Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders

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Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders
Cap Badge of the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders
Active 1793–1961
Country Kingdom of Great Britain (1793–1800)
 United Kingdom (1801–1961)
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Type Infantry
Role Line infantry
Part of Highland Brigade
Garrison/HQ Cameron Barracks, Inverness
Motto Pro rege et patria (For King and country)
March Quick: The Cameron Highlanders
Colonel-in-Chief HRH The Duke of Edinburgh
Tartan Cameron of Erracht[dead link]

The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders was a line infantry regiment of the British Army formed in 1793. In 1961 the regiment was amalgamated with the Seaforth Highlanders (Ross-shire Buffs, The Duke of Albany's) to form the Queen's Own Highlanders, which later merged with the Royal Scots, the King's Own Scottish Borderers, the Royal Highland Fusiliers (Princess Margaret's Own Glasgow and Ayrshire Regiment), the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders to form the Royal Regiment of Scotland. The regiment's lineage is now continued by the 4th Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.


The regiment was raised as the 79th Regiment of Foot (Cameronian Volunteers) on 17 August 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 (Cameron 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 end 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 2 October 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 Copenhagen, Denmark 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 Cork, Ireland. 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 Alma, Balaclava and Sevastopol.

A memorial to their losses is erected in Dean Cemetery, Edinburgh.

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 the UK in 1871. On 17 April 1873 Queen Victoria presented the regiment with new colours at Parkhurst, Isle 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 1 July 1881 the 79th Foot was redesignated as 1st Battalion, 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

The Queen's Own in pith helmets and kilts during the 1898 offensive of the Mahdist War in Sudan.

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 and Gibraltar 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 Malta, Crete (from May 1902), China 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

Graves of Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders at the nl (Cement House Cemetery) in Langemark, Belgium

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.

The 3rd Battalion was posted to Ireland from November 1917 to March 1919 as part of a move to replace Irish Reserve Battalions with British troops at a time when there were concerns about the reliability of troops of both 'Republican' and 'Loyalist' communities.[1]



The 1st Battalion was posted to India 1919 – 1934 (including Burma, which was part of British India, 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 also stationed at Queenstown (now Cobh) in Southern Ireland during the Irish War of Independence. The regiment was engaged in several fire-fights with the Irish Republican Army. [2] 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 unit being formed as the 5th Battalion (TA) and 2nd Battalion, Liverpool Scottish.

On 1 September 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

File:Dfcallander formal dress.jpg
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:

The 4th Battalion was sent to the West Indies in 1942, with a company detached to the Bermuda Garrison (including future Major Donald Henry "Bob" Burns, MC, who would subsequently be a Second-in-Command of the Bermuda Regiment, Town Crier of St. George's, and Guinness world record holder for loudest human speaking voice).


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 7 February 1961 to form the Queen's Own Highlanders.


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 1938–39 commanded the 1st Battalion. He served as the last honorary Colonel of the regiment before the 1961 amalgamation.

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

The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada, raised in 1910, was formally affiliated with the Scottish regiment in 1911.

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.[3]

See also


  1. Bowman, T 2003 The Irish regiments in the Great War: discipline and morale. Manchester University Press.
  2. Republican Cobh & the East Cork Volunteers since 1913, Kieran McCarthy, Nonsuch press, 2008)
  3. Watt 2001, p. 4.


  • Historical Records of the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders, 7 volumes, 1909–62.
  • Trevor Royle, 'Queen's Own Highlanders: a concise history', Edinburgh, 2007
  • Queen's Own Highlanders (Seaforth and Camerons) – A Short History, published by the regiment c. 1974
  • Arthur Swinson, A Register of the Regiments and Corps of the British Army, London, 1972
  • Watt, James (2001). History of the 61st Australian Infantry Battalion (AIF): Queensland Cameron Highlanders 1938–1945. Loftus, NSW: Australian Military History Publications. ISBN 1-876439-31-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Jameson, Robert (1863). Historical Record of the Seventy-Ninth Regiment of Foot, or Cameron Highlanders. Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links