A brief history of the Seaforth Highlanders

(Ross-Shire Buffs, The Duke of Albany’s)

An incident occurred during the Battle for Cawnpore which is worth recording. By some mistake a bugler sounded the “officers’ call” in rear of the 78th. The officers of the regiment immediately assembled near the general—who was standing close by—imagining that he wished to see them. On finding out the mistake, General Havelock addressed them as follows :—

” Gentlemen, I am glad of having this opportunity of saying a few words to you which you may repeat to your men. I am now upwards of sixty years old;

I have been forty years in the service: I have been engaged in action about seven-and-twenty times; but in the whole of my career I have never seen any regiment behave better, nay more, I have never seen any one behave so well, as the 78th Highlanders this day.

I am proud of you, and if ever I have the good luck to be made a major-general, the first thing I shall do, will be to go to the Duke of Cambridge and request that when my turn arrives for the colonelcy of a regiment, I may have the 78th Highlanders. And this, gentlemen, you hear from a man who is not in the habit of saying more than he means. I am not a Highlander, but I wish I was one.”

Although the Earl of Seaforth raised the Seaforth Highlanders in 1778 as the 78th Regiment (Highland) Foot, it was not the first regiment to bear this number. That was the 78th (Highland) Regiment Foot, known as Fraser’s Highlanders, which was raised as the 63rd Foot in 1757 and renumbered the 78th in 1758. The Regiment served in North America during the Seven Years’ War and fought in all major engagements. It was disbanded in 1763.

The current Regiment, raised in 1778 as the 78th, was renumbered The 72nd ( Highland ) Regiment of Foot in 1786. There were three previous regiments to bear this number, none of which has any Scottish connection. In 1782 the Regiment was in India assisting the Army of the East India Company in its campaign against Tipoo, Sultan of Mysore and later it helped capture the Cape of Good Hope from the Dutch in 1806. It raised a second battalion in 1804, although it did not see service and was disbanded in 1814. 1809 was the year that all Scottish regiments will remember, as it was the year in which many of the regiments lost their `Highland’ status and ceased to wear the kilt. Unfortunately, the 72nd was one of those regiments. It did not see service in Europe during the Napoleonic Wars, but served for most of the period in Cape Colony and Mauritius . After fighting in the Kaffir War in South Africa , they returned home in 1821 and were then stationed in Ireland . In recognition of its record as a reliable regiment, it was re-titled The 72nd (Duke of Albany’s Own Highlanders) in 1823 and allowed to resume wearing highland dress such as the feather bonnet. However, instead of the kilt, it wore trews of Royal Stuart tartan. The Regiment went to the Cape again in 1828 and was engaged in the Kaffir War of 1835, before returning home in 1840. It then served in a variety of places, Gibraltar , Barbados and Nova Scotia , before being sent to the Crimea to take part in the latter stages of the siege of Sevastopol . It then went to Bombay and saw service in central India during the Mutiny, including the capture of Gwalior and the pursuit of Tantia Topee, followed by service in the Umeyla Expedition of 1863. It then returned home in 1865, before returning in 1871. It then served on the North West Frontier and took part in the Afghan campaigns of 1878-80, including the battle of Kandahar .

The 2nd Battalion of the Seaforth Highlanders was raised in 1793 as the 78th Highland Regiment of Foot and augmented by a second battalion, known as the Ross-shire Buffs, in 1794. The 1st Battalion served in Flanders with the Duke of York from 1794-95, while the 2nd Battalion had been sent to the Cape of Good Hope in 1795. Both Battalions were then amalgamated at the Cape and the Regiment went to Bengal , where it distinguished itself in Sir Arthur Wellesley’s campaign against the Mahrattas from 1803-1804, gaining the Honour Assaye. In recognition, the East India Company presented the regiment with a third, or honorary colour, bearing an Elephant superscribed Assaye. A second battalion was again raised at home and served in Sicily and , Italy , where it distinguished itself at the battle of Maida. It then served in Egypt , after which in 1809 many of the men were sent to the 1st Battalion, while the reminder of the battalion returned home to recruit. The 2nd Battalion then went to Holland in the latter stages of the Napoleonic Wars until 1814. It then remained in Belgium in garrison at Nieuport and did not take part in the Waterloo campaign, being disbanded in 1816. After being brought up to strength in 1809, the 1st Battalion then Landed in India, taking part in the capture and occupation of Java, returning home in 1813. The Regiment, now a single battalion, then served in Ceylon , India , Persia and again in India during the Mutiny, where it took part in the relief and capture of Lucknow winning eight Victoria Crosses in the campaign. It then returned home in 1859 and later served in Gibraltar , Canada and Nova Scotia before returning to India and taking part in the Afghan campaign of 1879-80.

Both Regiments were amalgamated in 1881 as the 1st and 2nd Battalions Seaforth .Highlanders (Ross-shire Buffs, The Duke of Albany’s). The 1st Battalion then fought in the Egyptian Campaign of 1882 and later in the Nile Expedition of 1898, taking part in the battle of Omdurman . The 2nd Battalion went to India and later to South Africa in 1899, where it served in the Highland Brigade. Here, it fought in many engagements and again distinguished itself. During the First World War the Regiment expanded with its regular and territorial battalions being supplemented with the raising of reserve and service battalions,. Its 18 battalions fought in most theatres of operations and were awarded a further 76 Battle Honours .end seven Victoria Crosses. After the war the 1st Battalion returned home and served in England , while the 2nd Battalion went to India . In 1930 they were on the North West Frontier. During the Second World War the Regiment was again expanded with the raising of further battalions. Between them they fought across the world in North Africa , Sicily , Italy , Burma and North-West Europe. After the war, the strength of the Regular Army was reduced with most line regiments, including The Seaforth Highlanders, becoming a single regular battalion regiment again with the amalgamation of the 1st and 2nd Battalions in 1948. The Regiment then took part in operations against the terrorists in Malaya before returning to Scotland.

It then served in Egypt Aden Gibraltar, Munster and Germany before being amalgamated with The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders in 1961 to form the Queen’s Own Highlanders.

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