The Lowland regiments generally predate the more widely known Highland regiments. The senior Lowland regiment was the Royal Scots (the Royal Regiment) which dates from 1633. The Royal Scots Fusiliers and the King’s Own Scottish Borderers were subsequently raised in 1678 and 1689 respectively.
Throughout the 17th, 18th and most of the 19th centuries, these Scottish regiments served widely and with great distinction in the British army. They did not however differ significantly in appearance or public perception from the bulk of the line infantry of the British Army.
In 1881, the introduction of the Cardwell system of reforms provided the opportunity to adopt a modified form of Scottish dress for the Lowland regiments. Comprising doublets and tartan trews, this gave the Lowlanders a distinctive identity, separate from their English, Welsh, Irish and Highland counterparts.
At the same time, the absence of kilts (except for pipers) and the substitution of Kilmarnock bonnets for feather bonnets prevented confusion between Lowlanders and their Highland counterparts. The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) was created at the same time from the merging of two existing numbered regiments.
The original Highland regiments were raised in the 18th century with the object of recruiting rank and file solely from the Scottish Highlands. However, due to the Highlands becoming extensively depopulated through the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, the Highland regiments of the British Army have witnessed a long-term decline in the proportion of recruits from the Highlands and have long recruited many Lowland Scots and others.
The major 20th century exceptions to this rule were the First and Second World Wars, when many Highland men joined up. Around the time that the first Highland regiments were raised, the Highlands had recently been a hotbed of several revolts against the establishment, namely the Jacobite Rebellions, so the loyalties of the Highlanders were often deemed suspect in the early history of the Highland regiments.
The first Highland regiment, the Black Watch was originally raised from clans openly loyal to the status quo in order for the government to better police the Highlands, which were deemed to be both rebellious and lawless by the contemporary British establishment. However, due to a pressing need for personnel in North America during the Seven Years’ War (known in North America as the French and Indian War), William Pitt the Elder made the decision to raise new Highland regiments to fight in this imperial war. The war ended in victory and among other things, Canada was secured as a part of the British Empire, while the British East India Company’s position in India was consolidated and expanded, both at the expense of the French.
These Highland regiments were disbanded after the war, but other Highland regiments were raised later and, like the rest of the British Army, saw service in various wars, including Peninsular War in Spain against Napoleon, and the British colonization of India.
Depiction of The Thin Red Line at the Battle of Balaclava. Highland regiments played a conspicuous role in conflicts throughout the Victorian era.
By the Victorian era, the loyalty of the Highlanders was no longer suspect. Queen Victoria had a personal interest in things Scottish, in particular relating to the Highlands. In addition Highland regiments had played a conspicuous role in such Victorian conflicts as the Crimean War, and the putting down of the Indian Mutiny. The Highland regiments earned a reputation which influenced the mindset of those Scottish regiments which were Lowland in origin. This resulted in the wearing of tartan by Lowland regiments which had previously worn uniforms not clearly distinguishable from their Irish, Welsh and English counterparts.
In the case of the Highland Light Infantry, the distinction between Highlanders and Lowlanders was slightly blurred: although classified as a non-kilted Highland regiment, it was recruited from Glasgow in Lowland Scotland and bore the title of “City of Glasgow Regiment”.
Scottish bagpipes have been adopted in a number of countries, largely in imitation of the pipers of Highland regiments which served throughout the former British Empire. Highland regiments were raised in a many Commonwealth armies, often adopting formal honorary affiliations with Scottish regiments of the British Army.
Scottish regiments of the United Kingdom
Regiments in the British Army
Members of the Highland Band of the Royal Regiment of Scotland performing at Gibraltar in 2013.
Royal Scots Dragoon Guards
Royal Regiment of Scotland
19th Regiment Royal Artillery
105th Regiment Royal Artillery
32 Signal Regiment
154 (Scottish) Regiment RLC
The London Scottish (a Company of The London Regiment)
The Liverpool Scottish (a platoon of the 4th Battalion, Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment)
51st Highland Volunteers
52nd Lowland Volunteers
In addition, the British Army also includes the Scottish and North Irish Yeomanry, consisting of:
A (Ayrshire (Earl of Carrick’s Own) Yeomanry) Squadron in Ayr
B (North Irish Horse) Squadron in Beflast and Coleraine
C (Fife and Forfar Yeomanry/Scottish Horse) Squadron in Cupar
E (Lothians and Border Yeomanry) Squadron in Edinburgh
Former regiments of the British Army
A member of the Black Watch fires a rifle grenade in 1917. In 2006, the Black Watch was reorganized into a battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.
The following units were formerly a part of the British Army’s Highland Brigade. The brigade was amalgamated into the Scottish Division in 1968.
The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) (1725–2006)
The Highland Light Infantry (City of Glasgow Regiment) (1881–1959)
The Seaforth Highlanders (Ross-shire Buffs, The Duke of Albany’s) (1881–1961)
The Gordon Highlanders (1881–1994)
The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders (1793–1961)
The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Princess Louise’s) (1881–2006)
The Highlanders (Seaforth, Gordons and Camerons) (1994–2006)
The following units were formerly a part of the British Army’s Lowland Brigade. The brigade was amalgamated into the Scottish Division in 1968.
The Royal Scots (The Royal Regiment) (1633–2006)
The Royal Scots Fusiliers (1678–1959)
The King’s Own Scottish Borderers (1689–2006)
The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) (1881–1968)
Former yeomanry of Scotland includes:
Ayrshire (Earl of Carrick’s Own) Yeomanry
Lothians and Border Horse
Queen’s Own Royal Glasgow Yeomanry
Fife and Forfar Yeomanry
Fife and Forfar Yeomanry/Scottish Horse
Queen’s Own Lowland Yeomanry
The Atholl Highlanders is a ceremonial Scottish regiment which is not part of the British Army, but is under the command of the Duke of Atholl, based at Blair Castle. It was presented with colors by Queen Victoria in 1844, giving the regiment official status. It is the only legal private army in Europe.
Scottish regiments in other countries
The 5th/6th Battalion, Royal Victoria Regiment is one of four Scottish battalions presently operating in the Australian Army.
Scottish battalions in the Australian Army Reserve:
5th/6th Battalion, Royal Victoria Regiment (Victorian Scottish Regiment)
10th/27th Battalion, Royal South Australia Regiment (South Australian Scottish Regiment)
16th Battalion, Royal Western Australia Regiment (Cameron Highlanders)
41st Battalion, Royal New South Wales Regiment (Byron Scottish Regiment)
30th Battalion (The New South Wales Scottish Regiment) (1915–1919; 1921–1930; 1935–1946; 1948–1960)
61st Battalion (The Queensland Cameron Highlanders). (1938–1946)
Members of The Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa training at Cartier Square Drill Hall.
The Toronto Scottish Regiment during the Presentation of Colors.
There are presently 16 Canadian-Scottish infantry regiments, and one Canadian-Scottish artillery regiment (42nd Field Artillery Regiment) in the Canadian Army Reserve. The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada is the senior Canadian-Scottish regiment of the Canadian Army.
Canadian-Scottish regiments in the Canadian Army Reserve:
42nd Field Artillery Regiment (Lanark and Renfrew Scottish), RCA
48th Highlanders of Canada
The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (Princess Louise’s)
The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada
The Calgary Highlanders
The Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa (Duke of Edinburgh’s Own)
The Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary’s)
The Essex and Kent Scottish
The Lake Superior Scottish Regiment
The Lorne Scots (Peel, Dufferin and Halton Regiment)
The Cape Breton Highlanders
The Nova Scotia Highlanders
The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada
The Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada
The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada
The Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders
The Toronto Scottish Regiment (Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother’s Own)
The Perth Regiment (1866–1965)
The New Zealand Army formerly operated a Scottish regiment, the 1st New Zealand Scottish Regiment. Initially raised as a infantry regiment in January 1939, it was later converted into an armoured unit of the Royal New Zealand Armoured Corps. The unit was formally disbanded on 16 April 2016.
The South African Army presently maintains four Scottish regiments with the South African Army Infantry Formation. All four regiments are reserve units of the South African Army. Scottish regiments in the South African Army includes:
First City Regiment
Cape Town Highlanders Regiment
Transvaal Scottish Regiment
Pretoria Highlanders (1939–2017)
79th New York Volunteer Infantry was one of two Scottish regiments in the Union Army during the American Civil War.
The United States Army (the Union Army during the American Civil War) formerly operated two Scottish regiments. One of these regiments operated as a part of the New York State Militia prior to the American Civil War. Scottish regiments formerly maintained by the United States Army include:
12th Illinois Infantry Regiment (1861–1865)
79th New York Volunteer Infantry (1858–1876)