Highland Light Infantry

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This article is about the British regiment. For the Canadian regiment, see Highland Light Infantry of Canada.
Highland Light Infantry
Cap Badge HLI small.jpg
Cap Badge of the Highland Light Infantry
Active 1881–1959
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Type Infantry
Role Light infantry
Part of Highland Brigade
Garrison/HQ Hamilton Barracks (1881–1921)
Maryhill Barracks, Glasgow (1921–1959)
Nickname(s) "Hell's Last Issue" They were nicknamed 'The Glesga Keelies' during the Peninsular Wars.
March Quick- The Bugle Horn
Mascot Elephant
Anniversaries Assaye (September 23)
Hackle White over Red
Tartan MacKenzie Tartan

The Highland Light Infantry was a light infantry regiment of the British Army formed in 1881. It took part in the First and Second World Wars, until it was amalgamated with the Royal Scots Fusiliers in 1959 to form the Royal Highland Fusiliers (Princess Margaret's Own Glasgow and Ayrshire Regiment) which later merged with the Royal Scots Borderers, the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment), the Highlanders (Seaforth, Gordons and Camerons) and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders to form the Royal Regiment of Scotland, becoming the 2nd Battalion of the new regiment.


Early history[edit]

The regiment was formed as part of the Childers Reforms on 1 July 1881 by the amalgamation of the 71st (Highland) Light Infantry (as the 1st Battalion) and the 74th (Highland) Regiment of Foot (as the 2nd Battalion) as the city regiment of Glasgow, absorbing local Militia and Rifle Volunteer units. Its exact status was ambiguous: although the regiment insisted on being classified as a non-kilted Highland regiment it recruited mainly from Glasgow in Lowland Scotland.[1]

The 2nd Battalion saw action at the Battle of Tel el-Kebir in September 1882 during the Anglo-Egyptian War: Lieutenant William Edwards was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions during the battle.[2]

First World War[edit]

Regular Army[edit]

The 1st Battalion landed at Marseille as part of the Sirhind Brigade in the 3rd (Lahore) Division in December 1914 for service on the Western Front[3] and saw action at the Defence of Festubert in November 1914, the Battle of Neuve Chapelle in March 1915, the Battle of St Julien in May 1915 and the Second Battle of Ypres later in May 1915.[4] It then moved to Mesopotamia in December 1915[3] and saw action at the Siege of Kut in Spring 1916 and the Battle of Sharqat in October 1918.[4] The 2nd Battalion landed at Boulogne-sur-Mer as part of the 5th Brigade in the 2nd Division in August 1914 for service on the Western Front.[3] It saw action at the Battle of Aisne in September 1914, the Battle of Ypres in November 1914, the Battle of Loos in October 1915, the Battle of the Somme in Summer 1916, the Battle of Arras in April 1917, the Battle of Cambrai in December 1917 and the advance to the Hindenburg Line in September 1918.[4]

Territorial Force[edit]

Gravestones of HLI soldiers who died in the First World War in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery in Gaza City

The 1/5th (City of Glasgow) Battalion, the 1/6th (City of Glasgow) Battalion and the 1/7th (Blythswood) Battalion landed at Cape Helles in Gallipoli as part of the 157th Brigade in the 52nd (Lowland) Division in July 1915; after being evacuated to Egypt in January 1916 they moved to Marseille in April 1918 for service on the Western Front.[3] The 1/9th (Glasgow Highland) Battalion landed in France as part of the 5th Brigade in the 2nd Division in November 1914 for service on the Western Front.[3]

New Armies[edit]

The 10th and 11th (Service) Battalions landed at Boulogne-sur-Mer as part of the 28th Brigade in the 9th (Scottish) Division in May 1915 for service on the Western Front.[3] The 12th (Service) Battalion landed at Boulogne-sur-Mer as part of the 46th Brigade in the 15th (Scottish) Division in July 1915 for service on the Western Front.[3] The 14th (Service) Battalion landed in France as part of the 120th Brigade in the 40th Division in June 1916 for service on the Western Front.[3]

The 15th (Service) Battalion (1st Glasgow), the 16th (Service) Battalion (2nd Glasgow) and the 17th (Service) Battalion (3rd Glasgow) landed at Boulogne-sur-Mer as part of the 97th Brigade in the 32nd Division in November 1915 for service on the Western Front.[3] The 16th (Service) Battalion (2nd Glasgow), which was formed from former members of the Glasgow Battalion of the Boys' Brigade and was known as the Glasgow Boys' Brigade Battalion is particularly remembered for an incident at the Frankfurt trench at the Battle of the Ancre, the last offensive of the battle of the Somme, where around 60 men of D company were surrounded and cut off behind enemy lines. Relief attempts failed, but the men of the Frankfurt trench refused to surrender. After refusing to surrender, the Germans stormed the trench and found only 15 wounded men alive, three of whom died soon afterwards. General Sir Hubert Gough praised their stand under Army Order 193.[5] Members of the 17th (Service) Battalion were painted by the war artist Frederick Farrell in Flanders in 1917.[6]

The 18th (Service) Battalion (4th Glasgow) landed in France as part of the 106th Brigade in the 35th Division in February 1916 for service on the Western Front.[3]

Between the Wars[edit]

In 1923 the regiment's title was expanded to the Highland Light Infantry (City of Glasgow Regiment).[7] David Niven was commissioned into the regiment in 1930 and served with the 2nd Battalion.[8]

Second World War[edit]

Churchill tanks of 6th Guards Tank Brigade and troops of the 10th Highland Light Infantry, 15th (Scottish) Division, during the assault on Tilburg, Holland, 28 October 1944

The 1st Battalion landed in France in September 1939 as part of the 127th (Manchester) Brigade in the 42nd (East Lancashire) Division for service with the British Expeditionary Force and then took part in the Dunkirk evacuation in June 1940.[9] As part of the 71st Infantry Brigade in the 53rd (Welsh) Division, it later took part in the Normandy landings in June 1944 and saw action at the Battle of the Bulge in January 1945, the Battle of the Reichswald in March 1945 and the final advance into Germany.[9]

The 2nd Battalion moved to Egypt early in the war and saw action at the Battle of Keren in March 1941.[9] It then transferred to the Western Desert and saw combat at the Battle of Knightsbridge in June 1942 and the Battle of Fuka in July 1942.[9] It took part in the Allied invasion of Sicily in July 1943 and, after a period in Yugoslavia, Albania and Greece, took part in the final advance into Northern Italy.[9]

The 5th and 6th Battalions landed in France as part of the 157th Brigade in the 52nd (Lowland) Division in June 1940; after evacuation from Cherbourg later in the month, they landed in Belgium in October 1944 and took part in Operation Infatuate in November 1944 and the subsequent capture of Bremen in April 1945.[9]

The 11th Battalion was converted to armour in 1942 becoming the 156th Regiment in the Royal Armoured Corps, but retaining their Highland Light Infantry cap badges on the black beret of the RAC.[10]

After the War[edit]

The Highland Light Infantry were amalgamated with the Royal Scots Fusiliers in 1959 to form the Royal Highland Fusiliers. The regular 1st battalions of the two Regiments combined at Redford Barracks, Edinburgh to form the 1st Battalion of the new regiment (1 RHF).[11]


The HLI was the only regular Highland regiment to wear trews for full dress, until 1947 when kilts were authorised. An earlier exception was the Glasgow Highlanders who wore kilts and were a territorial battalion within the HLI. The HLI's full dress of 1914 was an unusual one; comprising a dark green shako with diced border and green cords, scarlet doublet with buff facings and trews of the Mackenzie tartan. Officers wore plaids of the same tartan, while in drill order all ranks wore white shell jackets with trews and green glengarry caps.[12]

Battle honours and colours[edit]

The battle honours were as follows:[13]
Borne on the regimental colours, representing actions fought by the 71st and 74th Regiments of Foot or the Highland Light Infantry prior to 1914:

  • "Carnatic", "Hindustan", "Sholingur", "Mysore", "Gibraltar 1780-83", "Seringapatam", "Assaye", "Cape of Good Hope 1806", "Rolica", "Vimiera", "Corunna", "Busaco", "Fuentes d'Onor", "Ciudad Rodrigo", "Badajos"' "Almaraz", "Salamanca", "Vittoria", "Pyrenees", "Nivelle, "Nive", "Orthes", "Toulouse", "Peninsula",
  • "Waterloo", "South Africa 1851-2-3", "Egypt 1882", "Tel-el-Kebir", "Modder River", "South Africa 1899-1902"

Ten representative battle honours for each of the First and Second World Wars borne on the queen's colours:


  1. ^ Carman, p. 160
  2. ^ The London Gazette: no. 25198. p. 792. 13 February 1883.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Highland Light Infantry". The Long, Long Trail. Retrieved 7 May 2016. 
  4. ^ a b c "1914-1939". Royal Highland Fusliers. Retrieved 7 May 2016. 
  5. ^ "Glesga Pals: 16th Battalion Highland Light Infantry". Retrieved 7 May 2016. 
  6. ^ "Glasgow's forgotten war artist Fred Farrell". Herald Scotland. 24 May 2014. Retrieved 9 May 2015. 
  7. ^ Army Order 221/1923
  8. ^ "Who's Who in Scottish Military History - David Niven". Scottish Military History. Retrieved 7 May 2016. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f "1939-1945". Royal Highland Fusiliers. Retrieved 8 May 2016. 
  10. ^ Forty, p. 51
  11. ^ "Royal Highland Fusiliers". British Army units 1945 on. Retrieved 25 May 2014. 
  12. ^ "Highland Light Infantry Chronicle (January 1905-October 1907)". Highland Light Infantry. p. 50. Retrieved 7 May 2016. 
  13. ^ "Highland Light Infantry". Regiments.org. Archived from the original on July 14, 2006. Retrieved 7 May 2016. 


External links[edit]