A brief history of the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders

The 79th (Cameronian Volunteers) Regiment was raised by Alan Cameron of Erracht in 1793, as one of a number of additional regiments at the start of the French Revolutionary War. However, it was not the first regiment to bear the number 79th, as there had been two previous ones, in 1758-63 and 1778-84, although there is no connection between either of them and the 79th Highlanders. Indeed, they were English regiments. The Regiment was embodied at Stirling in January 1794 and took part in the Flanders campaign, before being sent to Martinique in 1795. Although in both countries they had few battlefield casualties, their numbers were greatly reduced due to disease and, as a result, the men were drafted into the 42nd Highlanders. The cadre then returned to Scotland in 1798 where it recruited to bring the 79th up to establishment again. They then returned to Flanders as part of the Duke of York’s Expedition and fought at Egmont-op-Zee, returning to England in 1799. In 1800 they sailed for Cadiz , but did not land and instead took part in Sir Ralph Abercromby’s Expedition at Alexandria in Egypt . In 1804 the Regiment was re-titled the 79th (Cameron Highlanders) Regiment of Foot and in 1805 raised a second battalion, although it remained on home duty and was disbanded in 1815. After its spell in the Mediterranean , the 1st Battalion took part in the 1807 expedition against Copenhagen , before going to Portugal as part of Sir John Moore’s Army and its subsequent retreat to Corunna. The Regiment then returned to England and in 1810 the Battalion returned to Portugal as part of the 1st Division in the army of Sir Arthur Wellesley, later the Duke of Wellington. The 79th fought with distinction at Fuentes d’Onor and were present at Salamanca.

In July 1813, they fought at the Pyrenees , Nivelle, Nive and Toulouse , before returning to England . With the start of the 100 Days Campaign in 1815, it went to Belgium and formed part of Sir Thomas Picton’s Division. They fought at Quatre Bras and then retired to Waterloo , where they greatly distinguished themselves, although their losses in the three days were heavy, with 479 killed or wounded out of an initial strength of 776 officers and men. The Regiment remained in France for three years, returning home in 1818. It then served in various postings, including Ireland , Canada and Gibraltar , until the start of the Crimean War when they became part of the Highland Brigade under Sir Colin Campbell. They fought at Alma and Sevastopol before leaving the Crimea and arriving back home in July 1856. however, a year later the Regiment sailed for Calcutta as a result of the Indian Mutiny, where it fought at the siege and capture of Lucknow and in subsequent operations against the mutineers. It then remained in India for the next twelve years, before returning home in 1871.

In 1873, the Regiment became a `Royal’ regiment and became known as the 79th (Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders) Regiment with the Colour of its facings being changed from green to blue. In 1874, a detachment of 130 volunteers from the Regiment served with the linked regiment, the 42nd Highlanders (Black Watch) during the Ashanti War in the Gold Coast. In 1879, they again served in Gibraltar and were there during the Army reforms of 1881, when all single battalion infantry regiments were subject to amalgamations. However the 79th remained independent, becoming the only single battalion regiment in the British Army, being named the 1st Battalion The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders.

In 1882, it proceeded to Egypt and took part in the battle of Tel-el-Kebir and subsequently in the Nile Campaign. It remained in the country and took part in the 1885 fighting on the border with Sudan . It was relieved in 1886, only to return in 1898, as part of Kitchener ‘s Anglo-Egyptian expedition for the re-conquest of the Sudan and fought at Omdurman . It then went to South Africa and fought in the Boer War, including the Capture of Pretoria, remaining there until the end of the war, when it returned to the United Kingdom and served in Ireland . Meanwhile, the anomaly of being a single battalion regiment was corrected when a second battalion was raised in 1897, which served overseas in the Mediterranean , South Africa , China and India . Like all other regiments, it raised additional battalions in the First World War making a total of 14, which fought in various battlefields winning 62 Battle Honours and 3 Victoria Crosses. After the war, the Regiment reverted to its peacetime strength with both battalions serving in various stations across the world. During the Second World War the expanded Regiment served in the BEF, Burma , Western Desert Sicily , Italy , Greece , France and Germany . After the war it was again reduced to a single regular battalion which served in Malaya , Korea and Aden , before the amalgamation of 1961.

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