Royal Scots Fusiliers

Royal Scots Fusiliers

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 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.


Uniform of the 21st Regiment of Foot in 1742

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

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).[1] It was used to keep the peace and put down brigands, mercenaries, and rebels. In the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the regiment was ordered south.[2] Initially, it stayed loyal to James II of England; however, when he fled to Ireland, it opted to serve Prince William of Orange.[3]

The Scots Fusilier Regiment of Foot (1685–1707)

The regiment was converted to fusiliers in 1685.[4] 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.[5]

The North British Fusilier Regiment of Foot (1707–1713)

The regiment was renamed the North British Fusilier Regiment of Foot in 1707 reflecting Treaty of Union that led to the creation of Great Britain.[4]

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

The regiment was awarded the title "Royal" around 1713.[6] The regiment saw action under the command of Sir Andrew Agnew at the Battle of Dettingen in June 1743 during the War of the Austrian Succession[7] and later fought against the Jacobites at the Battle of Culloden in April 1746 during the Second Jacobite Rebellion.[8] It was numbered the 21st Regiment in 1751, when seniority numbers were introduced.[4]

The regiment saw action at the Siege of Fort Ticonderoga in July 1777 during the American Revolutionary War,[9] took part in the Siege of Bergen op Zoom in March 1814 during the Napoleonic Wars[10] and saw combat at the Battle of New Orleans in January 1815 during the War of 1812.[11] The regiment then served under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Haines at the Battle of Inkerman in November 1854 during the Crimean War.[12]

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

The regiment finally saw the restoration of "Scots" in their title in 1877.[4]

Regimental colours

Childers Reforms

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.[4] The regiment saw action at the Battle of the Tugela Heights in February 1900 during the Second Boer War.[13] Captain Hugh Trenchard was seriously wounded while serving with the regiment near Krugersdorp at this time.[14]

First World War

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

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.[15] 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[16] and was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Deneys Reitz in the closing stages of the war.[17]

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.[15] 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.[16]

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.[15]

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.[15] Lieutenant Colonel Winston Churchill commanded the battalion when it was located near Ploegsteert Wood during Spring 1916.[18] 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.[15] 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.[15]

Second World War

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.[19] In 1944 the 29th Brigade became part of the 36th Infantry Division,[20] 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.[21]

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.[22] 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.[23] 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.[24] 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.[25]

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.[26] 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.[27]

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.[28]

Amalgamations of 1959

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).[29]

Battle honours

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.[4]

Victoria Crosses

Victoria Crosses awarded to members of the regiment were:

Colonels of the Regiment

Colonels of the regiment were: [30]

The Scots Fusiliers

21st Regiment of Foot

The North British Fusiliers

The Royal North British Fusiliers

21st (Royal North British) Fusiliers

The Royal Scots Fusiliers


  1. Cannon, p. 1
  2. Cannon, p. 3
  3. Cannon, p. 4
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Royal Scots Fusiliers". Archived from the original on 12 July 2006. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
  5. "Royal Scots Fusiliers". Hebridean Connections. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
  6. Cannon, p. 17
  7. Journal of the Royal Highland Fusiliers Volume 24, No 2 (Winter 2000), Major Sir Crispin Agnew of Lochnaw, Bt.
  8. Cannon, p. 22
  9. Cannon, p. 26
  10. Cannon, p. 38
  11. Cannon, p. 42
  12. Heathcote, p. 164
  13. "Royal Scots Fusiliers". Anglo-Boer War. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
  14. Buchan, p. 274
  15. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Royal Scots Fusiliers". The Long, Long Trail. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
  16. 1 2 "1914-1939". Royal Highland Fusiliers. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
  17. Reitz, Deneys; JC Smuts (2008). Commando: A Boer Journal of the Boer War. CruGuru. p. 336. ISBN 978-1-920265-68-7.
  18. Jenkins, p. 301
  19. Joslen, p. 277
  20. "36th Division". Unit Histories. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
  21. "14th Army". Burna Star Association. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
  22. "Lowland Area" (PDF). British military history. Retrieved 31 August 2015.
  23. "badge, formation, 5th Infantry Division". Imperial War Museum. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
  24. "5th Division". Battlefields. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
  25. "1939-1945". Royal Highland Fusiliers. Retrieved 7 May 2016.
  26. Rowallan, foreword, page x
  27. Joslen, pp. 58–9
  28. Joslen, p. 332
  29. "Royal Highland Fusiliers". British Army units 1945 on. Retrieved 25 May 2014.
  30. "Royal Scots Fusiliers". Retrieved 10 July 2016.


Further reading

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