Julian, affair of Rahmania, and blockade and surrender of Alexandria (Turkish War Medal). He landed in the Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) in August 1808, and was present at the battle of Vimiera, in all the operations of Sir John Moore's army on its retreat, and at the battle of Corunna. He accompanied the expedition to Walcheren in 1809, and was present at the capture of Flushing. In 1810 he proceeded to Portugal as aide-de-camp to Major-General Houstan; he was present during the operations of Massena's retreat, and battle of Fuentes d'Onor. He was Assistant-Adjutant-General in 1813 in the North West District of England. Promoted to brevet Lieutenant-Colonel in 1814, he was  appointed Deputy Quarter-Master General to the Forces in Malta in September of that year, subsequently becoming Deputy-Adjutant-General in Corfu to the forces serving in the Mediterranean in 1816. He exchanged to the half-pay of the 90th Foot in 1817 and served as Barrack Master at Bristol. He received the War Medal with four Clasps. He died in Kensington, London, England on 8 July 1859.

His eldest son, Major George Dalhousie Jolliffe Raitt, born in 11 September 1807, followed his father into the 2nd Foot. He was commissioned as an Ensign in 1823, became a Lieutenant in 1825, Captain in 1831 and Major in 1839. Serving with the 2nd (Queen's Royal) Regiment, he was wounded in the assault and capture of the citadel of Ghuznee on 23 August 1839. He died of sunstroke at Mount Aboo, Gujerat, India in 1843.

Ernest Robert Raitt, born in 1831, was the fifth but only surviving son of the above Lieutenant-Colonel George Edward Raitt. Unlike his father and elder brother, he does not appear to have been a military man, but his offspring certainly were. They include: George Dalhousie Churchill Raitt, born 1854; Herbert Aveling Raitt, born 1858; Francis Jolliffe Raitt, born 1860; and Arthur Douglas Raitt, born 1869.  

Major George Dalhousie Churchill Raitt was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Royal Marine Artillery in 1872. He was posted to HMS Achilles in 1875 and served in the Battalion of Royal Marines sent to South Africa for special services in the Zulu War in 1879. During the Egyptian War (1882-1889) he served in HMS Alexandra  and was present at the bombardment of Alexandria in 1882. He became a Major (Instructor of Musketry) in 1893.

Major-General Sir Herbert Aveling Raitt, K.C.I.E., C.B. (1858-1935), son of E. R. Raitt of Broughton’s, Newnham, Gloucestershire, was commissioned Second Lieutenant, 2nd North Staffordshire or 80th Regiment Foot in 1878. He served with the regiment in the South African War 1878-79, including in the operations against the Sekukuni, and the storming and capture of their stronghold; He was Adjutant to the 2nd Battalion from February 1881-June 1884, then served in Sir Charles Warren’s peaceful expedition into Bechuanaland, 1884-85, where he commanded a troop of Diamonds Field Horse. He served with the Egyptian Army under Lord Kitchener for two years from 1894. Promoted to Major in  1896, he sailded to South Africa on the Briton and served in the Boer War, where he was Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment, from December 1900. He was promoted to Colonel in 1904 and commanded the South Midland Division from 1908-11. Becoming a Major-General in 1912, he was posted as Commanding Officer of the Mandalay Brigade during 1913-14; and as General Officer Commanding Burma Division he commanded the troops during the Kachin Rising of January-February 1915, overcoming all opposition encountered, capturing rebel stockades, and destroying implicated villages. He retired from his command in November 1918 and was appointed K.C.I.E in 1919.

Lieutenant-Colonel Francis Jolliffe Raitt was commissioned as a Lieutenant in

the Royal Marine Light Infantry in 1889 and served during the Egyptian War in 1882. He was present at the action at Mallaha Junction and Kassassin, where he served as Acting Adjutant of the R.M.L.I. Battalion present in Egypt during July and August. He became a Major in 1897, but retired and took up an appointment with the Recruiting Staff in 1906. He re-engaged for active service for the Great War and was appointed General Staff Officer, 2nd Grade, War Office, in 1914. He was subsequently appointed Temporary Lieutenant-Colonel Recruiting Service, York District, in 1915. A member of I Zingari and Free Foresters, he died in an Edinburgh nursing home on 29 September 29 1944, aged 84. Very well known at Lord's, he, perhaps, was most popular in Yorkshire, his annual cricket week at Howsham Hall being one of the social events of the season. During many years he took part in Yorkshire Gentlemen matches, country house and regimental cricket, besides appearing occasionally for Hampshire. A senior member of York Race Committee, he acted as steward at many race meetings in the North.

Captain Arthur Douglas Raitt, another son of E. R. Raitt, was born on 10 January 1869, educated at St. Alban’s School and at the United Services College, Westward Ho! in Devon. He was commissioned as Second Lieutenant, 3rd Battalion King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry in 1890, transferring as Lieutenant, 2nd Battalion The Queens Royal West Surrey Regiment the following year. He became a Captain in 1898 and serving with his battalion in South Africa from October 1899 and being present at the battle of Colenso. He was killed in action at Spearman’s Camp, Upper Tugela, near Spion Kop, with General Hildyard's Brigade in Natal on 21 January 1900. The troop’s remained in camp, watching the Boers strengthening their positions on the far side of the Tugela River, which was not crossed until the 18th of January 1900. On the 20th of January two companies of the Queen’s were ordered to make a frontal attack on a Boer position in order to cover a flanking movement by other units on Bastion Hill. Captain Raitt, descendant of the famous Raitts in the Regiment, was killed when four out of the five officers were hit. He was 30 years old and is buried in Rangeworthy Cemetery, Acton Holmes, Ladysmith, Kwazulu-Natal. His name is inscribed on a memorial in the cemetery as well as on a tablet in his old college at Westward Ho! It is also engraved on a tablet at Guildford, erected by his comrades in memory of all ranks of the Queen's Royal West Surrey Regiment who fell in the Boer war.

Like Rifleman Joseph Raitt of Lyttelton, New Zealand (see New Zealand Raitts and under Raitt Anecdotes), two sons of Alexander and Susan Raitt from Barry’s Reef in Victoria, Australia saw action in France during the 1st World War. Private Ernest William Raitt left Australia with the 28th Battalion when he was still 16 and saw service in Gallipoli from where he was evacuated. He was one of the first Australian soldiers to go to France and was reported missing at Pozieres on 29 July 1916 - he was just 18. His brother, Allen, who enlisted at the same time, left Australia with Reinforcements for the 16th Battalion and was only in France for a few months when he was taken prisoner at Bullencourt on 11 April 1917. He was held as a POW in Germany for some twenty months before being repatriated at the end of the war.

Lieutenant Charles Henry Sidney Raitt, of the 90th Light Infantry Regiment, died of fever in Malta on 28th April 1855, en route to the Crimea. He had landed in  Malta from HMS Gibraltar on 12th March 1855. He is buried in Msida Bastion Cemetery, Malta. He was aged 18.


The Sailors

Captain William Raitt’s exploits as commander of the sloop Scout (18 guns) during the Napoleonic Wars are worthy of note. HMS Scout was a Cruizer-class brig-sloop built by Peter Atkinson & Co. at Hull and launched in 1804. She participated in a number of actions and captured several privateers in the Mediterranean during the Napoleonic Wars. Commander William Raitt assumed command of the Scout in February 1806 and on the morning of 27 March 1807, off Cadiz, Scout, engaged the Spanish felucca privateer Admiral, out of Tarifa, under the command of Sebastian Boralta and with a crew of about 100 men. The Scout saw the ship about an hour before it anchored, but was five hours getting within cannon range. As the Scout approached, the Admiral fired the two 24-pounder guns she carried in her bows, but the crew of Admiral were forced to cut her anchor cable and run her onshore within 10 minutes of the start of return fire. Evidently pierced by the Scout's shots, the Admiral began filling with water. The strong surf prevented the Scout from sending her boats to capture the Admiral, and by the time Captain Raitt sailed in the next day the felucca had wrecked completely.

On 10 May the Scout captured a Spanish settee, the San Antonio Abad, of nine men and 20 tons burthen, sailing from Marabella to Ceuta with a cargo of bricks, leather and the like. Two days later, Scout captured a Spanish brig carrying bale goods and loaf sugar. Late on 21 May, Commander Raitt sent his boats and those of Morgiana in pursuit of several vessels spotted sailing past Cape Trafalgar with the aim of clearing the Straits under cover of darkness. Although the ships pursued fired heavily, Raitt’s boats succeeded in capturing one of the privateers.  

On 13 June the Scout and her sister-ship Redwing chased three vessels into the Barbate river. Commander Raitt sent boats from both the Scout and the  Redwing to destroy the vessels, which consisted of a Spanish privateer and a felucca The Spanish privateer was the De Bonne Vassallio,with a crew of 42 men, all but four of whom escaped ashore. The boarding party also captured two signal posts, together with their flags. On 21 June Scout captured the Fair American and that same day, the Scout was off Lagos in the Algarve with Major General Spencer on board. On 11 September Scout captured the Danish ships Gode Haab, Jacob Kielland and Son, and Anna. Then on 20 October the Scout detained the Russian ship Bella Aurora.

On 4 April 1808 the Scout captured the American ship Mary Alice, then on 7 December, she joined Vice-Admiral Lord Collingwood's squadron off Toulon. Early on 14 June 1809, near Cape Croisette south of Marseilles, Raitt encountered a convoy of 14 Spanish merchant vessels and two gunboats. The Scout set off in pursuit but after the wind dropped in the afternoon Raitt had to continue the pursuit using his boats. The convoy dispersed as seven of the vessels headed for a small nearby harbour. Scout's boats went in under fire from a shore battery; however, a landing party captured the battery, spiking the two 6-pounder guns there. The boats then captured and sailed out the seven Spanish vessels which were carrying wool, grain, leather, flour and cheese. Raitt destroyed two of the vessels after removing their cargoes; the five others he sent to Port Mahon. A landing party from the Scout made a similar attack on a battery at Carry-le-Rouet, some 20 miles west of Marseilles on 14 July. The landing party captured the fort and spiked the guns. In the attack the British killed five enemy soldiers and captured seven, without suffering any loss themselves. At some point in 1809 Commander T. Stamp took temporary command of the Scout, and in October 1809 Commander Alexander Renton Sharpe replaced Raitt.

In response to a letter written to William, Duke of Clarence (later William IV), by Vice Admiral Collingwood, William said “I am glad that your Lordship is satisfied with the conduct of our officers and men on this occasion; and am clearly of opinion, that the lieutenants deserve, and ought, to be promoted. I am for liberal rewards: the gallant Raitt, of course, comes within my ideas of promotion and gratuities. I have ever been, and ever shall be, of opinion, that zeal and bravery ought to be the sole causes of promotion.”

The gallant William Raitt, here noticed with so much honour, was not long after promoted to the rank of postcaptain. He had received, before this, a flattering mark of his great commander’s approbation, in a letter dated Ville de Paris, 1st August, 1809. “I have seen with satisfaction,” said Lord Collingwood, “the zeal and intrepidity which have distinguished your public services on this and other occasions, and the gallantry with which your enterprises have been executed by the officers and company of the Scout. They have excited my admiration; and I shall have much pleasure in transmitting to the Lords of the Admiralty a detail, in which your merits are so conspicuous.”

Captain Raitt also played a minor role in 1806 in attempting the

recovery of the Stuart Papers from Rome.

There is a brief mention of him in the Aberdeen Journal for Wednesday 19 December 1810 when he is counted in the list of subscriptions for enlarging the church of Footdee. He gave £5 5s – a substantial amount (and one of the largest) considering the City of Aberdeen gave £31 10s (the highest). (Footdee was a small fishing village at the mouth of the Dee and Aberdeen harbour, long since swallowed up by the expansion of the city. The village dates back to medieval times but the fascinating present day cluster of cottages was laid out by influential Aberdeen architect John Brown to rehouse the cities fishermen in 1809.) Captain Raitt died at Aberdeen, his native place, on the 4th of February 1816, in the forty-third year of his age.

William Raitt was not, however, the only Raitt to be caught up in war. Both master Charles Raitt from Dundee and David Raitt, master of the Adelphi of Aberdeen, were captains of merchant ships captured by American vessels in the Anglo-American wars. Charles was captured during the American Revolutionary War or War of Independence (1775–1783), while David and the Adelphi were involved in the military conflict between the United States and the British Empire and their Indian allies which was to last nearly three years between 1812-1815.  Both David and Charles lived to sail another day and details of their mariner activities can be found on the Other Raitt Mariners page.


The Airman

Major William Wallace Raitt, United States Air Force, was awarded the Silver Star (America’s third highest military decoration for valour in the face of the enemy) for gallantry in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force while serving with the 44th Tactical Fighter Squadron, in action on 11 August 1967, over North Vietnam. On that date, he led a flight of four F-105 Thunderchiefs against the Hanoi Railroad/Highway Bridge. Completely disregarding his own personal safety, Major Raitt flew through heavy 85-mm. flak, evaded four SA-2 surface-to-air missiles and delivered his ordnance precisely on target. He was subsequently presented with a Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster in lieu of a Second Award of the Silver Star for gallantry in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force while serving with the 44th Tactical Fighter Squadron, in action on 19 November 1967, near Hanoi, North Vietnam. On that date, he was credited with destroying an actively firing surface-to-air missile site which was a threat to sixteen F-105s targeted against a North Vietnamese concrete manufacturing plant. Although his aircraft's hydraulic system had sustained serious damage from an exploding surface-to-air missile, Major Raitt disregarded his own safety, remaining in defensive formation to assure mission success, and courageously delivered his ordnance directly on target. Besides the Silver Star, William also received the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with eight Oakleaf clusters, Joint Service Commendation Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal. He ended his career as a Lieutenant Colonel William W. Raitt was born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1931 and died in 1993 in Liberty, Utah. He was the great grandson of James Dorward Raitt of Arbroath.