Unit Details

Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders

Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaThis article is about the British Regiment. For the Canadian regiment, see The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (Princess Louise's).
The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Princess Louise's)
Argyll And Sutherland Badge.jpgFormer cap badge of the
Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders
Active 1 July 1881 – 28 March 2006
Country United Kingdom
Branch Army
Type Line Infantry
Role Air assault now ceremonial
Garrison/HQ Stirling Castle
Nickname Thin Red Line
Motto Ne Obliviscaris, Sans Peur
March Quick: Hielan' Laddie
Quick: The Campbells Are Coming
Charge: Monymusk
Funerals: Lochaber No More
Mascot A Shetland Pony named "Cruachan"
Anniversaries Balaklava (25 October 1854)
Tactical Recognition Flash ASH TRF.svg

The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Princess Louise's) was an infantry regiment of the British Army until amalgamation into The Royal Regiment of Scotland in 2006.

The regiment was created in 1881 as an amalgamation of the 91st and 93rd Regiments of Foot. The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders was expanded to fifteen battalions during the First World War and nine during the Second World War. The regiment sent an active battalion to serve in the Commonwealth Division in Korea and gained a high public profile for its role in Aden during 1967. As part of the restructuring of the infantry in 2004, the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders was amalgamated with the other Scottish infantry regiments into the seven battalion strong Royal Regiment of Scotland. Following a further round of defence cuts announced in July 2012, 5 Scots (Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders) is to be reduced to a single public duties company called Balaklava Company, 5 SCOTS (A and SH), Royal Regiment of Scotland.



It was formed in 1881 by the amalgamation of the 91st (Princess Louise's Argyllshire) Regiment and the 93rd (Sutherland Highlanders) Regiment as outlined in the Childers Reforms. The regiment is one of the six Scottish line infantry regiments, and wears a version of the Government Sett as its regimental tartan. It also had the largest cap badge in the British Army. The uniform included the Glengarry as its ceremonial headress.

At the Childers reform amalgamation the Argyll and Sutherland Highlander’ already had a well-earned reputation for valour in the face of the enemy, most notably the 93rd (later 2nd Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders) during the Crimean War. Here the 93rd earned the sobriquet of “The Fighting Highlanders” and carried with it the status of having been the original “Thin Red Line”. This title was bestowed following the action of the 93rd at Balaclava on 25 October 1854 in which this single battalion alone stood between the undefended British Army base at Balaklava and four squadrons of charging Russian cavalry. The 93rd, under the command of Sir Colin Campbell, not only held steady but for the first time in the history of the British Army broke a large cavalry charge using musket fire alone, without having been formed into a square.

This action was witnessed by The Times correspondent, W. H. Russell, who reported that nothing stood between the Russian cavalry and the defenceless British base but the "thin red streak tipped with a line of steel of the 93rd” a description immediately paraphrased and passed into folklore as "The Thin Red Line". Later referred to by Kipling in his evocative poem “Tommy”, the saying came to epitomize everything the British Army stood for. This feat of arms is still recognised by the plain red and white dicing worn on the cap band of the ASHR Glengarry bonnets which is the only regiment authorised to display such colours.

Second Boer War
The Argyll and Sutherland Boer War Memorial at Stirling Castle.

The 1st Battalion arrived in the Cape in November 1899 and formed part of the 3rd or Highland Brigade. The Argylls played leading roles in the Battle of Modder River, the Battle of Magersfontein, theBattle of Paardeberg and in an action at Roodepoort, immediately preceding the Battle of Doornkop. In June 1900, the battalion was transferred to a new brigade under Brigadier General Cunningham. They operated around Pretoria and from April 1901, in the Eastern Transvaal. Sections of Argylls formed parts of the 2nd and 12th Battalions Mounted Infantry and a detachment, along with the Black Watch, formed an escort for Captain J E Bearcroft's naval guns during the advance to Pretoria.

World War I
A 1914 recruiting poster for the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders

When the Great War broke out in 1914 the regiment had two Regular Battalions (1st and 2nd), two Militia Battalions (3rd and 4th) and five Territorial Battalions (5th, 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th each of which split into 1st, 2nd and 3rd-line battalions). Seven more Service Battalions were raised for Kitchener's Army and they were numbered 10th, 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th.

Ten of the battalions served in France and Flanders (1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th and 14th) gaining 65 battle honours and four served in the Mediterranean area (1st, 5th, 6th and 12th) gaining a further 13 battle honours.

431 officers and 6475 other ranks lost their lives and six Victoria Crosses were awarded to the regiment during the war.

World War II
Men of the 2nd Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders training with aLanchester six-wheeled armoured carin the Malayan jungle on 13 November 1941

There were nine Argyll and Sutherland battalions raised during the Second World War.

The 1st Battalion fought in the Western Desert Campaign, Crete, Abyssinia, Sicily and in the Italian Campaign. The first action for the 1st Battalion was at Sidi Barani where they joined the battle on 10 December 1940 as part of the 16th Infantry Brigade. On 17 May 1941 the battalion moved to Crete where they formed part of the defence based on the east side of the island at Tymbaki. Most of the Argylls marched from Tymbaki to the airfield at Heraklion on the night of 24 May to help support the 14th Infantry Brigade in the fighting at that airfield. They were successfully evacuated on 29 May from Heraklion but their convoy suffered air attacks and many casualties on the route away from Crete. The Argylls left at Tymbaki were captured when the island surrendered. The 1st Battalion was shipped toAlexandria and after garrison duties followed by a raid into the Gondar region of Abyssinia, they were sent back to the Western Desert where they were eventually attached to the 161st Indian Infantry Brigade, part of 4th Indian Infantry Division, and fought in the Second Battle of El Alamein. In 1943 the 1st Battalion landed on Sicily during Operation Husky, the Allied invasion of Sicily, attached to the 5th British Infantry Division as the 33rd Beach Brick. From February 1944 the battalion fought through the Italian Campaign with the 19th Indian Infantry Brigade, attached to 8th Indian Infantry Division. Whilst with the division the men of 1st Argylls fondly referred to the division as the 'three wee floo'ers' (the three little flowers) due to the divisional insignia.

The 2nd Battalion fought valiantly against the Imperial Japanese Army during the fighting in Malaya and Singapore (See Battle of Bukit Timah). Led by the tough Lieutenant Colonel Ian Stewart they were one of the very few British units that was prepared for the jungle warfare in Malaya. In the months before the invasion of southern Thailand and Malaya in 1941, Stewart took his battalion into the harshest terrain he could find and developed tactics to fight effectively in those areas. This training that the 2nd Argylls went through would make them arguably the most effective unit in General Percival's Malayan Command, earning them the nickname "the jungle beasts".

During the withdrawal of the 11th Indian Infantry Division the 2nd Argylls slowed the enemy advance and inflicted heavy casualties on them. During these actions the battalion became so depleted by battle that it was ordered back to cross the causeway into Singapore. Two days later, an Australian staff officer in company with the 2000 or so men of the 22nd Australian Brigade (the absolute tail guard of the British forces) arrived at the causeway. He was amazed to find all 250 of the ASHR, the proud remnants of the whole battalion who had been in action almost continually since the Japanese invaded six weeks previously, camped on the Malay side of the water. When asked what they were doing still in Malaya when they could have been in the relative comfort of Singapore their commanding officer, Ian Stewart, replied “You know the trouble with you Australians is that you have no sense of history. When the story of this campaign is written you will find that the ASHR goes down as the last unit to cross this causeway what’s more – piped across by their pipers” (Thompson 2005 p. 251)

Having suffered the massive loss of some 800 men due to being continuously used as the buffer to protect the retreating army (especially at the Battle of Slim River), the remaining Argylls, upon arriving in Singapore were reinforced with Royal Marines who had survived the sinking of HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse in December 1941 changing their name to Plymouth Argylls (in reference to the Argylls affiliation to the Plymouth Argyle Football team and that all the Marines were from the Plymouth Division). The battalion surrendered with the rest of General Percival's army in Singapore in February 1942. Many Argylls died in captivity as P.O.W's or in the jungle trying to avoid capture. Two Argyll soldiers even managed to avoid capture throughout the war in Northern Malaya, where they had remained since the Battle of Slim River. Only 22 of the Plymouth Marines (out of 210) and 52 Argylls reached Ceylon.

A few Argylls managed to escape to India, including Lt.Col.Stewart, where they lectured on Jungle warfare tactics. After this the evacuees became part of No.6 GHQ Training Team, which organized training exercises and lectures for the 14th Indian Infantry Division and 2nd British Infantry Division.

In May 1942 the 15th Battalion, raised during the war, was redesignated as the new 2nd Battalion. This battalion joined the 227th (Highland) Infantry Brigade and became a part of the 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division, a formation that would gain an excellent reputation, in 1943. With the division, the battalion fought in the Battle for Caen, seeing its first action in Operation Epsom, as part of Operation Overlord. The division ended the war on the Elbe River.

The 2nd Battalion, led by their piper, advance during Operation Epsom in Normandy in June, 1944

In March 1942, two British privates of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, Macfarlane and Goldie, escaped from Stalag IX-C at Bad Sulza in Thuringia. They jemmied their way out of their barrack hut wearing their blue work detail overalls over their battledress. These were boldly marked 'KG' (Kriegsgefangener, prisoner of war) on the back in red.

Throughout their escape bid, both men wore 40 lb rucksacks that concealed the markings and which they never took off in public. One of them later recalled, 'We attracted a certain amount of attention on the road because of our large packs but we made a point of keeping ourselves clean and shaven and also cleaned our boots regularly. No one stopped us on the way.'

After enduring a week in a salt wagon bound for Belgium, the two men made contact with an escape line there and, by mid-summer, they were safely back in Scotland.

The 7th Battalion was a Territorial Army (TA) unit serving with the 8th Battalion in the 154th (Highland) Infantry Brigade. The brigade was part of the 51st (Highland) Infantry Division in France in 1940 as part of the British Expeditionary Force. They were stationed on the Maginot Line and so avoided being encircled with the rest of the BEF during the Battle of France. The 7th Argylls in particular suffered heavy losses during the fighting, the worst day in its history. The 154th Brigade managed to be evacuated to England after the 51st (Highland) Division was forced to surrender on 12 June 1940. The division was reconstituted by the redesignation of the 9th (Highland) Infantry Division to the 51st. The understrength 154th Brigade of the old 51st was merged with the 28th Infantry Brigade. At some point before 1942 the 8th Argylls were posted elsewhere and in 1942 the new 51st Division, 7th Argylls included, were sent to join the British Eighth Army in the North African Campaign. They fought in the First Battle of El Alamein and in the Second Battle of El Alamein which turned the tide of the war in favour of the Allies. During the fighting in North Africa, Lieutenant Colonel Lorne MacLaine Campbell of 7th Argylls was awarded the Victoria Cross.

On 25 April 1943 the 8th Battalion was, by this time, serving with the 36th Brigade, part of the 78th Battleaxe Division during the Tunisian Campaign won fame during the assault of Djebel Ahmera hill on the attack on Longstop Hill, in which despite heavy casualties from mortar and machine gun fire scaled and took the heights. Major John Thompson McKellar Anderson for inspiring his men and eliminating strong points gained the Victoria Cross.

"Major Anderson re-organised the battalion, led the assault on the second objective, and, despite a leg wound, captured Longstop Hill with a total force of only four officers and less than forty other ranks. He personally led attacks on at least three enemy machine-gun positions and in every case was the first man in the enemy gun-pits."

Korean War

The battalion was one of the first British units to serve in Korea, arriving there in September 1950 as part of the 27th British Commonwealth Brigade. Its first major action, in the battle of Naktong, the battalion was involved in a tragic friendly fire incident, in the fight for Hill 282. Thereafter, the battalion took part in the 8th Army's push to the Yalu river, winning a battle honour at the Battle of Pakchon; then the subsequent retreat before the Chinese intervention, and the recovery and counter-attack to line Kansas, near the present Military Demarcation Line.

The battalion finished its tour of operation leaving Korea in April 1951.