In 1801 the Black Watch finally entered into “The French Wars” with another battle that would go down in regimental history. At Alexandria in Egypt the 42nd were part of a naval assault landing on the occupying French army. During ferocious fighting the highlanders captured a French Eagle standard belonging to Napoleon’s “Invincible” Legion. To commemorate the event the regiment was allowed to add the Sphinx to its flags and crest.
The regiment was involved in the Peninsular War from the beginning, and fought the French tooth and nail through the streets of the hamlet of Elvina in order to give the British time to escape during the battle of Corunna.
A company served at the battle of Talavera in 1809, and the entire regiment played its part in defeating the French at Busaco, Fuentes d Onoro, Salamanca, Vittoria, Sorauren, Nivelle, Orthez and finally Tolouse, where only 60 men of the regiments were left unwounded by the end of the fighting. A total of 10 battle honours from the period were amalgamated into the honour “Peninsula” on the regimental colour.
The 42nd also played important roles in the finale of the Napoleonic period - the battles of Quatre Bras and Waterloo. At the former they were caught by French cavalry whilst still formed in line, a near death-sentence, but despite bloody fighting were able to maintain their colours. At Waterloo they helped turn back the first major French attack of the day and then counter-attacked alongside their Scottish kinsmen in the Scots Greys regiment.