Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders

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The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Princess Louise's)
cap badge of the
Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders
Active 1 July 1881 – 28 March 2006
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Type Line infantry
Role Previously air assault, now a ceremonial incremental company
Garrison/HQ Stirling Castle
Nickname(s) Thin Red Line
Motto Ne Obliviscaris, Sans Peur
March Quick: Hielan' Laddie
Quick: The Campbells Are Coming
Charge: Monymusk
Funerals: Lochaber No More
Mascot A Shetland Pony named "Cruachan"
Anniversaries Balaklava (25 October 1854)
Tactical Recognition Flash ASH TRF.svg

The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Princess Louise's) was a line infantry regiment of the British Army that existed from 1881 until amalgamation into the Royal Regiment of Scotland in March 2006.

The regiment was created under the Childers Reforms in 1881, as the Princess Louise's (Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders), by the amalgamation of the 91st (Argyllshire Highlanders) Regiment of Foot and 93rd (Sutherland Highlanders) Regiment of Foot. The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders was expanded to fifteen battalions during the Great War (1914–18) and nine during World War II (1939–45). The 1st Battalion served in the 1st Commonwealth Division in the Korean War and gained a high public profile for its role in Aden during 1967. As part of the restructuring of the infantry in 2006, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders was amalgamated 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 Highlanders (Seaforth, Gordons and Camerons) into the seven battalion strong Royal Regiment of Scotland. Following a further round of defence cuts announced in July 2012 the 5th Battalion was reduced to a single public duties company called Balaklava Company, 5th Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland, (Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders).



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 was one of the six Scottish line infantry regiments, and wears a version of the Government Sett (Government No.2A) as its regimental tartan. It also had the largest cap badge in the British Army. The uniform included the Glengarry as its ceremonial headress.

At the Childers reform amalgamation the Argyll and Sutherland Highlander' already had a well-earned reputation for valour in the face of the enemy, most notably the 93rd (later 2nd Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders) during the Crimean War. Here, the 93rd earned the sobriquet of "The Fighting Highlanders" and carried with it the status of having been the original "Thin Red Line". This title was bestowed following the action of the 93rd at Balaklava on 25 October 1854 in which this single battalion alone stood between the undefended British Army base at Balaklava and four squadrons of charging Russian cavalry.[1] The 93rd, under the command of Sir Colin Campbell, not only held steady, but for the first time in the history of the British Army, broke a large cavalry charge using musket fire alone, without having been formed into a square.[2]

This action was witnessed by The Times correspondent, William Howard Russell, who reported that nothing stood between the Russian cavalry and the defenceless British base but the "thin red streak tipped with a line of steel of the 93rd" a description immediately paraphrased and passed into folklore as "The Thin Red Line".[3] Later referred to by Kipling in his evocative poem "Tommy", the saying came to epitomise everything the British Army stood for. This feat of arms is still recognised by the plain red and white dicing worn on the cap band of the A and SH Glengarry bonnets.[4]

Second Boer War

The Argyll and Sutherland Boer War Memorial at Stirling Castle.

The 1st Battalion arrived in the Cape in November 1899 and formed part of the 3rd or Highland Brigade. The Argylls played leading roles in the Battle of Modder River, the Battle of Magersfontein, the Battle of Paardeberg and in an action at Roodepoort, immediately preceding the Battle of Doornkop. In June 1900, the battalion was transferred to a new brigade under Brigadier General George Cunningham. They operated around Pretoria and from April 1901, in the Eastern Transvaal. Sections of Argylls formed parts of the 2nd and 12th Battalions Mounted Infantry and a detachment, along with the Black Watch, formed an escort for Captain J E Bearcroft's naval guns during the advance to Pretoria.[5]

First World War

A 1914 recruiting poster for the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders

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 eventually split into 1st, 2nd and 3rd-line battalions). Seven more Service Battalions were raised for Kitchener's Army; these 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.

Second World War

File:Lanchester 6x4 Armoured Car in Malaya.jpg
Men of the 2nd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders training with a Lanchester six-wheeled armoured car in the Malayan jungle on 13 November 1941

There were nine[citation needed] 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 Infantry 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 161st Indian Infantry Brigade, part of 4th Indian Infantry Division, and fought in the Second Battle of El Alamein. In 1943 the 1st Battalion landed on Sicily during Operation Husky, the Allied invasion of Sicily, attached to the 5th British Infantry Division as the 33rd Beach Brick. From February 1944 the battalion fought through the Italian Campaign with the 19th Indian Infantry Brigade, attached to 8th Indian Infantry Division. Whilst with the division the men of 1st Argylls fondly referred to the division as the 'three wee floo'ers' (the three little flowers) due to the divisional insignia.

The 2nd Battalion fought valiantly against the Imperial Japanese Army during the fighting in Malaya and Singapore (See Battle of Bukit Timah). Led by the tough Lieutenant Colonel Ian Stewart they were one of the very few British units that was prepared for the jungle warfare in Malaya. In the months before the invasion of southern Thailand and Malaya in 1941, Stewart took his battalion into the harshest terrain he could find and developed tactics to fight effectively in those areas. This training that the 2nd Argylls went through would make them arguably the most effective unit in General Percival's Malayan Command, earning them the nickname "the jungle beasts".[6]

During the withdrawal of the 11th Indian Infantry Division the 2nd Argylls slowed the enemy advance and inflicted heavy casualties on them. During these actions the battalion became so depleted by battle that it was ordered back to cross the causeway into Singapore. Two days later, an Australian staff officer in company with the 2000 or so men of the 22nd Australian Brigade (the absolute tail guard of the British forces) arrived at the causeway. He was amazed to find all 250 of the ASHR, the proud remnants of the whole battalion who had been in action almost continually since the Japanese invaded six weeks previously, camped on the Malay side of the water. When asked what they were doing still in Malaya when they could have been in the relative comfort of Singapore their commanding officer, Ian Stewart, replied "You know the trouble with you Australians is that you have no sense of history. When the story of this campaign is written you will find that the ASHR goes down as the last unit to cross this causeway what's more – piped across by their pipers" (Thompson 2005 p. 251)

Having suffered the massive loss of some 800 men due to being continuously used as the buffer to protect the retreating army (especially at the Battle of Slim River), the remaining Argylls, upon arriving in Singapore 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 (in reference to the Argylls affiliation to the Plymouth Argyle Football team and that all the Marines were from the Plymouth Division). The battalion surrendered with the rest of General Percival's army in Singapore in February 1942. Many Argylls died in captivity as P.O.W's or in the jungle trying to avoid capture. Two Argyll soldiers even managed to avoid capture throughout the war in Northern Malaya, where they had remained since the Battle of Slim River. Only 22 of the Plymouth Marines (out of 210) and 52 Argylls reached Ceylon.

A few Argylls managed to escape to India, including Lt.Col.Stewart, where they lectured on Jungle warfare tactics. After this the evacuees became part of No.6 GHQ Training Team, which organised training exercises and lectures for the 14th Indian Infantry Division and 2nd British Infantry Division.[7]

In May 1942, the 15th Battalion, raised during the war, was redesignated as the new 2nd Battalion. This battalion joined the 227th (Highland) Infantry Brigade and became a part of the 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division, a formation that would gain an excellent reputation, in 1943. With the division, the battalion fought in the Battle for Caen, seeing its first action in Operation Epsom, as part of Operation Overlord. The division ended the war on the Elbe River.

File:The British Army in Normandy 1944 B5988.jpg
The 2nd Battalion, led by their piper, advance during Operation Epsom in Normandy in June 1944

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.

The 7th Battalion was a Territorial Army (TA) unit serving with the 8th Battalion in the 154th (Highland) Infantry Brigade. The brigade was part of the 51st (Highland) Infantry Division in France in 1940 as part of the British Expeditionary Force. They were stationed on the Maginot Line and so avoided being encircled with the rest of the BEF during the Battle of France. The 7th Argylls in particular suffered heavy losses during the fighting, the worst day in its history. The 154th Brigade managed to be evacuated to England after the 51st (Highland) Division was forced to surrender on 12 June 1940. The division was reconstituted by the redesignation of the 9th (Highland) Infantry Division to the 51st. The understrength 154th Brigade of the old 51st was merged with the 28th Infantry Brigade. At some point before 1942 the 8th Argylls were posted elsewhere and in 1942 the new 51st Division, 7th Argylls included, were sent to join the British Eighth Army in the North African Campaign. They fought in the First Battle of El Alamein and in the Second Battle of El Alamein which turned the tide of the war in favour of the Allies. During the fighting in North Africa, Lieutenant Colonel Lorne MacLaine Campbell of 7th Argylls was awarded the Victoria Cross.

On 25 April 1943, the 8th Battalion was, by this time, serving with the 36th Brigade, part of the 78th Battleaxe Division during the Tunisian Campaign won fame during the assault of Djebel Ahmera hill on the attack on Longstop Hill, in which despite heavy casualties from mortar and machine gun fire scaled and took the heights. Major John Thompson McKellar Anderson for inspiring his men and eliminating strong points gained the Victoria Cross.

"Major Anderson re-organised the battalion, led the assault on the second objective, and, despite a leg wound, captured Longstop Hill with a total force of only four officers and less than forty other ranks. He personally led attacks on at least three enemy machine-gun positions and in every case was the first man in the enemy gun-pits."[8]

The 11th Battalion remained within the United Kingdom, throughout the war. It initially served with the 9th (Highland), 51st (Highland), and 15th (Scottish) Infantry Divisions on home defense duties before becoming a training and draft finding formation. In the latter capacity it served with the 45th Holding Division and the 80th Infantry (Reserve) Division.

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,[citation needed] near the present Military Demarcation Line.

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


In 1948, the 2nd Battalion was amalgamated with the 1st Battalion and 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.

In 1970, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, as the junior regiment of the Scottish Division, faced disbandment as part of a general downsizing of the army. A "Save the Argylls" campaign involving the petitioning of Parliament resulted in a compromise under which a single regular company retained the title and colours of the regiment. "Balaclava Company" continued as an independent unit from 20 January 1971 until the regiment was restored to full battalion size on 17 January 1972.

The late 20th and early 21st centuries were dominated by service in Northern Ireland, with small detachments also serving in the Balkans. The Regiment served in Iraq in 2004.

Amalgamation (2006–present)

A sniper of 5 SCOTS (The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders) during Exercise Boar's Head at Otterburn Training Area in February 2012.

In 2006, as part of the restructuring of the infantry, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders were 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. Elements of the new regiment originally affiliated with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders included a regular battalion (5 SCOTS), an affiliated company of the Territorial Army battalion, 51st Highland Volunteers (7 SCOTS) and an Army Cadet Force battalion. The 5th Battalion continued recruiting in the area allocated to the Argylls, wore a green hackle on its headdress to differentiate it from the other battalions, and were permitted to use the title "The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders" in reference to the battalion.[9]

On 5 July 2012, a further series of measures to reduce the total size of the British Army were announced by Defence Secretary Philip Hammond. These included the reduction of 5 SCOTS (Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders) to a single company (Balaklava Company) for public (ceremonial) duties in Scotland.

Queen Elizabeth II visited the Highlanders at Howe Barracks in Canterbury in June 2013 to mark their relocation to Scotland.[10]


The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Regimental Museum is the regimental museum of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, their antecedent regiments and successor battalions. Located in Stirling Castle, the museum building was built in the 1490s, and known as the "King's House" or "King's Old Building", thought to have been the private residence of King James IV.[11]

Six galleries, on two floors of the King's Old Building, are laid out to provide a chronological history of the Regiment from the raising of the 91st Argyllshire Highlanders in 1794 to operations in present-day Afghanistan.

The Museum's extensive archive of material, gathered from official and personal sources, traces the important events in which the regiment participated and the amazing stories of its soldiers.

Included in the displays are descriptive story boards and dioramas, providing the narrative, and uniforms and equipment, weapons and medals, pipe banners and regimental colours, along with paintings, photographs and documents, providing the visual interest.

Entrance to the Museum is included in the price of the castle entrance ticket. The museum is almost entirely maintained through public donations; the modest grant from the Ministry of Defence has been withdrawn.[12] It is governed by a charitable trust: The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Museum Trust.[13]

Battle honours


Early connections between the regiment and the Royal Marines date from Balaclava in the Crimean War and Lucknow during the Indian Mutiny, but the main association stems from the Second World War. In July 1940, after the fall of Dunkirk, the 5th Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders served with the Royal Marine Brigade for over a year. When HMS Prince of Wales and Repulse were sunk in December 1941, the Royal Marines survivors joined up with the remnants of the 2nd Battalion, in the defence of Singapore. They formed what became known as 'The Plymouth Argyll's', after the association football team, since both ships were Plymouth manned. Most of the Highlanders and Marines who survived the bitter fighting were taken prisoner by the Japanese. The Royal Marines inter-unit rugby football trophy is the 'Argyll Bowl', presented to the Corps by the Regiment in 1941. A message of greetings is sent to the Regiment each year on their Regimental Day, 25 October, the anniversary of the Battle of Balaclava in 1854.

The regiment has also created several alliances with regiments in the Commonwealth during its history. An official alliance with the 91st Regiment (Canadian Highlanders) of the Canadian Militia was later recognised by that regiment changing its official title to The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (Princess Louise's) and adopting the dress distinctions of the regiment in Scotland.

In 1924, the Argylls formed an alliance with The Calgary Highlanders, and that unit also adopted the dress distinctions of the Imperial Argylls.

In 1886, it was widely speculated that the English football club Plymouth Argyle, which was formed in that year, was named after the regiment's football team as they were stationed at the time in Plymouth, Devon. One of the club's founders, F. Grose, suggested the name in a meeting with the other founder members. He also suggested that the aim of the new club was to emulated the style of play and teamwork that the Argyll and Sutherland football team used, which won them the Army Cup and greatly impressed him. There is also a strong belief that Argyle adopted the regiment's colour of Green [1]. There is also a street named after the regiment – Sutherland Terrace in the Mutley area of Plymouth.

Several Australian and New Zealand units had also formed affiliations with the Argylls during the 20th Century, including the Byron Scottish and the Royal Australian Regiment.

Victoria Cross recipients

See also


  1. Figes, Orlando. Crimea. p. 244. ISBN 978-1250002525.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "History of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders". Warlinks. Retrieved 25 May 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Greenwood, ch. 8
  4. "The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Stirling Castle". Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. Retrieved 25 May 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Imperial Units – Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Princess Louise's)". Anglo Boer War website. Retrieved 26 July 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Jeffreys, p.16
  7. Jeffreys, p.17
  8. "Anderson, John Thomson McKellar". Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Retrieved 25 May 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "The Royal Regiment of Scotland". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 25 May 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Queen visits Howe Barracks in Canterbury ahead of closure". BBC News. 28 June 2013. Retrieved 25 May 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Historic Scotland, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders' Regimental Museum
  12. The Thin Red Line – Regimental Magazine of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, Volume 71 No. 1
  13. Museum, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders' official website


  • Alan Jeffreys British Infantrymen in the Far East 1941–1945 Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-84176-448-5

Further reading

External links