402: Seaforth & Cameron Highlanders & The Highlanders

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Seaforth Highlanders

The Seaforth Highlanders (Ross–shire Buffs, The Duke of Albany’s) was a historic regiment of the British Army associated with large areas of the northern Highlands of Scotland. The Seaforth Highlanders have varied in size from two battalions to seventeen battalions during the Great War. After several mergers, The Seaforth Highlanders are now incorporated in the Highlanders (Seaforth, Gordons and Camerons) Battalion of The Royal Regiment of Scotland. 



The regiment was created through the amalgamation of the 72nd Highlanders (Duke of Albany’s Own) and the 78th Highlanders (Ross-shire Buffs), as part of the Childers Reforms of the British Army in 1881. The regimental museum is located at Fort George near Inverness. Fort George served as Depot for The Seaforth Highlanders for most of the regiment’s life. The regiment served in Britain’s later colonial wars, in Egypt (1882), the Sudan (1885), India (1895) and the Boer War (1899-1902).

First World War


Seaforth Highlanders recruiting poster

John Peter Fabius Fane de Salis, Lt. 3rd Battalion Seaforth Highlanders, attached to 2nd Batt. Killed in action near trenches at Bouchavesnes, 22.1.1917, aged 19.[1][2]

At the outbreak of the Great War, the 1st Battalion was serving in India. The 2nd Battalion was stationed at Shorncliffe Camp near Cheriton, Kent in southern England. The 2nd Battalion was sent to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). As part of the 10th Brigade, 4th Division, it took part in the retreat from Le Cateau, the Battle of the Marne and the subsequent chase of the German forces to the River Aisne. In mid-September 1914, the battalion was heavily involved in the Battle of the Aisne, suffering heavy casualties including the CO).

The 1st Battalion was returned from India, arriving in France in late 1914, and later took part in the Battle of Givenchy.

During the war the three front line Territorial battalions of the regiment, 1/4th, 1/5th and 1/6th Battalions all served in the 51st (Highland) Division.

Two service battalions, the 7th and 9th, served in the 9th (Scottish) Division and the 8th (Service) Battalion served in the 15th (Scottish) Division. The 1st Garrison Battalion served on the Salonika Front in the independent 228th Brigade. The 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion and the 2/4th, 3/4th, 2/5th, 3/5th, 2/6th, 3/6th and 10th (Reserve) Battalions did not serve overseas.

Interwar years

In 1921, the 1st Battalion was deployed to the Scottish coalfields to maintain order during strike action by the miners. Later, the Battalion served in Ireland during and after the partition. The 1st Battalion returned to India in the late 1920s.

Both battalions served in Palestine in the 1930s.

Second World War


Infantry of the 7th Seaforth Highlanders, 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division, waiting at their start line on 26 June 1944 for the signal to advance.


Led by their piper, men of 7th Seaforth Highlanders, 15th (Scottish) Division advance during Operation Epsom, 26 June 1944.


5th Bn Seaforth Highlanders plaque

In 1940, the 6th Battalion was sent to France as part of the BEF. The Battalion was involved in the Blitzkrieg of May 1940, escaping through Dunkirk on 1 June after suffering significant losses.


The Mackenzie tartan, otherwise known as the regimental tartan of the Seaforth Highlanders.

The 2nd and 4th Battalions were also part of the BEF in 1940 serving in the 51st (Highland) Division .

The 5th Bn. of the Regiment was a territorial unit in both World Wars and recruited in the counties of Sutherland and Caithness. Instead of the Mackenzie tartan kilt and stag’s head badge the battalion wore the Sutherland Kilt and the wildcat badge of the Clan Sutherland. The 2nd and 5th battalions formed part of 152 Brigade of the reconstituted 51st Highland Division, and served with distinction from El Alamein onwards through to the German surrender in Sicily. Subsequently 152 Brigade joined the D-day campaign from 7 June 1944 and served continuously until the capture of Bremen and VE-Day. Uniquely for a territorial battalion in World War II, the 5th Battalion Seaforth Highlanders was the subject of a battalion history, Battalion by Alistair Borthwick, which is a powerful testimony to the quality and sustained contribution of this distinguished unit.

The 7th Bn. Seaforths served in Northwest Europe with the 15th (Scottish) Division (see photos).

Postwar and amalgamation

The Queen’s Own Highlanders (Seaforth and Camerons) was formed on 7 February 1961 at Redford Barracks, Edinburgh, with the amalgamation of The Seaforth Highlanders and The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders. More recently, The Queens Own Highlanders and Gordon Highlanders were combined to form The Highlanders (Seaforth, Gordons and Camerons). In May 2006 all the Scottish Infantry Regiments merged to form The Royal Regiment of Scotland. The Highlanders became the 4th Battalion of the new Regiment.

Battle Honours

This list contains all battle honours awarded to the Seaforth Highlanders (Duke of Albany’s, Ross-shire Buffs) 72nd Highlanders and 78th Highlanders.

(Those borne on the Colours are in bold type)

72nd Highlanders[edit]

78th Highlanders[edit]

Seaforth Highlanders[edit]

Great War

Second World War

Victoria Cross recipients


Seaforth Highlanders Great War Memorial plaque in Tain. There is an identical plaque above the entrance to the Courthouse in Dornoch

  • Lt A.C. Bogle, 78th Highlanders, 1857, Indian Mutiny
  • Lt J.P.H Crowe, 78th Highlanders, 1857, Indian Mutiny
  • Lt H.T. MacPherson, 78th Highlanders, 1857, Indian Mutiny
  • Surgeon J. Jee, 78th Highlanders, 1857, Indian Mutiny
  • Asst Surgeon V.M. McMaster, 78th Highlanders, 1857, Indian Mutiny
  • C/Sgt S. McPherson, 78th Highlanders, 1857, Indian Mutiny
  • Private H. Ward, 78th Highlanders, 1857, Indian Mutiny
  • Private J. Hollowell, 78th Highlanders, 1857, Indian Mutiny
  • Lt A.S. Cameron, 72nd Duke of Albany’s Own Highlanders, 1858, Indian Mutiny
  • L/Cpl G. Sellar, 72nd Duke of Albany’s Own Highlanders, 1879, Afghanistan
  • Sgt J. MacKenzie, Seaforth Highlanders, 1900, Ashanti
  • Cpl S.W. Ware, 1st Bn Seaforth Highlanders, 1916, First World War
  • Dmr W. Ritchie, 2nd Bn Seaforth Highlanders, 1916, First World War
  • L/Sgt T. Steele, 1st Bn Seaforth Highlanders, 1917, First World War
  • Lt D. MacKintosh, 2nd Bn Seaforth Highlanders, 1917, First World War
  • Sgt A. Edwards, 6th Bn Seaforth Highlanders, 1917, First World War
  • Cpl L/R. McBeath, 5th Bn Seaforth Highlanders, 1917, First World War
  • Sgt J.M Meikle, MM.4th Bn Seaforth Highlanders, 1918, First World War

The Seaforth cap badges consist of the Stags’ head, motto, “L” and Coronet (not a crown). Officers wore the full four piece set (sometimes the L and coronet were joined together) in 3-D Sterling silver. Senior NCOs wore the lower two in full 3-D Sterling silver. Junior ranks wore a white metal one-piece badge depicting the scroll and stag’s head. The MacKenzie tartan worn by the Seaforths is much darker that the example shown here.


Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders

The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders was an infantry regiment of the British Army formed in 1793. In 1961 it was merged with the Seaforth Highlanders (Ross-shire Buffs, The Duke of Albany’s) to form the Queen’s Own Highlanders (Seaforth and Camerons). The regiment’s lineage is now continued by The Highlanders, 4th Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.


The regiment was raised as the 79th Regiment of Foot (Cameronian Volunteers) on August 17, 1793 at Fort William from among the members of the Clan Cameron by Sir Allan Cameron of Erracht. Originally on the Irish establishment, it became part of the British Army in 1804, and in 1806 it was renamed as the 79th Regiment of Foot (Cameronian Highlanders).

On raising, it was decided that the red-based Cameron tartan would not be used, and instead a new design was devised. The Cameron of Erracht tartan was based on the Macdonald sett with the addition of a yellow line from the Cameron tartan, and the omission of three red lines found in that of Macdonald.

French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars

The regiment was formed at the height of the French Revolutionary Wars, and moved to the Netherlands in 1794 where it took part in an unsuccessful campaign, before being evacuated back to Great Britain. On its return the 79th Foot was listed for disbandment, with the men being drafted into other units. In the event the regiment was reprieved, being instead posted to the West Indies in 1795. After a two-year tour the 79th were on garrison duties in England and Guernsey until 1799.

In 1799 the regiment was again in action against the French in Holland, as part of the Helder Campaign. On October 2, 1799 it took part in its first major battle at Egmont-op-Zee. At the end of the campaign the 79th returned to England. In 1800 the 79th was part of a force that took part in a failed assault on the Spanish coast at Ferrol.

In March 1801 the 79th Foot landed at Aboukir Bay, Egypt as part of an expeditionary force to prevent French control of the land route to India. After victories at Mandora and Alexandria, the British forces forced the surrender of the French forces at Cairo. Along with other regiments that took part in the Egyptian campaign the 79th Foot were henceforth permitted to bear a sphinx superscribed EGYPT on its colours and badges.

The 79th spent the next few years in Minorca and the United Kingdom without coming under fire. A second battalion was formed in 1804, as a draft-finding unit. The 1st Battalion took part in an engagement at CopenhagenDenmark in 1807, before returning to England.

In 1808 the 79th Foot moved to Portugal, moving to Spain in the following year and participating in several major battles of the Peninsular War:

Following the abdication of Napoleon in 1814, the regiment moved to CorkIreland. However, with the return of Napoleon from exile, the 79th Foot travelled to Belgium in May, 1815. The regiment took part in the final battles of the Napoleonic Wars at Quatre Bras and Waterloo in June.

1815 – 1854

The next forty years were quiet for the regiment. The 79th Foot remained in France as part of the army of occupation until 1818. The 2nd Battalion was disbanded in 1815. Over the next few decades the 79th provided garrisons in the UK, Canada and Gibraltar.

Crimean War

War with Russia broke out in 1854, and the 79th sailed from Portsmouth to Scutari where they became part of the Highland Brigade. The regiment fought at the Battles of AlmaBalaclava and Sevastopol.

Indian Mutiny

After briefly returning to the UK, the 79th sailed to India to take part in the suppression of the Sepoy Rebellion. The regiment took part in the Capture of Lucknow in 1858. In the following year, as part of the Rohilkand Field Force, the 79th fought at the Battle of Bareilly. The regiment stayed in India until 1871.

Queen’s Own

The regiment returned to England in 1871. On April 17, 1873 Queen Victoria presented the regiment with new colours at ParkhurstIsle of Wight, and directed they should in future be known as the “Queen’s Own”. Consequently they became the 79th Regiment, The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders. The regiment’s dark green facings, worn since 1793, were replaced with royal blue. The regiment moved to Gibraltar in 1879.

Childers reforms

On July 1, 1881 the 79th foot was redesignated as 1st Battalion The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders, the county regiment of Inverness-shire. The Camerons were the only infantry regiment to have a single regular battalion. The 1881 reforms also combined the militia and rifle volunteers of the county with the 79th Foot, becoming the 2nd (Militia) Battalion and the 1st (1st Inverness-shire Highland) Volunteer Battalion. In 1897 a 2nd regular battalion was raised, and the Militia battalion was renumbered to 3rd. In 1886, the new depot for the regiment, Cameron Barracks, was completed in Inverness by the Royal Engineers.

1881 – 1914

In 1882 the 1st Battalion moved from Gibraltar to Egypt, where they took part in the invasion and occupation of the country and the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir. They remained in Egypt until 1884, when it took part in an expedition to Sudan. The Battalion returned to the UK in 1887.

In 1897 a 2nd Battalion was formed, remaining at home stations while the 1st Battalion returned to Egypt and the Sudan. From 1900-1902 the 1st Battalion fought in the Second Boer War before returning to the UK. Noted Australian soldier Harry “Breaker” Morant was executed for murder by a firing squad of Cameron Highlanders in Pretoria gaol (South Africa) on 27 February 1902. The 2nd Battalion then served overseas garrisons in MaltaCreteChina and India.

In 1908 the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907 reorganised the reserve battalions of the regiment. The Militia Battalion was transferred to the Special Reserve while the Volunteer Battalion became the 4th Battalion in the new Territorial Force.

First World War

During the First World War, The Cameron Highlanders was expanded to thirteen battalions, of which nine were in battle. The 1st, 2nd, 4th (TF), 5th, 6th, 7th, 9th and 11th Battalions all fought on the Western Front. Ten representative battle honours were chosen to be displayed on the king’s colour:

The Scottish Gaelic poet Dòmhnall Ruadh Chorùna (1887–1967) served in the Cameron Highlanders during this era. A North Uist native who was illiterate in his native tongue, his poems and songs contain vivid descriptions of his experiences in the mud of the Western Front (World War I).



The 1st Battalion was posted to India 1919 – 1925, Burma 1925 – 1930, The Sudan in 1934 remaining there until 1936 upon which the Battalion returned to Catterick, North Yorkshire where it remained until 1939.

The 2nd Battalion was posted at various garrisons in the UK. In 1935 the 2nd Battalion moved to Palestine then Egypt. The 1st Battalion returned to England in 1936.

In 1920 the Territorial Force became the Territorial Army, and the 4th Battalion was reformed. In 1937 the Liverpool Scottish, previously a TA battalion of the King’s Regiment (Liverpool) was affiliated to the Camerons. In 1939 the TA was doubled in size with a duplicate 5th units being formed as the 5th Battalion (TA) and 2nd Battalion, Liverpool Scottish.

On September 1, 1921 the regiment was granted an additional badge: the cypher of Queen Victoria within The Garter to be borne on the four coners of the regimental colour.

Second World War

Full Dress of the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders
2nd Lieutenant Donald Callander prior to joining the British Expeditionary Force in France in May 1940. The Battle of Dunkirk was the last time any Highland Battalion fought in the kilt

Four battalions of the Cameron Highlanders served in World War II , and ten representative battle honours were chosen to be borne on the king’s colour:


Following the independence of India, all infantry regiments were reduced to a single regular battalion. Accordingly, the 2nd Battalion was placed in “suspended animation” in 1948. The Territorial battalions were reformed in 1947 as the 4th/5th battalion (TA) and the Liverpool Scottish.

The remaining regular battalion was at various stations over the next twelve years: Libya, Egypt, Austria, West Germany, Korea and Aden.


Under the Defence Review announced in 1957 the number of infantry battalions was to be reduced, with regiments being amalgamated in pairs. Accordingly the Camerons were amalgamated with the Seaforth Highlanders on February 7, 1961 to form the Queen’s Own Highlanders (Seaforth and Camerons).


Major-General Douglas Wimberley, a successful divisional general in World War II joined the 1st Battalion in 1915, served with the 2nd Battalion in Ireland and in 1938 took command of the 1st Battalion. He served as the last honorary Colonel of the regiment before the 1961 amalgamation.

During the American Civil War, the 79th New York Cameron Highlanders were named in honour of the British military unit.

The Australian 61st Battalion, which was raised as a Militia unit in Queensland in 1938, adopted the designation of the “Queensland Cameron Highlanders” after receiving official approval for an association with the Queens Own Cameron Highlanders in 1939. This battalion subsequently took part in the Battle of Milne Bay and the Bougainville campaign.

Highlanders (Seaforth, Gordons and Camerons)

The Highlanders, 4th Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland (4 SCOTS) is an infantry battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

Prior to 28 March 2006, the Highlanders was an infantry regiment in its own right; The Highlanders (Seaforth, Gordons and Camerons), part of the Scottish Division. The regiment was the only one in the British Army with a Gaelic motto – Cuidich ‘n Righ which means “Save the King

The regiment was formed September 17, 1994, as part of the Options for Change defence review, by the amalgamation of the Queen’s Own Highlanders (Seaforth and Camerons) and The Gordon Highlanders.

In 2004, as part of the restructuring of the infantry, it was announced that The Highlanders would be amalgamated with the other Scottish infantry regiments into the single large Royal Regiment of Scotland. The amalgamation took place on 28 March 2006. As with the other Scottish regiments, the Highlanders were permitted to retain their former name as the new battalion‘s primary title, with the battalion number as a subtitle. The current battalion is based in FallingbostelBritish Forces Germany, part of 7 Armoured Brigade, the descendants of World War II‘s Desert Rats, equipped with the Warrior Infantry Vehicle.

The regiment wore the Gordon tartan when in kilts and the Seaforth Mackenzie when in trews. The pipers and drummers continue to wear the regimental cap badge and kilts in the Cameron of Erracht tartan. The battalion primarily recruits from the Hebrides, the Northern Isles, the mainland counties of Inverness-shireRoss and CromartySutherlandCaithnessMoray and Nairnshire, and from the traditional Gordon heartlands in Aberdeenshire. The Battalion Headquarters is located at Cameron Barracks in Inverness.

The battalion is the mainstay of the British Army’s only shinty team, The Scots Shinty Club. Due to the 4th Battalion’s regular placements abroad, the team only plays in cup matches.

Royal Regiment of Scotland

The Royal Regiment of Scotland is the senior and only Scottish line infantry regiment of the British Army Infantry. It consists of five regular and two territorial battalions, each formerly an individual regiment (with the exception of the first battalion, which is an amalgamation of two regiments). However, each battalion maintains its former regimental Pipes & Drums to carry on the traditions of their antecedent regiments.


As part of restructuring in the British Army, the Royal Regiment of Scotland’s creation was announced by the Secretary of State for DefenceGeoff Hoon in the House of Commons on 16 December 2004, after the merger of several regiments and the reduction in total regular infantry battalions from 40 to 36 was outlined in the defence white paperDelivering Security in a Changing World, several months earlier.

The regiment consists of a total of seven battalions: one of these was formed by the amalgamation of the Royal Scots and King’s Own Scottish Borderers, while the others are each formed from one of the remaining single-battalion regiments of the Scottish Division. Along with The Rifles, it is currently the largest infantry regiment in the British Army. Of all of the new regiments formed following the announcement of 16 December 2004, the Royal Regiment of Scotland is the only one where the former regimental titles have been prominently retained with the new numbered battalion designations as subtitles. There is however a common regimental cap badge, TRF, tartan, stable belt and Glengarry headdress but distinctively coloured hackles are also worn by each separate battalion on the Tam o’ Shanter headdress in order to maintain their individual identity and the pipes and drums of each battalion continue to wear the dress uniform and tartans of their former regiments.

Along with The Rifles, The Royal Regiment of Scotland is also one of only two line infantry regiments to maintain its own regular military band within the Corps of Army Music, which was formed through the amalgamation of the Highland band and Lowland band of the Scottish Division. In addition, there are two Territorial bands, The Highland Band and The Lowland Band of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, which are administered by the regiment’s two Territorial battalions. The regiment also has its own Parachute Display Team, the Golden Lions and shinty team, The Scots Shinty Club.

The new regiment is also primarily a kilted one and there are concerns that the much older Lowland units, which traditionally wore trews, will be effectively absorbed into a Highland tradition. However, the Ministry of Defence’s case that change was necessary in order to enhance operational efficiency through economies of scale, improve and create more flexible conditions of service and to resolve chronic recruiting and retention problems amongst the eight single-battalion Scottish regiments appears to have been accepted by the majority of serving personnel, and indeed was recommended by the then Chief of the General StaffSir Mike Jackson.

Jackson delegated the decision on how the reduction of battalions would be achieved to the Council of Scottish Colonels. It is understood that at the meeting the Colonels were invited to speak in turn on how the reduction should be achieved. The Royal Scots Colonel speaking first on behalf of the senior regiment suggested that his regiment should be amalgamated with The King’s Own Scottish Borderers, this suggestion was accepted by the remaining regiments less the The King’s Own Scottish Borderers whose Colonel petitioned Jackson directly but to no avail. It is thought that the Colonel of The Royal Scots feared that his regiment would be disbanded due to its long term poor recruiting record and high reliance on Commonwealth recruits. The insistence in some quarters that the Scottish regiments must be treated as a special case, similar to the Guards Division, has not won wide support amongst the army at large.

The amalgamation remains an emotive one however because of the symbolic loss of historical continuity through the individual regimental status of each battalion. An organization called Save the Scottish Regiments was created to campaign against the plan, and the influential newspaper The Scotsman also opposed it.

The status of the Black Watch was particularly controversial. When the plan to amalgamate the regiments was announced, the Black Watch was deployed at Camp Dogwood in a relatively dangerous region of Iraq. Hoon was accused by the SNP of “stabbing the soldiers in the back” and being motivated purely by political and administrative concerns, with little regard to the effect on morale. This controversy was further exacerbated by the revelation that a former Colonel of the Black Watch, Lieutenant-General Alistair Irwin, had originally drafted the Army Board proposals to amalgamate the Scottish Division.

The regiment was initially formed of six regular battalions on 28 March 2006. On 1 August 2006, the Royal Scots Battalion and King’s Own Scottish Borderers Battalion were amalgamated into the 1st Battalion, Royal Scots Borderers, leaving the final regular roll of five battalions. The Regimental Headquarters is located at Edinburgh Castle, although each regular battalion continues to maintain their own former regimental headquarters and museums within their respective recruiting areas.

Cap badge and motto

In August 2005, the new regimental cap badge was unveiled at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. The design was the result of a collaborative effort, led by Brigadier Andrew Mackay, along with other serving and retired officers and Regimental Sergeant Majors, with advice from the Lord Lyon. The new cap badge incorporates the Saltire of St Andrew and the Lion Rampant of the Royal Standard of Scotland, which are two prominent national symbols. As a Royal regiment, the cap badge is surmounted by a crown, in this case the Crown of Scotland. The regiment’s motto is Nemo Me Impune Lacessit (No One Assails Me With Impunity) – which is the motto of the Order of the Thistle, Scotlands highest order of chivalry, and was also the motto of four of the pre-existing Scottish regiments.


2 Responses to “402: Seaforth & Cameron Highlanders & The Highlanders”

  1. Niels B Pedersen

    Hi Duncan,
    You are welcomw to use any image that you would like

  2. Duncan Toms

    I’m helping my 102 year old father word process his war memories including serving with the Seaforths in the invasion of Germany and would like permission to use the photo of the various Seaforth cap badges as one of the illustrations.
    With thanks.

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