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As the war clouds gathered over Europe in 1939, the Territorial Army was doubled in size and units were required to form duplicates. The 9thBattalion Durham Light Infantry based at Alexander Road, Gateshead, formed the 12th Battalion Durham Light Infantry and adopted the honour title Tyneside Scottish. The battalion sought to strengthen its Scottish links, and in February 1940 became 1stBattalion Tyneside Scottish (Black Watch).
 They deployed to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force, complete with pipe band. The battalion were tasked with the construction of airfields, their pipe band entertaining the local population. As the panzers rolled across France, the battalion formed a blocking position at Fichieux, near Arras. They held the advancing German armour for vital hours, sustaining heavy casualties, before withdrawing to Dunkirk.