Royal Scots Fusiliers

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Royal Scots Fusiliers
Royal Scots Fusiliers Cap badge.png
Regimental cap badge
Country Kingdom of Scotland (1678–1688)
 Kingdom of England (1688–1707)
 Kingdom of Great Britain (1707–1800)
 United Kingdom (1801–1959)
BranchFlag of the British Army.svg British Army
RoleLine infantry
Part ofLowland Brigade
Garrison/HQChurchill Barracks, Ayr
Nickname(s)Duke of Marlborough's Own
The Grey Breeks[1]
Motto(s)Nec Aspera Terrent (Hardships do not deter us)
MarchHighland Laddie (Pipes)
TartanHunting Erskine

The Royal Scots Fusiliers was a line infantry regiment of the British Army that existed from 1678 until 1959 when it was amalgamated with the Highland Light Infantry (City of Glasgow Regiment) to form the Royal Highland Fusiliers (Princess Margaret's Own Glasgow and Ayrshire Regiment) which was later itself merged with the Royal Scots, King's Own Scottish Borderers, the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment), the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and the Highlanders (Seaforth, Gordons and Camerons) to form a new large regiment, the Royal Regiment of Scotland.


Uniform of the 21st Regiment of Foot in 1742

Naming Conventions[edit]

In the late 17th century, many English and Scottish politicians viewed standing armies or permanent units as a danger to the liberties of the individual and a threat to society itself.[2] The experience of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms and the use of troops by both the Protectorate and James VII and II to repress political dissent created strong resistance to permanent units owing allegiance to the Crown or State. Regiments were deliberately treated as the personal property of their current Colonel, carried his name which changed when transferred and disbanded as soon as possible. This makes tracing the origins of modern regiments very complex, particularly since many regimental histories were written in the late 19th or early 20th century. This was partly due to the 1881 Childers Reforms; the abolition of the numbering system for regiments was as bitterly resisted then as the various amalgamations have been since and establishing precedence or age became almost an obsession.[3]

The Earl of Mar's Regiment of Foot (1678–1689)[edit]

The regiment was formed in Scotland in September 1678 by the Earl of Mar for service against dissident Covenanters and helped suppress Presbyterian rebellions at Bothwell Bridge in 1679 and the 1685 Argyll's Rising.[4] Thomas Buchan, a Scottish Catholic and professional soldier replaced the Earl as Colonel in July 1686.[5]

When William III landed in England on 5 November 1688 in what became known as the Glorious Revolution, the regiment was shipped to London.[6] There was very little fighting; the vast majority of James VII and II's army simply changed sides and Buchan followed him into exile in France. The position of Colonel was filled in March 1689 by Francis Fergus O'Farrell, an Irishman who had served William since 1674 and it became O'Farrell's Regiment in accordance with the practice of the time.[6]

The Nine Years War and Scotland (1689–1702)[edit]

The regiment spent the Nine Years' War in Flanders and took part in most of the major engagements, including Walcourt, Steinkirk and Landen. In July 1695, it was part of the garrison when O'Farrell surrendered Deinze to the French without resistance. The regiment became prisoners until exchanged in September; Ellenberg, commander of Diksmuide which surrendered in a similar fashion at the same time was executed, while O'Farrell was cashiered along with eight other officers.[7] The officers concerned were later reinstated with O'Farrell ending his career as a Major-General.[8]

His replacement was Robert Mackay, nephew of Hugh Mackay former commander of the Dutch Scots Brigade; he died in December 1696 and was succeeded by another Scot, Colonel Archibald Row. After the Treaty of Ryswick ended the Nine Years' War in September 1697, the regiment went to Scotland where it spent the next few years.[9]

The date at which it became a Fusilier unit is debated, but it first appears as O'Farrell's Fusiliers on an Army list of 1691.[10] 'Fusilier' is a specific designation while 'fusil' was originally a light-weight musket carried by units guarding the artillery train, so it may have been equipped with these before 1691.[11] The original Fusilier regiments all had an exploding bomb emblem, so it may also relate to grenades; for example, only Fusilier regiments, the Grenadier Guards plus one or two others were later allowed to use the British Grenadiers regimental march.[12]

The War of the Spanish Succession (1702-1713)[edit]

Malplaquet; the casualties shocked Europe.

The Regiment returned to Flanders when the War of the Spanish Succession began in May 1702 and formed part of the army led by the Duke of Marlborough. In August 1704, the regiment took part in the Battle of Blenheim; in their assault on the village, now Brigadier-General Row famously ordered his men not to fire until he struck his sword upon the palisade; he was shot and mortally wounded as he did so.[13] The regiment suffered heavy casualties, the new Colonel being Viscount Mordaunt, who himself lost an arm at Blenheim.[14]

Blenheim Tapestry; Grenadier with captured French colour.

Shortly after the Battle of Ramillies in May 1706, Mordaunt exchanged regiments with Colonel Sampson de Lalo, a French Huguenot refugee who previously commanded what later became the 28th Regiment of Foot.[15] Under de Lalo, it fought at Oudenarde and the capture of Lille, one of the strongest defences in Europe whose Citadel is regarded as Vauban's masterpiece. de Lalo was killed at Malplaquet in September 1709, a battle technically an Allied victory but which incurred casualties so severe they shocked Europe.[16]

Malplaquet and the huge financial costs of the war meant the focus changed to capturing fortresses as each side attempted to improve its bargaining position prior to peace talks; the war ended in 1713 by the Treaty of Utrecht. Mordaunt, reappointed Colonel after de Lalo's death, died of smallpox in April 1710 and was succeeded by Thomas Meredyth. He was dismissed for political reasons in December and replaced by the Earl of Orrery.[17]

21st (Royal North British Fusilier) Regiment of Foot (1713–1877)[edit]

A soldier from the 21st Foot, Canada, 1777.
Fontenoy; the French invite the British to fire first

The regiment was awarded the title "Royal" around 1713, returning to England in August 1714 on the death of Queen Anne who was succeeded by George I.[17] During the Jacobite Rising in 1715, it fought at Sheriffmuir against forces led by its founder's son, the 6th Earl of Mar. The Rebellion was defeated but in July 1716 Orrery was removed due to his Jacobite sympathies and replaced by George Macartney. Macartney was a Whig loyalist involved in the 1712 Hamilton–Mohun Duel who went into exile when charged as an accessory to murder, returning when George I became King.

Britain was at peace during this period and the regiment remained on garrison duty until the War of the Austrian Succession broke out in 1742. It fought at Dettingen in June 1743 and Fontenoy in April 1745, a British defeat famous for the British and French commanders politely inviting each other to fire first.[18] During the 1745 Rising it was part of the force that defeated the Jacobite army at Culloden in April 1746 but was back in Flanders when the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle ended the war in 1748.[19]

In 1751, the system whereby regiments were numbered by seniority was formalised and it became the 21st Regiment.[11] With the exception of the capture of Belle Île in 1761 during the 1756-63 Seven Years' War, the next 20 years were spent on garrison duty in Gibraltar, Scotland, West Florida and Quebec before returning to England in 1773.

The regiment saw action at the Siege of Fort Ticonderoga in July 1777 during the American Revolutionary War,[20] took part in the Siege of Bergen op Zoom in March 1814 during the Napoleonic Wars[21] and saw combat at the Battle of New Orleans in January 1815 during the War of 1812.[22] The regiment then served under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Haines at the Battle of Inkerman in November 1854 during the Crimean War.[23] A second battalion was raised in 1805 serving initially in Ayr and Greenock, Scotland and then in Ireland for the next three years.[24]

21st (Royal Scots Fusiliers) Regiment of Foot (1877–1881)[edit]

The regiment finally saw the restoration of "Scots" in their title in 1877.[11]

Regimental colours

Childers Reforms[edit]

The regiment was not fundamentally affected by the Cardwell Reforms of the 1870s, which gave it a depot at Churchill Barracks in Ayr from 1873, or by the Childers Reforms of 1881 – as it already possessed two battalions, there was no need for it to amalgamate with another regiment.[25] Under the reforms the regiment became The Royal Scots Fusiliers on 1 July 1881.[26] It became the County Regiment of Ayrshire, Dumfriesshire, Kirkcudbrightshire, Roxburghshire, Selkirkshire and Wigtownshire in South-West Scotland. This made them a Lowland Regiment and forced them to adopt trews. The regiment saw action at the Battle of the Tugela Heights in February 1900 during the Second Boer War.[27] Captain Hugh Trenchard was seriously wounded while serving with the regiment near Krugersdorp at this time.[28]

In 1908, the Volunteers and Militia were reorganised nationally, with the former becoming the Territorial Force and the latter the Special Reserve;[29] the regiment now had one Reserve and two Territorial battalions.[30][11]

First World War[edit]

Future wartime Prime-Minister Winston Churchill, as officer commanding 6th (Service) Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers, 1916. Archibald Sinclair, the future Liberal leader, is to his right (our left)

The 1st Battalion landed at Le Havre as part of 9th Brigade in the 3rd Division in August 1914 for service on the Western Front.[31] It saw action at the Battle of Mons in August 1914, the First Battle of Ypres in October 1914, Battle of the Somme in Summer 1916, the Battle of Arras in April 1917 and the advance to the Hindenburg Line in September 1918[32] and was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Deneys Reitz in the closing stages of the war.[33]

The 2nd Battalion landed at Zeebrugge as part of the 21st Brigade in the 7th Division in October 1914 for service on the Western Front.[31] It saw action at the First Battle of Ypres in October 1914, the Battle of Neuve Chapelle in March 1915, the Battle of Loos in October 1915, the Battle of the Somme in Summer 1916, the Battle of Arras in April 1917 and the Battle of Lys in April 1918.[32]

The 1/4th and 1/5th Battalions landed in Gallipoli as part of the 155th Brigade in the 52nd (Lowland) Division in June 1915; after being evacuated in January 1916 they moved to France in April 1918 for service on the Western Front.[31]

The 6th (Service) Battalion landed at Boulogne-sur-Mer as part of the 27th Brigade in the 9th (Scottish) Division in May 1915 for service on the Western Front.[31] Lieutenant Colonel Winston Churchill commanded the battalion when it was located near Ploegsteert Wood during Spring 1916.[34] The 7th (Service) Battalion landed at Boulogne-sur-Mer as part of the 45th Brigade in the 15th (Scottish) Division in July 1915 for service on the Western Front.[31] The 8th (Service) Battalion landed at Boulogne-sur-Mer as part of the 77th Brigade in the 26th Division in September 1915 for service on the Western Front but soon moved to Salonika.[31]

Second World War[edit]

The 1st Battalion spent the whole war as part of the 29th Independent Infantry Brigade Group. The battalion participated in the Battle of Madagascar in 1942 as did the 2nd Battalion, a unique achievement for the regiment to have both its regular battalions involved in the same action. They were then transferred to India to fight in the South-East Asian Theatre.[35] In 1944 the 29th Brigade became part of the 36th Infantry Division,[36] previously a British Indian Army formation and one of two British divisions fighting the Japanese. The 36th Division spent the rest of the war under command of the British Fourteenth Army.[37]

Men of the 1st Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers in Burma, 1944. The battalion was part of the 29th Independent Brigade Group.

The 2nd Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers was serving in Edinburgh on the outbreak of war under Scottish Command,[38] commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Walter Clutterbuck. In early October 1939 the battalion was grouped with the 2nd Seaforth Highlanders and 2nd Northants to create the 17th Infantry Brigade, which was assigned to the 5th Infantry Division.[39] They were sent as an independent brigade group to France in late 1939 to join the rest of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and were involved in the Battle of Dunkirk and had to be evacuated to England. After 2 years spent on home defence in the United Kingdom, the battalion and brigade were detached from the 5th Division, and like the 1st Battalion, fought in Madagascar. The battalion next saw service fighting in Sicily. In 1944 the division fought in the Battle of Anzio in some of the fiercest fighting of the Italian Campaign thus far. The Anzio landings were an attempt to outflank the German Gustav Line, one of many defensive lines the Germans had created across Italy.[40] After the fierce fighting there, the 2nd RSF and the rest of 5th Division were withdrawn, in July 1944, to Palestine to rest and refit. They returned to Italy briefly in early 1945 but were transferred, along with I Canadian Corps from British Eighth Army, to Belgium to join the 21st Army Group in the Allied invasion of Germany.[41]

Men of the 11th Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers charge with fixed bayonets through 'artillery fire' at a battle school in Scotland, 20 December 1943.

The 4/5th and 6th battalions both saw service in the European Campaign in 1944-1945 with the 6th also serving in France in 1940, assigned to 51st (Highland) Infantry Division and part of the BEF. The 4/5th Battalion was the TA 4th and 5th battalions merged and became part of 156th Infantry Brigade assigned to the 52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division. Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Corbett commanded the 6th Battalion during the Battle of France in June 1940.[42] The 6th Battalion was reassigned to the 46th Infantry Brigade part of 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division, the 2nd Line duplicate of the 52nd, and served with them during the Battle of Normandy.[43]

A British sergeant instructor of the Royal Scots Fusiliers trains a recruit on how to fire the SMLE Mk III Lee–Enfield in prone position, 31 August 1942.

The 50th (Holding) Battalion was raised in late May 1940 and was later redesignated the 11th Battalion in October and was assigned to the 222nd Infantry Brigade, where it remained until September 1942 when it transferred to the 147th Infantry Brigade, alongside the 1/6th and 1/7th Duke of Wellington's Regiment, part of the 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division, where it was to remain for the rest of the war.[44]

Amalgamations of 1959[edit]

The Royal Scots Fusiliers were amalgamated with the Highland Light Infantry (City of Glasgow Regiment) in 1959 to form the Royal Highland Fusiliers, (Princess Margaret's Own Glasgow and Ayrshire Regiment). The regular 1st battalions of the two Regiments combined at Redford Barracks, Edinburgh to form the 1st Battalion of the new regiment (1 RHF).[45]

Battle honours[edit]

The Regiment was awarded the following battle honours. Those shown in bold from the two World Wars were those selected to be emblazoned on the King's Colour.[11]

Victoria Crosses[edit]

Victoria Crosses awarded to members of the regiment were:

Colonels of the Regiment[edit]

Colonels of the regiment were:[11]

21st Regiment of Foot[edit]

  • 1689–1695: Brig-Gen. Francis Fergus O'Farrell; cashiered September 1695 for the surrender of Deinze (later reinstated);
  • 1695–1697: Col. Hon. Robert Mackay; died of disease December 1696;
  • 1697–1704: Col. Archibald Row; killed at Blenheim May 1704;
  • 1704–1706: Brig-Gen. John Mordaunt, Viscount Mordaunt; transferred to 28th Foot June 1706;
  • 1706–1709: Maj-Gen. Sampson de Lalo; killed at Malplaquet September 1709.

The North British Fusiliers[edit]

The Royal North British Fusiliers[edit]

21st (Royal North British) Fusiliers[edit]

The Royal Scots Fusiliers[edit]

  • 1890–1909: F.M. Sir Frederick Paul Haines, GCB, GCSI, CIE
  • 1909–1919: Lt-Gen. John Thomas Dalyell
  • 1919–1946: Marshal of the RAF (Col.) Hugh Montague Trenchard, 1st Viscount Trenchard, GCB
  • 1946–1957: Maj-Gen. Sir Edmund Hakewill Smith, KCVO, CB, CBE, MC
  • 1957–1959: Brig. Archibald Ian Buchanan-Dunlop, CBE, DSO


  1. ^ Burnham, Robert; McGuigan, Ron (2010). The British Army against Napoleon. Barnsley, South Yorkshire: Frontline Books. p. 125. ISBN 978-1-84832-562-3.
  2. ^ Childs 1987, p. 184
  3. ^ Chandler and Beckett, p.52
  4. ^ Cannon, p. 3
  5. ^ Mann, Alastair (2014). James VII: Duke and King of Scots, 1633 - 1701 (The Stewart Dynasty in Scotland). John Donald Short Run Press. ISBN 190460790X.
  6. ^ a b Cannon, p. 4
  7. ^ Walton, p. 304
  8. ^ Childs 1991, p. 352
  9. ^ Cannon, p. 9
  10. ^ Cannon, p. 5
  11. ^ a b c d e f "Royal Scots Fusiliers". Archived from the original on 4 January 2007. Retrieved 10 July 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  12. ^ "British Grenadiers". Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  13. ^ Churchill, p. 853
  14. ^ Cannon, p. 12
  15. ^ Cannon, p. 15
  16. ^ Lynn, p. 334
  17. ^ a b Cannon, p. 17
  18. ^ Journal of the Royal Highland Fusiliers Volume 24, No 2 (Winter 2000), Major Sir Crispin Agnew of Lochnaw, Bt.
  19. ^ Cannon, p. 22
  20. ^ Cannon, p. 26
  21. ^ Cannon, p. 38
  22. ^ Cannon, p. 42
  23. ^ Heathcote, p. 164
  24. ^ "W0 123847 Muster and Pay Rolls 1805-1806" National Archives. Retrieved 4 August 2018.
  25. ^ "Training Depots 1873–1881". Archived from the original on 10 February 2006. Retrieved 16 October 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link) The depot was the 61st Brigade Depot from 1873 to 1881, and the 21st Regimental District depot thereafter
  26. ^ "No. 24992". The London Gazette. 1 July 1881. pp. 3300–3301.
  27. ^ "Royal Scots Fusiliers". Anglo-Boer War. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
  28. ^ Buchan, p. 274
  29. ^ "Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907". Hansard. 31 March 1908. Retrieved 20 June 2017.
  30. ^ These were the 3rd Battalion (Special Reserve), with the 4th Battalion at Titchfield Street in Kilmarnock and the 5th Battalion at Burns Statue Square in Ayr (both Territorial Force)
  31. ^ a b c d e f "Royal Scots Fusiliers". The Long, Long Trail. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
  32. ^ a b "1914-1939". Royal Highland Fusiliers. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
  33. ^ Reitz, p. 336
  34. ^ Jenkins, p. 301
  35. ^ Joslen, p. 277
  36. ^ "36th Division". Unit Histories. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
  37. ^ "14th Army". Burna Star Association. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
  38. ^ "Lowland Area" (PDF). British military history. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 31 August 2015.
  39. ^ "badge, formation, 5th Infantry Division". Imperial War Museum. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
  40. ^ "5th Division". Battlefields. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
  41. ^ "1939-1945". Royal Highland Fusiliers. Archived from the original on 8 January 2012. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
  42. ^ Rowallan, foreword, page x
  43. ^ Joslen, pp. 58–9
  44. ^ Joslen, p. 332
  45. ^ "Royal Highland Fusiliers". British Army units 1945 on. Retrieved 25 May 2014.


Further reading[edit]

  • Kemp, Colonel J C (1963). The Royal Scots Fusiliers 1920–1959. Robert MacLehose.