Royal Scots Fusiliers

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Royal Scots Fusiliers
RoyalScotsFusiliers 1.jpg
Regimental cap badge
Active 1678–1959
Country  Kingdom of Scotland (1678–1688)
 Kingdom of England (1688–1707)
 Kingdom of Great Britain (1707–1800)
 United Kingdom (1801–1959)
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Type Infantry
Role Line infantry
Part of Lowland Brigade
Garrison/HQ Churchill Barracks, Ayr
Hackle White
Tartan Hunting 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 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, with the Royal Highland Fusiliers becoming the 2nd Battalion of the new regiment.


Uniform of the 21st Regiment of Foot in 1742

The Earl of Mar's Regiment of Foot ('Mar's Grey Breeks') (1678–1695)[edit]

The regiment was raised in Scotland in 1678 by Stuart loyalist Charles Erskine, de jure 5th Earl of Mar for service against the rebel covenanting forces during the Second Whig Revolt (1678–1679). It was used to keep the peace and put down brigands, mercenaries, and rebels. In the Glorious Revolution of 1689, the regiment was ordered south. Initially, it stayed loyal to James II of England; however, when he fled to Ireland, it opted to serve Prince William of Orange. Ironically, the regiment later fought against the Jacobites during the Second Jacobite Rebellion (1745) at the Battle of Culloden in 1746.

The Scots Fusilier Regiment of Foot (1695–1712)[edit]

The regiment was converted to fusiliers in 1689, but didn't receive the title officially until 1695. It was nicknamed the "Duke of Marlborough's Own" for its excellent service in all of the Duke's campaigns in the War of the Spanish Succession and received the title of "Royal" in 1712.

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

The regiment was renamed the Royal North British Fusilier Regiment of Foot in 1713. It was later numbered the 21st Regiment in 1751, when seniority numbers were introduced.

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

The regiment finally saw the restoration of "Scots" in their title in 1877. Although the use of the name during the Georgian era can be proven by reference to swords carried by senior officers circa 1825.

Regimental colours.

Childers Reforms of 1881[edit]

The regiment did not suffer the indignity of being amalgamated, as it already had two regular battalions. However, it did become 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. It also had to lose its numbering, becoming the Royal Scots Fusiliers.

First World War[edit]

The Royal Scots Fusiliers served during the First World War. In raised many service battalions and Territorial Force battalions. The regiment bore the brunt of many battles on the Western Front, serving with distinction. The Battle of Loos proved to be a taxing episode on the regiment's fighting strength and morale.

This period in the regiment's history is particularly notable, as its 6th Battalion was commanded on the Western Front, by future Prime Minister Winston Churchill. As a cavalry officer, Churchill's initial entry into an infantry regiment was fraught with problems, due to different drill commands, protocol and terminology. This would not last long however. Touched by the battering the 6th Battalion faced at the Battle of Loos, Churchill took great pains in nurturing the morale of his men, attending to their basic needs, immersing himself in trench life, making war on the lice and almost commanding the battalion as though it were a platoon. Morale improved dramatically and by the end of the war, the 6th Battalion was considered to be one of the most hygienic, lice free units on the Western Front.

Future wartime Prime-Minister Winston Churchill, as officer commanding 6th (Service) Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers, 1916

Second World War[edit]

In the Second World War, the regiment served in North-West Europe, Sicily and Italy, Madagascar and Burma. 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 British India to fight in the South-East Asian Theatre. In 1944 the 29th Brigade became part of the 36th Infantry Division, previously a British Indian Army formation and one of two British divisions fighting the Japanese, the other being the 2nd Infantry Division although many Indian divisions included British units under command. The 36th Division spent the rest of the war under command of the British Fourteenth Army.

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.[1] 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. 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. 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.

The 4/5th and 6th battalions both saw service in the European Campaign in 1944-1945 with the 6th also serving in France 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. 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.

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.

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).

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.

Famous officers[edit]


  1. ^ "Lowland Area" (PDF). British military history. Retrieved 31 August 2015. 

Three histories of the Regiment have been written:

  1. The History of the Royal Scots Fusiliers 1678–1920 by John Buchan (Lord Tweedsmuir)
  2. The Royal Scots Fusiliers 1920–1959 by Colonel J C Kemp.
  3. Cannon, Richard (1849). Historical Record of the Twenty-First or Royal North British Fusilier Regiment of Foot.