340: Gordon Highlanders (1758)& Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders(1794)

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Gordon Highlanders

The Gordon Highlanders was a British Army infantry regiment from 1881 until 1994. The regiment took its name from the Clan Gordon and recruited principally from Aberdeen and the North-East of Scotland.


The regiment was formed on 1 July 1881 by the amalgamation of the 75th Stirlingshire Regiment – which became the 1st battalion of the new regiment – and the 92nd Gordon Highlanders, which became the 2nd. The 75th Highlanders were raised in 1787 by Colonel Robert Abercromby of Tullibody for service in India, where they saw a great deal of action. They went on to serve in South Africa, the Indian MutinyEgypt and on the North-West Frontier.

In 1809 they lost their kilt and their Highland identity but the title Stirlingshire was introduced in 1862. The 92nd were raised as the 100th Highlanders by the Duke of Gordon in 1794 being renumbered 92nd in 1798. Their early service included the Low Countries and Egypt, followed by Corunna, the PeninsulaWaterlooAfghanistan and South Africa.

First World War

British troops, believed to be the 4th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders (20th Brigade, British 7th Division) crossing no man’s land near Mametz on 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

The Gordons raised 21 battalions in the First World War, serving on the Western Front and in Italy and winning 65 battle honours. The regiment lost 1,000 officers and 28,000 men during the war. The legendary folk singer and Scottish Traveller Jimmy MacBeath served with the regiment during this era.

Second World War

A further 27 honours were added in World War II when the regiment served in France in 1940, in MalayaNorth AfricaSicilyItaly and north-west Europe.

The 1st Battalion was with the 51st (Highland) Infantry Division during the Battle for France in 1940 when that Division was forced to surrender at Saint-Valéry-en-Caux. The 5th (Buchan and Formartine) Battalion also surrendered with the same Division. The 1st Battalion was reformed in August 1940 and went on to serve with the second formation of the 51st Highland Division throughout the rest of the Second World War.

The 2nd Battalion was based in Malaya as part of the Singapore garrison and fought in the battle for Singapore in February 1942, surrendering along with 130,000 other British Commonwealth soldiers on 15 February. The men of this battalion suffered more casualties as Prisoners of War in Japanese captivity than they did during the fighting on Singapore Island and mainland Malaysia. The 2nd Battalion was reformed in May 1942 from personnel of the 11th Battalion and fought with the 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division.

The 4th (City of Aberdeen) Battalion was converted to an artillery regiment on 1 November 1941, becoming the 92nd Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery, as part of the 9th Armoured Division, but saw no active service during the war.

The 6th (Banffshire) Battalion was transferred from the 51st Highland Division before it surrendered in 1940 and joined the 2nd Infantry Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division. The 6th Battalion fought through the North African and Italian Campaigns before ending the war on garrison duty in Palestine.

The 7th (Mar and Mearns) Battalion served with the second formation of the 51st Highland Division throughout the war.

The 8th (City of Aberdeen) Battalion was also converted to artillery, becoming the 100th Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery. This battalion served with the 2nd Infantry Division in the Burma Campaign.

The 9th (Donside) Battalion (originally part of the 9th (Highland) Infantry Division along with the 11th Battalion) were initially posted to the Shetland islands. Later they were amalgamated with the 5th Battalion and sent to India for training. Converted to an armoured regiment, as the 116th Regiment Royal Armoured Corps (Gordons) they were sent to Burma. As part of 255th Indian Tank Brigade, they were involved in the dash for Rangoon and were heavily involved in the battle of Meiktila, signalling the end of Japanese hopes in Burma.

The London Scottish battalions were part of the Gordon Highlanders although they were a London recruited regiment.

After the war the Gordons saw active service in the Malayan Emergency and Northern Ireland.

The regiment was amalgamated with The Queens’ Own Highlanders (Seaforth and Camerons) on September 17, 1994 to form The Highlanders (Seaforth, Gordons and Camerons).


The novelist George MacDonald Fraser was posted as a lieutenant to the 2nd Battalion in the immediate post-war period, and wrote three volumes of short stories (the “McAuslan” books), which were lightly fictionalised recollections of his time with the regiment.

The original tartan of the 75th is not certain but it may have been akin to what is now known as Campbell of Breadalbane. The 92nd has always worn the Government sett with a yellow stripe, which is worn as a clan tartan by those of the name Gordon.

The regimental marches were Cock o’ the North, St Andrew’s Cross and The Garb of Old Gaul. HRH The Prince of Wales was Colonel in Chief.





It was formed in 1881 by the amalgamation of the 91st (Princess Louise’s Argyllshire) Regiment and the 93rd (Sutherland Highlanders) Regiment as outlined in the Childers Reforms. The regiment is one of the six Scottish line infantry regiments, and wears a version of the Government Sett as its regimental tartan. It also had the largest cap badge in the British Army. The uniform included the Glengarry as headgear.

World War I

When the Great War broke out in 1914 the regiment had two Regular Battalions (1st and 2nd), two Militia Battalions (3rd and 4th) and five Territorial Battalions (5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th each of which split into 1st, 2nd and 3rd-line battalions). Seven more Service Battalions were raised for Kitchener’s Army and they were numbered 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th.

Ten of the battalions served in France and Flanders (1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th and 14th) gaining 65 battle honours and four served in the Mediterranean area (1st, 5th, 6th and 12th) gaining a further 13 battle honours.

431 officers and 6475 other ranks lost their lives and six Victoria Crosses were awarded to the regiment during the war.

World War II

There were nine Argyll and Sutherland battalions raised during the Second World War.

The 1st Battalion fought in the Western Desert Campaign, Crete, Abyssinia, Sicily and in the Italian Campaign. The first action for the 1st Battalion was at Sidi Barani where they joined the battle on 10 December 1940 as part of the 16th Brigade. On 17 May 1941 the battalion moved to Crete where they formed part of the defence based on the east side of the island at Tymbaki. Most of the Argylls marched from Tymbaki to the airfield at Heraklion on the night of 24 May to help support the 14th Infantry Brigade in the fighting at that airfield. They were successfully evacuated on 29 May from Heraklion but their convoy suffered air attacks and many casualties on the route away from Crete. The Argylls left at Tymbaki were captured when the island surrendered. The 1st Battalion was shipped to Alexandria and after garrison duties followed by a raid into the Gondar region of Abyssinia, they were sent back to the Western Desert where they were eventually attached to the 10th Indian Infantry Division and fought at the Battle of El Alamein. The 1st Battalion landed on Sicily during Operation Husky in 1943 and fought throughout the Italian Campaign with firstly the 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division and then the 8th Indian Infantry Division.

The 2nd Battalion fought valiantly against the Japanese Army during the fighting in Malaya and Singapore (See Battle of Bukit Timah). Led by the tough Lieut. Col. Ian Stewart they were one of the very few British units that was prepared for the jungle warfare in Malaya. During the withdrawal of the Indian 11th Infantry Division the 2nd Argylls slowed the enemy advance and inflicted heavy casualties on them. After suffering massive losses themselves, due to being continuously used as the buffer to protect the retreating army (especially at the Battle of Slim River), the remaining Argylls were reinforced with Royal Marines who had survived the sinking of HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse in December 1941 changing their name to Plymouth Argylls. The battalion surrendered with the rest of General Percival’s army in Singapore in February 1942.

In May 1942 the 15th Battalion was redesignated as the new 2nd Battalion. This battalion took part in the Normandy battles with the 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division and ended the war on the Elbe River.

In March 1942, two British privates of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, Macfarlane and Goldie, escaped from Stalag IX-C at Bad Sulza in Thuringia. They jemmied their way out of their barrack hut wearing their blue work detail overalls over their battledress. These were boldly marked ‘KG’ (Kriegsgefangener, prisoner of war) on the back in red.

Throughout their escape bid, both men wore 40 lb rucksacks that concealed the markings and which they never took off in public. One of them later recalled, ‘We attracted a certain amount of attention on the road because of our large packs but we made a point of keeping ourselves clean and shaven and also cleaned our boots regularly. No one stopped us on the way.’

After enduring a week in a salt wagon bound for Belgium, the two men made contact with an escape line there and, by mid-summer, they were safely back in Scotland.

After the war, in 1948, the two regular battalions were merged into one, forming a single-battalion regiment.

Korean War

The battalion was one of the first British units to serve in Korea, arriving there in September 1950 as part of the 27th British Commonwealth Brigade.

Its first major action, in the battle of Naktong, the battalion was involved in a tragic friendly fire incident, in the fight for Hill 282.

Thereafter, the battalion took part in the 8th Army’s push to the Yalu river, winning a battle honour at the Battle of Pakchon; then the subsequent retreat before the Chinese intervention, and the recovery and counter-attack to line Kansas, near the present Military Demarcation Line.

The battalion finished its tour of operation, and left Korea in April 1951.

1945 – 2006

In 1948 the 2nd Battalion was amalgamated with the 1st Battalion which then saw service in Palestine, Korea, British Guiana, Berlin, Suez, Singapore, Borneo, Hong Kong, Aden and the Falklands. The Argylls were noted during the Aden Emergency for their reoccupation of the Crater district of Aden, under controversial Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Colin Campbell Mitchell.

The beginning of the 21st century saw the battalion’s contribution to the Northern Ireland peace process being recognised by the award of the Wilkinson Sword of Peace, when under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Jonny Gray. Under his command it also saw action in the Iraq War in 2004.

In 2006, as part of the restructuring of the infantry, it was announced that the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders would be amalgamated with the other Scottish infantry regiments into the single Royal Regiment of Scotland. The battalion traditionally recruits from the counties of Argyll and Bute, Dunbartonshire, Renfrewshire, Inverclyde and Stirlingshire.

The regiment’s last role before amalgamation was in the air assault role as part of 16 Air Assault Brigade. The regiment now consists of a regular battalion (5 SCOTS), an affiliated company of the Territorial Army battalion, 51st Highland Volunteers (7 SCOTS) and an Army Cadet Force battalion.

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