The Highland Regiments - The 79Th Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders

Recommended Posts

Part One The 79th Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders Record of the Formation and Services of the 79th OR Cameron Highlanders


Alan Cameron, whose "Badench" name was Brrodi, was son of Ewen Cameron and Margery, sister of MacLean of Drimnin, who resided at Erroch, near Fort William, North Britain, a most powerful man, standing six feet eight inches in height, and being muscular in proportion, nearly as tall as the celebrated Sam Macdonald of the 93rd (formerly one of the porters at Carlton House, who stood seven feet four inches, without his stickings). Young Cameron resided at home until his 19th year, when, happening to quarrel at a public ball, with a namesake of his own clan (whose Badenoch name was Morsheilich), the result was a challenge to Morsheilich, and a dual with broadswords, according to Morsheilich's choice, next morning. Several of the latter's followers were placed in ambush round the scene of combat, in order to prevent Brrodi's escape, should he prove the victor in this unequal contest, Morsheilich being a scientific swordsman, while his adversary was young and untaught. His "Guards", however, availed nothing against the strength of Brrodi's arm, who, with one blow, split his head in two, on which Morsheilich's men rushed from their ambush, and proclaiming the duel an unfair one, endeavoured to seize on Brrodi, whose activity enabled him to escape from them. They succeeded, nevertheless, in rousing the feelings of the men of Lachaber against the alleged murderer to such an extent, that he was obliged to fly at once, for his life, to the house of his cousin Dr. Alsander MacLean, of Pennycross, in the Isle of Mull, where he lay for two days concealed from a party of armed men from Fort William and Lachaber, who had tracked him with bloodhounds. At night he lay hid in a cave, near Pennycross House, so peculiarly situated that no stranger could discover its existence, but his pursuers knowing that he was in the neighbourhood, and ultimate discovery being inevitable, he fled to a cavern six miles distant, on the south-west of the island, where provisions were conveyed to him by stealth, by Dr. MacLean's youthful son Archibald. The door of this cavern, these two caves are known to the present day as "Cameron's caves", (which is named Inni Moir) was so constructed that one able swordsman could defend it against many intruders, while high rocks and the sea rendered the approach to it all but impossible. In this seclusion Alan remained for Six weeks, without light, except when he ventured to the mouth of the cavern; and his enemies having then abandoned the pursuit in despair, he left his prison and sailed for America, where he joined the 71st Highlanders as a volunteer, and behaved with such bravery that he was rewarded with a commission, and subsequently obtained the local rank of Major in America. Having been wounded and taken prisoner, he remained in confinement until the end of the war, when he was released, and, landing in England, proceeded to London, where he obtained from King George the Third a letter of service, dated Augt 17th 1793, empowering him to raise a Regiment of Highlanders, and conferring on him the rank of Major Commandant from that date.

Major Cameron then proceeded to Scotland, accompanied by twelve of his chosen friends, Officers of rank, and guarded by a body of faithful servants, the whole party being fully armed, and having arrived at Kilfinichin Argyleshire, the residence of Col MacLean, of Kinlochallen (son of MacLean of Drimnin) he made inquiries as to the state of feeling in Fort William and, when, learning that the ill-will which had formerly existed against him had now altogether subsided, he entered Fort William, preceded by his piper, playing the slogan of the clans, The "Camerons Gathering", and attended by his friends and followers, fully armed, however, in order to guard against treachery on the part of Morsheilich's surviving relatives. Finding that the inhabitants of Fort William and Lachaber were now friendly towards him, he declared his intention of raising a Highland Regiment, and having selected his Officers, Sergeants, and Corporals from his own namesakes and clansmen, he soon enlisted so many men the the Corps was completed to its full establishment within the prescribed period, although all the expense was obliged to be borne by the Officers, Government refusing to allow any bounty-money whatever.

The Regiment, having been inspected at Sterling in February 1794, was styled the "Seventy-ninth", or "Cameron Highlanders", and Major Cameron was promoted to the rank of Lieut Col his commission bearing date January 30th 1794; encouraged by which, he continued his efforts at recruiting the Corps, which soon numbered 1,000 bayonets.

The first active service seen by the 79th was in Flanders (also the scene of their last campaign) for which place the Regt embarked in 1794, and remained there about a year, having landed at Portsmouth Saturday, May 9th 1795 in transports conveying the following Infantry Regiments - 12th, 27th, 28th, 40th, 54th, 57th, 59th, 79th, 80th, 85th, and Loyal Emigrants, the whole number under the convoy of H.M.S. Leda, 36, Captain Woodley. In the summer of this year the Regiment was inspected by H.R.H. the Duke of York, then Commander in Chief, in the Isle of Wight, who, thinking it unwise to retain together the men of a Regiment that had been so hastily enroled, informed Lieut Col Cameron that the 79th should be at once drafted into other Regiments; on which Lieut Col Cameron replied - "Your Royal Highness's father does not possess the power of doing that", and produced the letter of service in which an immunity from being drafted was specially granted to the 79th Regt. This incensed the Duke so much that an order appeared requiring the Cameron Highlanders to embark for the West Indies forthwith, and the Regiment landed in November 1795 at Martinique where it continued to serve until July 1797, when an order arrived out, recalling the Officers and Non Commissioned Officers to Scotland, for the purpose of recruiting for another battalion, and allowing such men as preferred remaining abroad to volunteer into Regiments serving in the West Indies.

The men who wished to return home (210 in number) were to join the 42nd Highlanders, then under Orders for England, where the transports arrived July 30th 1795, and landed the troops at Portsmouth in such excellent health that out of 500 men of the 42nd and 79th Regiments, not a single man was reported sick; a circumstance so unprecedented, that it was at first supposed that the list of the sick had been omitted by mistake when the ships papers were transmitted for inspection.

The remainder of the Fleet arrived shortly after and Colonel Cameron and his Officers were ordered to Scotland for the purpose of recruiting, as before stated. On this occasion no rank was conferred on the Officers to reward them for their success in recruiting, notwithstanding which the Regt was completed to 780 Rank and File in the following year, at Inverness; and although several of the recruits were English and Irish, they soon became identified in feelings as in costume with their Gaelic brethern. The 79th embarked for the Helder in Augt 1779 and in the action which occurred Octr 2nd highly distinguished themselves; an observation which applies to every action in which the Cameron Highlanders have been engaged.

The Army having re-embarked by Octr 25th and the 79th remained at home until Augt 21st 1800, when it embarked under Sir Jas Pulteney, in the expedition for Ferrol in Galicia, and landed in Dominos Bay on the 25th of that month; re-embarked next evening, and joined the army off Gibraltar, Septr 19th; sailed again Octr 3rd and arrived at Vigo Bay, Octr 5th; proceeded thence to Cadiz for the purpose of taking possession of City, and of the fleet in the harbour of Caraccas, when a gun from Cadiz announced a flag of truce, the object of which was to prevent any attack on a City whose inhabitants were already afflicted by a pestilence that had already killed thousands, and that seemed likely to destroy the entire population. Under such melancholy circumstances, the Commanders, Sir James Pulteney, Sir Ralph Abercromy, and Sir Edward Pellew, humanely ordered the re-embarkation of the troops, 2,500 of whom were at the time on board the gun boats.

The fleet sailed for the Bay of Tetuan, on the coast of Barbary Octr 7; but after having been there a few days, a dreadful storm arose, which compelled the Fleet to weigh anchor, and make for shelter under the lee of Cape Spartell, with the greatest precipitation. As soon as the weather became more calm, the Fleet returned to Gibralter, and on Octr 29th Sir Jas Pultneey sailed for Portugal with those Regiments whose services were restricted to service in Europe, while Sir R. Abercromy, with the remaining Regts (of which the 79th was one) sailed for Malta, that island having surrendered to Genl Pigot and Sir Thos Graham of Balgowan (afterwards Lord Lynedock) Septr 5th same year. From Malta the Fleet sailed Decr 20th and 21st in two divisions, for the Bay of Marmorice, where the first division arrived Decr 28th 1800, and the second division Jany 1st 1801. Here they remained until February 23rd when they sailed for Egypt in sight of which they arrived Sunday, March 1st 1801. The particulars of the Egyptian campaign are known to nearly all our readers, and I shall therefore content myself by saying that the 79th remained in Egypt until the end of Augt and sailed for Minorca, where it continued until the island as surrendered at the peace of Amiens in March 1802 on which the Regt was sent to Gibraltar, and subsequently returned to Scotland, where it received in 1804 the addition of a 2nd Battn, which was embodied and passed 25th March 1805.

The 1st Batt embarked for Portulgal in Augt 1808, and served with Sir John Moore's Army until January 1809 on the 19th of which month they embarked for England and landed either at Plymouth or Portsmouth. They embarked July 28th 1809 for Zealand, under the Earl of Chatham, in the unfortunate Walcheren Expedition, from which they returned after the evacuation of the place Decr 23rd and suffered so little that they were reported fit for service soon after, and sailed for Spain, Septr 20th 1810 along with the following Infantry Regts:- 7th, 8th, 50th, 71st, 92nd, 94th, 95th and a corps of Brunswicjers. On the termination of the Peninsular War in March, 1814, the 79th embarked at Bordeaux for England and passed over to Ireland, where they remained until April 29th 1815, when they marched from Belfast to Cork, in two divisions and embarked at the latter place for Flanders; joined the Army at Bruxelles and formed part of the 8th Infantry Brigade (under Sir James Kempt) consisting of the 1st Batt 28th 1st Batt 52nd 1st Batt 79th and 1st batt 95th (Rifle Brigade); remained in France with the Army of Occupation and landed at Dover, Friday, Octr 30th 1818; marched through East Grinsted and Horsham for Winchester, early in November; subsequently crossed over to Ireland and landed at Cork, whence it proceeded to Fermoy, and after a short stay at that place, arrived Monday, June 15th 1820 at Limerick, where it served during all the disturbances connected with "Whiteboy" outrages during 1820, 21, and 22; moved to Temlemore in 1822 and to Naas, and subsequently to Dublin in 1823; remained in Dublin until July, 1824, on the 26th of which month the first division marched for Kilkeney where Hd Qrs arrived saturday, Augt 7th relieving the 78th Highlanders, who had been quartered in that city since January 1822; received Orders to relieve 37th Regt at Quebec and marched from Kilkenny Thursday, July 28th 1825 (Hd Qrs division) for the cove of Cork, where the first division embarked Augt 25th in "Cato" transport (Lieut Corley R.N.) and the second division Augt 26th in H.M.S. "Romney" Capt N. Lacker C.B.; sailed for Quebec Thuirsday Septr 1st 1825 and remained in Canada until Septr 6th 1836 when the Regt having been relieved by 2nd Batt R1 Regt from Cork embarked in the "Maitland" transport Lieut C. H. Binstead R.N. and arrived Thursday, Septr 29th at Portsmouth whence the "Maitland" sailed for Leith Tuesday October 4th. Connected with this transport I beg to make the following remarks: the vessel was 648 tons and after being found unable to convey all the service companies of the 2nd Batt of the Royals sailed for Quebec with 20 Officers, 17 Officer's wives and children 476, Rank and file, 102 women and children, ships crew 42. Total 657, all crowded together in an old transport of 648 tons; The Men of the Royals has not standing room on the deck, but were packed as in a slave ship and during the passage there were 156 men on always deck night and day, and six men in a berth (six feet by six) in addition to 30 Hammocks being slung on the upper deck. Notwithstanding all this crowding, the end for which the vessel was chartered was not accomplished for on sailing for Cork she was obliged to leave behind a Detachment of Three Officers and 44 men whom it was originally intended that she should have taken to Canada, in addition to the 657 persons above enumerated. If a private vessel or a passenger vessel, she would be entitled to carry 389 adult passengers and no more:- while as a transport 657 human being were crowded together in a vessel in which was neither comfort nor accommodation for Officers or men. Even in the cabin there was not room for a carpet bag, and the Trunks were obliged to remain on the poop, wet or dry, and the cuddy was so limited in its proportions that Lieut Binstead very kindly gave up the use of his cabin daily to nine Officers and Ladies who had not room to sit or stand in the cuddy at meal-time. In addition to this the vessel was literally alive with bugs and the children had for weeks after landing at Qubec all the appearance of smallpox having been nearly devoured by those noxious vermin. Nor was this all; for there being no room on board the "Maitland" for Officer's baggage, they were obliged at a considerable personal expense to freight a ship at Cork to convey all the baggage exceeding the quantity allowed by H.M.'s regulations. When this wretched vessel came to anchor at Quebec, Col Wetherall made a formal complaint (which was hushed up) and the authorities seeing the men nearly suffocated, ordered immediate disembarkment of the Regiment which marched to the Citidal, where the men, having room to lie down, were in comparative luxury, although stretched for two nights on iron bed steads without a bundle of straw;

We copy the following passage connected with the Cameron Highlanders from the Quebec "Mercury" of Septr 1st 1836...

"This gallant corps will embark for England on Saturday Septr 3rd should the weather prove fair; and we learn that Sir John Colbone has determined to take upon himself chartering of another vessel to convey a portion of the Regt in order that the health and lives of these gallant fellows many not be endangered by being stowed in less space than (from motives of prudence not of humanity) a slave dealer would allot to his living cargo; Under the blessings of Heaven, the Royals landed here in health but at this season of the year, with the probability of encountering the equinoctial gales when approaching the coast of England, it would been little less than tempting Providence to have repeated an experiment which we hope that the voice of the British nation will compel the heartless projectors, though deaf to the call of humanity to immediately abandon, and which we hope, has been adopted with the sanction or knowledge of H.M.'s Government". It pleased the Lord to show mercy to those on board the "Maitland" on her homeward bound voyage, and after a quick passage of 23 days the Cameron Highlanders arrived at Portsmouth, where however they did not land, but sailed, as above stated, Octr 4th for Leith, when they disembarked, and marched thence to Glasgow to join the Depot which had lately arrived there from Paisley; moved to Edinburgh June, 1837, exchanging quarters with 42nd Highlanders; marched again for Glasgow, May 1838, preparatory to their removal to Dublin where 1st Division Saturday may 26th, second division, Sunday, June 3rd and the 3rd division Sunday June 10th; the Regt having been conveyed by the "Jupiter" steamer.

This favoured corps remained in Dublin until Wednesday may 1st 1839, when the left wing (5 Cos) embarked at the North Wall for Liverpool, and was followed next day by the remainder of the Regiment of which eight companies proceeded to Manchester, detaching two companies to Haliofax, moved in May 1840 to Haydock Lodge, from which station the first division proceeded to Deptford Tuesday, Novr 10th and embarked along with the service companies of 1st Batt Rifle Brigade, on board "Abercrombie Robinson" transport, Lieut How, Master, and sailed for Gibralter, Novr 12th, but the vessel having sprung her bowsprit, was obliged to put into Plymouth Sound Decr 10, and sailed on the 10th of that month for Gibraltar, where this division landed January 2nd 1841. The remainder of the service Cos moved from Haydock Lodge to Weedon about Novr 10th 1840 and proceeded thence by railroad to London, Decr 30th; marched from Euston Square over Waterloo Bridge, to Deptford, and embarked next day on board "Prince Regent" and "Bayne", transports, and sailed for Gibralter, being towed down the river by stram-tugs.

Having now given an impartial account of the services of this highly favoured Regiment it only remains for me to state it has been always as remarkable for its excellent conduct in quarters, and for its admirable discipline, as for its unsurpassed bravery whenever it happened to meet with Old England's enemies; and having known the Regt for twenty three years, I am warranting in stating that there are few finer corps in the British Army; and as a proof of which I may remark that, when the 42nd and 79th were brigaded together in Dublin in the summer of 1838, the 42nd looked like children of the 79th which might truly be called a "Giant Corps", the whole Regt being more than the average height of Grenadier Companies. It is also worthy of remark that this Regiment has been ever alive to the benefits arising from the cultivation of the mind; proof which it is well known that the 79th possesses the best library of any Regiment in our service, or at least did so six years since. Another pleasing fact connected with this Corps is that no Officer has been tried by Court Martial for nearly 40 years.

Before concluding, I wish to allude to a discrepancy in dates which I am at present unable to account for. The late Genl Stewar, of Garth, in his account of the return of the 42nd from Martinique in 1797 states that the 42nd reinforced by a draft of 210 men from the 79th landed at Portsmouth, July 30th 1797 (vol. 1st p. 430) in this account of the same occurrences under the head of 79th Regiment (vol 2nd p. 248) he states that it took place Augt 31st 1797, Poor "Garth" has long since fed the land-crabs in the West Indies, so that I cannot appeal to him for the correction of this apparent mistake in chronology; but if any one of your readers will set me right as to any errors in this my narrative of the Cameron Highlanders, I shall feel most grateful, as my history of the Regiment is necessarily defective in many minute particulars, but will I hope be found to be generally accurate.

I am sir yours Truly

G. L. S.

28th Albermerle Street

Augt 2nd 1847

Below is a scanned copy of the final page of the handwritten original document from which this account was taken.


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites


An officer in Queens Own Cameron Highlanders

Circa 1940

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Part Two The 79th Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders

1793 - 1853

THE Camerons are well known as one of the bravest and most chivalrous of the Highland clans. They held out to the very last as steadfast adherents to the cause of the Stuarte, and the names of Ewen Cameron, .Donald the "gentle Lochiel," and the unfortunate Dr Cameron, must be associated in the minds of all Scotch-men with everything that is brave, and chivalrous, and generous, and unyieldingly loyal.

The clan itself was at one time one of the most powerful in the Highlands; and the regiment which is now known by the clan name has most faithfully upheld the credit of the clan for bravery and loyalty; it has proved a practical comment on the old song," A Cameron never can yield."

This regiment was raised by Alan Cameron of Erracht, to whom letters of service were granted on the 17th of August 1793. No bounty was allowed by Government, as was the case with other regiments raised in this manner, the men being recruited solely at the expense of the officers. The regiment was inspected at Stirling in January 1794, and at the end of the same month its strength was raised to 1000 men, Alan Cameron being appointed Lieutenant-Colonel Commandant. The 79th was at first designated the "Cameronian Volunteers," but this designation was subsequently changed to "Cameron Highlanders."

The following is the original list of the officers of the 79th:-

Major-Gommandant—-Alan Cameron.

Major—George Rowley.


Neil Campbell.

Donald Cameron.

Patrick M’Dowall.

George Carnegie.

Captain-Lieutenant and Captain—Archibald Maclean.


Archibald Maclean.

Colin Maclean.

Alexander Macdonell.

Joseph Dewer.

Dunoan Stewart.

Charles MacVicar.

John Urquhart.


Neil Campbell.

Donald Maclean.

Gordon Cameron.

Archibald Cameron.

Archibald Macdonell.

Alexander Grant.

Archibald Campbell.

William Graham.

Chaplain—Thomes Thompson.

Adjutant—Archibald Maclean.

Quartermaster—Duncan Stewart.

Surgeon—John Maclean.

After spending a short time in Ireland and the south of England, the 79th embarked in August 1794 for Flanders. During the following few months it shared in all the disasters of the unfortunate campaign in that country, losing 200 men from privation and the severity of the climate.

Shortly afterwards the regiment returned to England, and landed in the Isle of Wight, in April 1795. Its strength was ordered to be completed to 1000 men, preparatory to its embarkation for India. While Colonel Cameron was making every exertion to fulfil this order, he received an intimation that directions had been given to draft the Cameron Highlanders into four other regiments. This impolitic order naturally roused the indignation of the colonel, who in an interview ["At this interview, Colonel Cameron plainly told the Duke, ‘to draft the 79th is more than you or your Royal father dare do.’ The Duke then said, ‘The King my father will certainly send the regiment to the West Indies.’ Colonel Cameron, losing temper, replied, ‘You may tell the King your father from me, that he may send us to hell if he likes, and I’ll go at the head of them, but he daurna draft us,’ - a line of argument which, it is unnecessary to add, proved to the Royal Duke perfectly irresistible. Jameson’s Historical Record.] with the commander-in-chief deprecated in the strongest terms any such unfeeling and unwise proceeding. His representations were successful, and the destination of the regiment was changed to the West Indies, for which it embarked in the summer of 1795. The 79th remained in Martinique till July 1797, but suffered so much from the climate that an offer was made to such of the men as were fit for duty to volunteer into other corps, the consequence being that upwards of 200 entered the 42nd, while about a dozen joined four other regiments. The 0fficers, with the remainder of the regiment, returned home, landing at Gravesend in August, and taking up their quarters in Chatham Barracks. Orders were issued to fill up the ranks of the 79th, and by the exertions of Colonel Cameron and his officers a fresh body of 780 men was raised, who assembled at Stirling in June 1798. In the following year it was ordered to form part of the expedition to the Holder, landing at Holder Point, in North Holland, in August, when it was brigaded with the 2nd battalion Royals, the 25th, 49th, and 92nd Regiments, under the command of Major-General Moore. After various movements, the fourth division, under the command of Sir Ralph Abercromby, came up, on the 2nd of October, with the enemy, strongly posted near the village of Egmont-op-Zee. Notwithstanding the unfavourable nature of the ground, consisting of loose sand-hills, General Moore’s brigade made such a vigorous attack with the bayonet, that the enemy were quickly driven from their position, and pursued over the sand-hills till night prevented further operations. In this enterprise, Captain James Campbell, Lieutenant Stair Rose, and 13 rank and file, were killed; and Colonel Cameron, Lieutenants Colin Macdonald, Donald Macniel, 4 sergeants, and 54 rank and file wounded. The regiment was specially complimented for its conduct both by the commander-in-chief and by General Moore; the former declaring that nothing could do the regiment more credit than its conduct that day. It embarked in the end of October, and landed in England on on the 1st of November.

In August 1800 the 79th embarked at Southampton as part of the expedition fitted out to destroy the Spanish shipping in the harbours of Ferrol and Cadiz. It arrived be. fore Ferrol on the 25th, and shortly afterwards the brigade of which the regiment formed part, forced the enemy from their position and took possession of the heights of Brion and Balon, which completely commanded the town and harbour of Ferrol. Lieutenant-General Sir James Pulteney, however, did not see meet to follow out the advantage thus gained, and abandoned the enterprise. In this "insignificant service," as Captain Jameson calls it, the 79th had only Captain Fraser, 2 sergeants, and 2 rank and file wounded.

On the 6th of October the expedition landed before Cadiz, but on account of the very unfavourable state of the weather, the enterprise was abandoned.

In 1801 the Cameron Highlanders took part in the famous operations in Egypt, under Sir Ralph Abercromby; but as minute details of this campaign are given in the histories of the 42nd and 92nd Regiments, it will be unnecessary to repeat the story here. The 79th was brigaded with the 2nd and 50th Regiments, and took an active part in the action of March 13th, in which it had 5 rank and file killed, and Lieutenant-Colonel Patrick M’Dowall, Lieutenants George Sutherland and John Stewart, Volunteer Alexander Cameron, 2 sergeants, and 56 rank and file wounded.

In the general engagement of March 21st, in which the brave Abercromby got his death-wound, the light companies of the 79th and the other regiments of its brigade kept the enemy’s riflemen in check in front, while the fight was raging hotly on the right. The regiment lost one sergeant killed, and Lieutenant Patrick Ross, 2 sergeants, and 18 rank and file wounded.

While proceeding towards Cairo with Major-General Craddock’s brigade (to which the Cameron Highlanders had been transferred) and a division of Turks, they had a brush on the 9th of May with a French force, in which the 79th had Captain M’Dowall and one private wounded. At Cairo the regiment had the honour of being selected to take possession of the advanced gate, the "Gate of the Pyramids," surrendered to the British in terms of a convention with the French.

For its distinguished services during the Egyptian campaign, the Cameron Highlanders, besides receiving the thanks of the king and parliament, was one of the regiments which received the honour of bearing the figure of a Sphinx, with the word "Egypt," on its colours and appointments.

After staying a short time at Minorca, the regiment returned to Scotland in August 1802, whence, after filling up its thinned ranks, it was removed to Ireland in the beginning of 1803. In 1804 a second battalion was raised, but was never employed on active service, being used only to fill up vacancies as they occurred in the first battalion, until 1815, when it was reduced at Dundee.

In 1804 the question of abolishing the kilt seems to have been under the consideration of the military authorities, and a correspondence on the subject took place between the Horse-Guards and Colonel Cameron, which deserves to be reproduced for the sake of the Highland Colonel’s intensely characteristic reply. In a letter dated "Horse Guards, 13th October 1804," Colonel Cameron was requested to state his "private opinion as to the expediency of abolishing the kilt in Highland regiments, and substituting in lieu thereof the tartan trews." To this Colonel Cameron replied in four sentences as follows:-

"GLASGOW, 27th October 1804

‘Sir,—0n my return hither some days ago from Stirling, I received your letter of the 13th inst. (by General Calvert’s orders) respecting the propriety of an alteration in the mode of clothing Highland regiments, in reply to which I beg to state, freely and fully, my sentiments upon that subject, without a particle of prejudice in either way, but merely founded upon facts as applicable to these corps—at least as far as I am capable, from thirty years’ experience, twenty years of which I have been upon actual service in all climates, with the description of men in question, which, independent of being myself a Highlander, and well knowing all the convenience and inconvenience of our native garb in the field and otherwise, and perhaps, also, aware of the probable source and clashing motives from which the suggestion now under consideration originally arose. I have to observe progressively, that in the course of the late war several gentlemen proposed to raise Highland regiments, some for general service, but chiefly for home defence ; but most of these corps were called from all quarters, and thereby adulterated with every description of men, that rendered them anything but real Highlanders, or even Scotchmen (which is not strictly synonymous), and the colonels themselves being generally unacquainted with the language and habits of Highlanders, while prejudiced in favour of, and accustomed to wear breeches, consequently averse to that free congenial circulation of pure wholesome air (as an exhilarating native bracer) which has hitherto so peculiarly befitted the Highlander for activity, and all the other necessary qualities of a soldier, whether for hardship upon scanty fare, readiness in accoutring, or making forced marches, &c., besides the exclusive advantage, when halted, of drenching his kilt, &c., in the next brook, as well as washing his limbs, and drying both, as it were, by constant fanning, without injury to either, but, on the contrary, feeling clean and comfortable, while the buffoon tartan pantaloon, &c., with all its fringed frippery (as some mongrel Highlanders would have it) sticking wet and dirty to the skin, is not very easily pulled off, and less so to get on again in case of alarm or any other hurry, and all this time absorbing both wet and dirt, followed up by rheumatism and fevers, which ultimately make great havoc in hot and cold climates ; while it consists with knowledge, that the Highlander in his native garb always appeared more cleanly, and maintained better health in both climates than those who wore even the thick cloth pantaloon. Independent of these circumstances, I feel no hesitation in saying, that the proposed alteration must have proceeded from a whimsical idea, more than from the real comfort of the Highland soldier, and a wish to lay aside that national martial garb, the very sight of which has, upon many occasions, struck the enemy with terror and confusion,—and now metamorphose the Highlander from his real characteristic appearance and comfort in an odious incompatible dress, to which it will, in my opinion, be difficult to reconcile him, as a poignant grievance to, and a galling reflection upon, Highland corps, &c., as levelling that martial distinction by which they have been hitherto noticed and respected,—and from my own experience I feel well founded in saying, that if anything was wanted to aid the rack-renting Highland landlords in destroying that source, which has hitherto proved so fruitful for keeping up Highland corps, it will be that of abolishing their native garb, which His Royal Highness the Commander-in chief and the Adjutant-General may rest assured will prove a complete death-warrant to the recruiting service in that respect. But I sincerely hope His Royal Highness will never acquiesce in so painful and degrading an idea (come from whatever quarter it may) as to strip us of our native garb (admitted hitherto our regimental uniform) and stuff us into a harlequin tartan pantaloon, which, composed of the usual quality that continues, as at present worn, useful and becoming for twelve months, will not endure six weeks fair wear as a pantaloon, and when patched makes a horrible appearance—besides that the necessary quantity to serve decently throughout the year would become extremely expensive, but, above all, take away completely the appearance and conceit of a Highland soldier, in which case I would rather see him stuffed in breeches, and abolish the distinction at once—I have the honour to be, &c.

(Signed) "Alan CAMERON,

"Colonel 79th or Cameron Highlanders."

"To Henry Thorpe, Esq."

The regiment remained in Ireland till November 1805, when it was removed to England, where it did duty at various places till July 1807. In that month the 79th formed part of the expedition against Denmark, where it remained till the following November, the only casualties being four men wounded, during the bombardment of Copenhagen.

After a fruitless expedition to Sweden in May 1808, under Lt.-General Sir John Moore, the regiment was ordered, with other reinforcements, to proceed to Portugal, where it landed August 26th, 1808, and immediately joined the army encamped near Lisbon. After the convention of Cintra, the 79th, as part of Major-General Fane’s brigade, joined the army under Sir John Moore, whose object was to drive the French out of Spain. Moore, being joined by the division under Sir David Baird, at Mayorga, had proceeded as far as Sahagun, when he deemed it advisable to commence the ever memorable retreat to Corunna, details of which have already been given. At Corunna, on the 16th of January 1809, the 79th had no chance of distinguishing itself in action, its duty being, as part of Lt.General Fraser’s division, to hold the heights immediately in front of the gates of Corunna; but "they also serve who only stand and wait." The embarkation was effected in safety, and on the army arriving in England in February, the 79th marched to Weeley Barracks, in Essex, about 10 miles from Chelmsford, where many of the men were shortly afterwards attacked with fever, though not a man died.

["In 1809, the 79th accomplished what no other regiment did. In January of that year they were in Spain at the Battle of Corunna, and returned to England in February, when 700 men and several officers suffered from a dangerous typhus fever, yet not a man died. In July they embarked 1002 bayonets for Walcheren, were engaged during the whole siege of Flushing in the trenches, yet had not a man wounded, and, whilst there, lost only one individual in fever—Paymaster Baldock, the least expected of any one. During the three months after their return to England, only ten men died, and in December of that same year again, embarked for the peninsula, 1032 strong."—Note by Dr A. Anderson, Regimental surgeon, p. 44 of H. S. Smith’s List of the Officers of the 79th.]

While in Portugal, Colonel Cameron, who had been appointed commandant of Lisbon with the rank of Brigadier-General, retired from the personal command of the regiment, after leading it in every engagement and sharing all its privations for fifteen years; "his almost paternal anxiety," as Captain Jameson says, "for his native Highlanders had never permitted him to be absent from their head." He was succeeded in the command of the regiment by his eldest son, Lt.-Colonel Philip Cameron.

After taking part in the siege of Flushing, in August 1809, the regiment returned to England, and again took up its quarters in Weeley Barracks, where it was attacked with fever, which carried off a number of men, and prostrated many more, upwards of 40 having to be left behind when the regiment embarked for Portugal in January 1810, to join the army acting under Sir Arthur Wellesley.

Meanwhile a number of men of the 79th, who had been left behind in Portugal on the retreat to Corunna, had, along with several officers and men belonging to other regiments, been formed into a corps designated the 1st battalion of detachments. The detachment of the 79th consisted of 5 officers, 4 sergeants, and 45 rank and file; and out of this small number who were engaged at Talavera de Ia Reyna on July 27th and 28th, 1809, 14 rank and file were kiIled and one sergeant and 27 rank and file wounded.

Shortly after landing at Lisbon, the regiment was ordered to proceed to Spain to assist in the defence of Cadiz, where it remained till the middle of August 1810, having had Lts. Patrick M’Crummen, Donald Cameron, and 25 rank and file wounded in performing a small service against the enemy. After its return to Lisbon, the 79th was equipped for the field, and joined the army under Lord Wellington at Busaco on the 25th of September. The 79th was here brigaded with the 7th and 61st Regiments, under the command of Major-General Alan Cameron.

The regiment had not long to wait before taking part in the active operations carried on against the French by England’s great general Wellington had taken up a strong position along the Sierra de Busaco, to prevent the further advance of Marshal Massena; and the division of which the 79th formed part was posted at the extreme right of the British line. At daybreak on the 27th of Sept. the French columns, preceded by a swarm of skirmishers, who had nearly surrounded and cut off the picket of the 79th, advanced against the British right, when Captain Neil Douglas gallantly volunteered his company to its support, and opening fire from a favourable position, checked the enemy’s advance, and enabled the picket to retire in good order. As the enemy’s attack was changed to the centre and left, the 79th had no other opportunity that day of distinguishing itself in action. It, however, lost Captain Alexander Cameron ["This gallant officer commanded the picket of the 79th, and could not be induced to withdraw, he was last seen by Captain (afterwards the late Lieut.-General Sir Neil) Douglas, fighting hand to hand with several French soldiers, to whom he refused to deliver up his sword. His body was found pierced with seven bayonet wounds. "—Jameson’s Records, p. 24.] and 7 rank and file killed, Captain Neil Douglas, and 41 rank and file wounded.

After this battle, Wellington deemed it prudent to retire within the strong lines of Torres Vedras, whither he was followed by Massena, who remained there till the 14th of November, when he suddenly broke up his camp and retired upon Santarem, followed by Wellington. The French again commenced their retreat in the beginning of March 1811, closely pursued by the British army. During the pursuit several small skirmishes took place, and in a sharp contest at Fez d’Arouce, the light cornpany of the 79th had 2 men killed, and 7 wounded. In this affair, Lt. Kenneth Cameron of the 79th captured the Lieutenant-Colonel of the 39th French infantry.

On the 2nd of May, Massena, desirous of relieving Almeida, which Wellington had invested, took up a position in front of Dos Casas and Fuentes d’Onor. "The English position," says Jameson, "was a line whose left extended beyond the brook of Onoro, resting on a hill supported by Fort Conception; the right, which was more accessible, was at Nave d’Aver, and the centre at Villa Formosa."

On the 3rd of May, Massena commenced his attack upon the English position, his strongest efforts being directed against the village of Fuentes d’Onor, which he seemed determined to get possession of. The defence of the position was entrusted to the 79th, along with the 71st Highlanders, with the 24th regiment and several light companies in support, the whole commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Philip Cameron of the 79th. During the whole of the day the enemy in superior numbers made several desperate attempts to take the village, and indeed did manage to get temporary possession of several parts, "but after a succession of most bloody hand to hand encounters, he was completely driven from it at nightfall, when darkness put an end to the conflict."

Early on the morning of the 5th of May, Massena, who in the meantime had been making dispositions for a renewal of the contest, again directed his strongest efforts against the position held by the 79th and its comrades. By the force of overwhelming numbers the French did succeed in carrying the lower portion of the village, at the same time surrounding and taking prisoners two companies of the 79th, which had got separated from the main body. Meantime, in the upper portion of the village a fierce and deadly contest was being waged between the French Grenadiers and the Highlanders, the latter, according to Captain Jameson, in numerous instances using their muskets as clubs instead of acting with the bayonet, so close and deadly was the strife maintained. "About this period of the action, a French soldier was observed to slip aside into a doorway and take deliberate aim at Colonel Cameron, who fell from his horse mortally wounded. A cry of grief, intermingled with shouts for revenge, arose from the rearmost Highlanders, who witnessed the fall of their commanding officer, and was rapidly communicated to those in front. As Colonel Cameron was being conveyed to the rear by his sorrowing clansmen, the 88th regiment, detached to reinforce the troops at this point, arrived in double-quick time; the men were now at the highest pitch of excitement, and a charge being ordered by Brigadier-General Mackinnon, the enemy was driven out of the village with great slaughter. The post was maintained until the evening, when the battle terminated, and the Highlanders being withdrawn, were replaced by a brigade of the light division."

In these fierce contests, besides Lt.-Colonel Cameron, who died of his wound, the 79th had Captain William Imlach, one sergeant, and 30 rank and file killed; Captains Malcolm Fraser and Sinclair Davidson, Lts. James Sinclair, John Calder, Archibald Fraser, Alexander Cameron, John Webb, and Fulton Robertson, Ensigns Charles Brown and Duncan Cameron, 6 sergeants, and 138 rank and file wounded, besides about 100 missing, many of whom were afterwards reported as killed.

The grief for the loss of Colonel Cameron, son of Major-General Alan Cameron, former and first colonel of the 79th, was deep and wide-spread. Wellington, with all his staff and a large number of general officers, notwithstanding the critical state of matters, attended his funeral, which was conducted with military honours. Sir Walter Scott, in his "Vision of Don Roderick," thus alludes to Colonel Cameron’s death :-

" And what avails thee that, for Cameron slain,

Wild from his plaided ranks the yell was given?

Vengeance and grief gave mountain-rage the rein,

And, at the bloody spear-point headlong driven,

The despot’s giant guards fled like the rack of heaven."

[in a note to this poem, Scott says that the 71st and 79th, on seeing Cameron fall, raised a dreadful shriek of grief and rage "they charged with irresistible fury the finest body of French grenadiers ever seen, being a part of Bonaparte’s selected guard. The officer who led the French, a man remarkable for stature and symmetry, was killed on the spot. The Frenchman who stepped out of the ranks to take aim at Colonel Cameron was also bayoneted, pierced with a thousand wounds, and almost torn to pieces by the furious Highlanders, who, under the command of Colonel Cadogan, bore the enemy out of the contested ground at the point of the bayonet."]

Wellington,—and many other officers of high rank,— sent a special letter of condolence to the colonel’s father, Major-General Cameron, in which he speaks of his son in terms of the highest praise. "I cannot conceive," he says, "a string of circumstances more honourable and glorious than these in which he lost his life in the cause of his country."

Cameron was succeeded in the command of the regiment by Major Alexander Petrie, who, besides receiving a gold medal, had the brevet rank of Lt.-Colonel conferred on him; and the senior captain, Andrew Brown, was promoted to the brevet rank of Major.

How highly Lord Wellington esteemed the services performed by the 79th on these two bloody days, will be seen from the following letter:—

"VILLA FORMOSA, 8th May, 1811.

"Sirs, - I am directed by Lord Wellington to acquaint you that he will have great pleasure in submitting to the Commander-in-Chief for a commission the name of any non-commissioned officer of the 79th regiment whom you may recommend, as his lordship is anxious to mark the sense of the conduct of the 79th during the late engagement with the enemy.

"I have the honour to be, &c.,


"Major Petrie, Commanding

"79th Highlanders," &c.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Sergeant Donald M’Intosh was selected for this distinguished honour, and, on the 4th of June 1811, was appointed ensign in the 88th Regiment.

The 79th did not take part in any other engagement till the 22nd of July 1812, when it was present as part of the reserve division under Major-General Campbell at the great victory of Salamanca. Its services, however, were not brought into requisition till the close of the day, and its casualties were only two men wounded. Still it was deemed worthy of having the honour of bearing the word "Salamanca" on its colours and appointments, and a gold medal was conferred upon the commanding officer, Lt.-Colonel Robert Fulton, who had joined the regiment at Vellajes in September 1811, with a draft of 5 sergeants, and 231 rank and file from the 2nd battalion.

In the interval between Fuentes d’Onor and Salamanca the 79th was moved about to various places, and twice was severely attacked with epidemic sickness.

After the battle of Salamanca, the 79th, along with the rest of the allied army, entered Madrid about the middle of August, where it remained till the end of that month.

On the 1st of September the 79th, along with the rest of the army, left Madrid under Lord Wellington, to lay siege to Burgos, before which it arrived on the 18th; and on the morning of the 19th, the light battalion, formed by the several light companies of the 24th, 42nd, 58th, 60th, and 79th regiments, commanded by Major the Hon. E. C. Cocks of the 79th, was selected for the purpose of driving the enemy from their defences on the heights of St Michael’s, consisting of a horn-work and flêches commanding the approach to the castle on the right.

"The attack was made by a simultaneous movement on the two advanced flêches, which were carried in the most gallant manner by the light companies of the 42nd and 79th ; but a small post, close to and on the left of the horn-work, was still occupied by the enemy, from which he opened a fire upon the attacking party. Lieut. Hugh Grant, with a detachment of the 79th light company, was sent forward to dislodge him, but finding himself opposed to continually increasing numbers, he found it impossible to advance; but being equally resolved not to retire, he drew up his small party under cover of an embankment, and, possessing himself of the musket of a wounded soldier, he fired together with his men and gallantly rnaintained himself. The remainder of the company now coming up, the enemy was driven within the works; but this brave young officer was unfortunately mortally wounded, and died a few days afterwards, sincerely and deeply regretted.

The two light companies maintained the position until nightfall, when the light battalion was assembled at this point, and orders were issued to storm the horn-work at 11 PM. A detachment of the 42nd and a Portuguese regiment were directed to enter the ditch on the left of the work, and to attempt the escalade of both demi-bastions, the fire from which was to be kept in check by a direct attack in front by the remainder of the 42nd. The light battalion was to advance along the slope of the hill, parallel to the left flank of the work, which it was to endeavour to enter by its gorge. The attack by the 42nd was to be the signal for the advance of the light battalion, the command of the whole being entrusted to Major. General Sir Denis Pack.

In execution of these arrangements, the troops at the appointed hour proceeded to the assault. The light companies, on arriving at the gorge of the work, were received with a brisk fire of musketry through the opening in the palisades, causing severe loss ; they, however, continued to advance, and, without waiting for the application of the felling-axes and ladders, with which they were provided, the foremost in the attack were actually lifted over the palisades on each other’s shoulders. In this manner, the first man who entered the work was Sergeant Jobs Mackenzie of the 79th; Major Cocks, the brave leader of the storming party, next followed, and several others in succession.

In this manner, and by means of the scaling-ladders, the light battalion was, in a few minutes, formed within the work; and a guard, consisting of Sergeant Donald Mackenzie and twelve men of the 79th, having been placed at the gate leading to the castle, a charge was made on the garrison, which, numbering between 400 and 500 men, having by this time formed itself into a solid mass, defied every attempt to compel a surrender; in this manner the French troops rushed towards the gate, where meeting with the small guard of the 79th, they were enabled, from their overwhelming numbers to overcome every opposition, and to effect their escape to the castle.

Sergeant Mackenzie, who was severely wounded in this affair, ["Sergeant Mackenzie had previously applied to Major Cocks for the use of his dress sabre, which the major readily granted, and used to relate with great satisfaction that the sergeant returned it to him in a state which indicated that he had used it with effect."] and his small party behaved with the greatest bravery in their endeavonrs to prevent the escape of the French garrison; and bugler Charles Bugle of the 79th, a man of colour, was afterwards found dead at the gate, near a French soldier, the sword of the former and bayonet of the latter through each other’s bodies.

The front attack had in the meantime completely failed, and a severe loss was sustained."

The enemy having opened a destructive fire from the castle on the horn-work, the light battalion was withdrawn to the ditch of the curtain; and strong parties were employed during the night in forming a parapet in the gorge.

Afterwards a series of assaults was made against the castle, with but little success. In one of these Major Andrew Lawrie of the 79th was killed while entering a ditch, and encouraging on the party he led by escalade; and the Hon. Major Cocks met with a similar fate while rallying his picket during a night sortie of the French. The death of this officer was very much regretted by Wellington, who in his despatch of October 11, 1812, said he considered "his loss as one of the greatest importance to this army and to His Majesty’s service." The army continued before Burgos till Oct. 21, when, being threatened by the advance of strong reinforcements of the enemy, it was deemed advisable to retreat towards the frontiers of Portugal.

At the siege of Burgos, besides the two officers just mentioned, the 79th had one sergeant and 27 rank and file killed; Captain William Marshall, Lt. Hugh Grant, Kewan J. Leslie, and Angus Macdonald, 5 sergeants, 1 drummer, and 79 rank and file wounded.

The regiment, with the rest of the army, remained in cantonments till the middle of May 1813; and in February of that year Lt.-Colonel Fulton retired from the command of the regiment, which was assumed by Lt.-Colonel Neil Douglas, from the 2nd battalion.

Breaking up from winter-quarters about the middle of May, the army advanced against the enemy, who occupied various strong positions on the north of the Douro, which, however, were precipitately evacuated during the advance of the British army. The enemy retired towards the north-east, in the direction of Burgos, which the British found had been completely destroyed by the French. In the action at Vittoria, in which the enemy was completely routed on the 21st of June, the 79th had not a chance of distinguishing itself in action, as it formed part of Major-General Pakenham’s division, whose duty it was to cover the march of the magazines and stores at Medina de Pomar.

At the battle of the "Pyrenees," on the 28th of July, the 6th division, to which the 79th belonged, was assigned a position across the valley of the Lanz, which it had scarcely assumed when it was attacked by a superior French force, which it gallantly repulsed with severe loss; a similar result occurred at all points, nearly every regiment charging with the bayonet. The loss of the 79th was 1 sergeant and 16 rank and file killed; Lieutenant J. Kynock, 2 sergeants, and 38 rank and file wounded. Lt.-Colonel Neil Douglas had a horse shot under him, and in consequence of his services he was awarded a gold medal; and Major Andrew Brown was promoted to the brevet rank of Lt.-Colonel for his gallantry.

Along with the rest of the army, the 79th followed the enemy towards the French frontier, the next action in which it took part being that of Nivelle, November 19, 1813, fully described elsewhere. Here the steadiness of its line in advancing up a hill to meet the enemy excited the admiration of Sir Rowland Hill, and although its casualties were few, the part it took in the action gained for the regiment the distinction of inscribing " Nivelle" on its colours and appointments. Its loss was 1 man killed, and Ensign John Thomson and 5 men wounded.

Continuing to advance with its division, the 79th shared, on the 10th of December, in the successful attack on the enemy’s entrenchments on the banks of the Nive, when it had 5 men killed, and Lt. Alexander Robertson, 2 sergeants, and 24 rank and file wounded.

The enemy having retired to the Gave d’Oléron, and the severity of the weather preventing further operations, the 79th went into quarters at St Pierre d’Yurbe, and while here, in Feb. 1814, it marched over to the seaport town of St Jean de Luz to get a new supply of clothing, of which it stood very much in need.

In the battle of Orthes, on February 25th, the 79th had no opportunity of taking part, but took an active share, and suffered severely, in the final engagement at Toulouse.

Early on the morning of the 10th, the 6th division, of which the 79th, under the command of Sir Henry Clinton, formed part, along with the 42nd and 91st regiments, constituting the Highland Brigade of Sir Denis Pack, crossed the Garonne and the Ers at Croix d’Orade, following the 4th division, and halted near the northern extremity of the height (between and running parallel with the canal of Languedoc, and the river Ers) on which the enemy was posted, strongly fortified by entrenchments and redoubts. Arrangements were here made for a combined attack, the 6th division, continuing its march along the left bank of the Ers, filed by threes in double-quick time, close under the enemy’s guns, from which a heavy cannonade of round and grape-shot was opened, occasioning considerable loss. "The Highland Brigade of Sir Penis Pack." Captain Jameson says, "halted about midway to the position, formed line to the right, and proceeded to ascend the hill. The light companies were now ordered out, and directed to conform to the movements of the brigade, General Pack having mingled with the former, and cheering them on. The grenadier company of the 79th was brought up as a reinforcement to the light troops; and after a vigorous resistance, the enemy was driven to a considerable distance down the opposite slope of the ridge. The pursuit was then discontinued, and a slackened and desultory fire of advanced posts succeeded.

The brigade had, in the meantime, formed on the Balma road across the height, the light companies were recalled, and final arrangements completed for an attack on the two centre redoubts of the enemy’s position, designated respectively La Colombette and Le Tour des Augustins. The attack of the former or most advanced redoubt was assigned to the 42nd, and. the latter to the 79th, the 91st and 12th Portuguese being in reserve. Both these redoubts were carried at a run, in the most gallant style, in the face of a terrific fire of round shot, grape, and musketry, by which a very severe loss was sustained. About 100 men of the 79th, headed by several officers, now left the captured work to encounter the enemy on the ridge of the plateau; but, suddenly perceiving a discharge of musketry in the redoubt captured by the 42nd in their rear, and also seeing it again in possession of the enemy, they immediately fell back on the Redoubt des Augustins. The Colombette had been suddenly attacked and entered by a fresh and numerous column of the enemy, when the 42nd was compelled to give way, and, continuing to retire by a narrow and deep road leading through the redoubt occupied by the 79th (closely pursued by an overwhelming force of the enemy), the alarm communicated itself from one regiment to the other, and both, for a moment, quitted the works.

[Whilst the enemy thus gained a temporary possession of the redoubts, Lieutenant Ford and seven men of the 79th, who were in a detached portion of the work, separated from its front face by a deep road, had their retreat cut off by a whole French regiment advancing along this road in their rear, when one of the men, with great presence of mind, called out "sit down," which hint was immediately acted on, with the effect of saving the party from being made prisoners, as the enemy supposed them to be wounded, and a French officer shrugged his shoulders in token of inability to render them any assistance !"]

At this critical juncture, Lt.-Colonel Douglas having succeeded in rallying the 79th, the regiment again advanced, and in a few minutes succeeded in retaking, not only its own former position, but also the redoubt from which the 42nd had been driven. For this service, Lt.-Colonel Douglas received on the field the thanks of Generals Clinton and Pack, commanding the division and brigade; and the regiments in reserve having by this time come up, the brigade was moved to the right, for the purpose of carrying, in conjunction with the Spaniards, the two remaining redoubts on the left of the position. While, however, the necessary preparations were making for this attack, the enemy was observed to be in the act of abandoning them, thus leaving the British army in complete possession of the plateau and its works. The 79th occupied the Redoubt Colombette during the night of the 10th of April 1814.

The importance of the positions captured by the 42nd and the 79th was so great, and the behaviour of these regiments so intrepid and gallant, that they won special commendation from Wellington, being two of the four regiments particularly mentioned in his despatch of the 12th of April 1814.

The 79th lost Captains Patrick Purves and John Cameron, Lt. Duncan Cameron, and 16 rank and file killed; the wounded were Captains Thomas Mylne, Peter Innes, James Campbell, and William Marshall; Lts. William M’Barnet, Donald Cameron, James Fraser, Ewen Cameron (1st), John Kynock, Ewen Cameron (2nd), Duncan Macpherson, Charles M’Arthur, and Allan Macdonald; Ensign Allan Maclean, Adjutant and Lt. Kenneth Cameron, 12 sergeants, 2 drummers, and 182 rank and file. Of those wounded, Lts. M’Barnet, Ewen Cameron (2nd), and 23 men died of their wounds. Of the 494 officers and men of the 79th who went into action at Toulouse, only 263 came out unwounded.

Lt.-Colonel Neil Douglas received the decoration of a gold cross for this action, in substitution of all his former distinctions; Major Duncan Cameron received the brevet rank of Lt.-Colonel in the army; and the 79th was permitted by royal authority to bear on its colours and appointments the word TOULOUSE, in addition to its other inscriptions. As a proof, likewise, of the distinction earned by it during the successive campaigns in the Peninsula, it was subsequently authorised to have the word PENINSULA inscribed on its colours and appointments.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Napoleon Buonaparte’s abdication having put an end to further hostilities, the regiment, after remaining a few weeks in the south of France, embarked in July 1814, arriving at Cork on the 26th, and taking up its quarters in the barracks there. While here, in December, its ranks were filled up by a large draft from the 2nd battalion, and in the beginning of Feb. 1815, it set sail, along with several other regiments, for North America, but was driven back by contrary winds; the same happened to the expedition when attempting to sail again on the 1st of March. On the 3rd, the expedition was countermanded; and on the 17th the 79th sailed for the north of Ireland, to take up its quarters at Belfast, where it remained till May, when, with all the other available forces of Britain, it was called upon to take part in that final and fierce struggle with the great disturber of the peace of Europe, and assist in putting an end to his bloody machinations against the peace of civilised nations. The 79th, having joined Wellington’s army at Brussels, was brigaded with the 28th, 32nd, and 95th Regiments, under the command of Major-General Sir James Kempt, the three regiments forming the first brigade of the fifth, or Sir Thomas Picton’s division, the Royal Scots, 42nd, 44th, and 92nd regiments forming the other brigade under Major-General Pack.

The events from the night of the 15th to the 18th of June 1815 are so well known, and so many details are given in connection with the 42nd and 92nd Regiments, that it will be sufficient here to indicate the part taken in them by the 79th. The alarm having been rapidly spread of the approach of the French on the night of the 15th—the night of the famous ball well known to all readers of Byron,— preparations were immediately made for marching out, and by four o’clock on the morning of the 16th, the regiment, with its division, provisioned for three days, was on the road to Charleroi. In the passage of Childe Harold where Byron’s famous description of the episode preceding Quatre Bras occurs, the poet thus refers to the Cameron Highlanders :-

"And wild and high the ‘Cameron’s Gathering‘ rose,

The war-note of Lochiel, which Albyn’s hills

Have heard, and heard, too, have her Saxon foes

how in the noon of night that pibroch thrills

Savage and shrill ! But with the breath which fills

Their mountain-pipe, so fill the mountaineers

With the fierce native daring which instils

The stirring memory of a thousand years,

And Evans, Donald’s fame rings in each clansman’s ears !"

The division halted near the village of Waterloo to cook its provisions; but before this could be accomplished it was ordered forward towards Quatre Bras, where it halted on the road, at the distance of about half a mile from the enemy, from whom the column was separated by a rising ground. After the two brigade companies had halted for a very short time on this road the division broke off to the left, lining the Namur Road, the banks of which were from ten to fifteen feet high on each side. The Cameron Highlanders formed the extreme left of the British army, and the 92nd the right of the division, being posted immediately in front of Quatre Bras.

Scarcely had this position been taken up, when the enemy advanced in great force, sending out "a cloud of sharpshooters," who were met by the light companies of the first brigade, along with the 8th company and marksmen of the 79th. These maintained their ground bravely, despite the fearful execution done upon them by the overwhelming numbers of the enemy’s sharpshooters, who picked out the officers especially, and the artillerymen serving the only two guns yet brought into action. At about four o’clock in the afternoon, the Cameron Highlanders had the honour of being ordered forward to cover the guns and drive the enemy from his advanced position, and gallantly did the regiment perform the service.

"The regiment," says Captain Jameson, "cleared the bank in its front, fired a volley, and, charging with the bayonet, drove the French advanced troops with great precipitation and in disorder to a hedge about a hundred yards in their rear, where they attempted to re-form, but were followed up with such alacrity that they again gave way, pursued to another hedge about the same distance, from which they were a second time driven in confusion upon their main column, which was formed in great strength upon the opposite rising ground. The regiment, now joined by its detached companies, commenced firing volleys upon the enemy from behind the last-mentioned hedge, and in the course of fifteen minutes expended nearly all its ammunition. Whilst in this exposed situation, it was ordered to retire, which it accomplished without confusion, although it had a broad ditch to leap, and the first hedge to repass, when it formed line about fifty yards in front of its original position. Being here much exposed to the fire of the enemy’s guns, it was ordered to lie down, and it continued thus for nearly an hour, when it was again directed to resume its first position on the road, and form in column as circumstances might require. Eeing afterwards repeatedly threatened by cavalry, it formed and moved forward in square, but without being attacked."

Meantime all the other regiments of the division were engaged; indeed, each battalion of the British army had to sustain, in several instances separately and independently, the whole weight of the superior French masses which bore down upon it. The enemy, however, notwithstanding the many advantages he had, seems to have failed in almost every attack, and the contest for that day ended about dusk decidedly in favour of the British.

The loss of the 79th was Captain John Sinclair, Lt. and Adjutant John Kynock, and 28 rank and file killed ; Lt.-Colonel Neil Douglas, Brevet Lt.-Colonels Andrew Brown and Duncan Cameron; Captains Thomas Mylne, Neil Campbell, William Marshall, Malcolm Fraser, William Bruce, and Robert Mackay; Lieuts. Thomas Brown, William Maddock, William Leaper, James Fraser, Donald MacPhee, and William A. Riach; Ensign James Robertson, Volunteer Alexander Cameron, 10 sergeants, and 248 rank and file wounded. All the field officers, according to Captain Jameson, in addition to severe wounds, had their horses shot under them.

At dusk on the 17th the division took up its position among some corn-fields near the farm La Haye Salute, under cover of a rising ground, the ridge opposite to which was lined by the enemy’s columns. The 28th and 79th formed the centre of Picton’s division, the left of the division extending towards Ohain, its right resting on the Brussels road.

About half-past ten on the morning of the 18th of June, the French began to move forward to the attack, under cover of a tremendous cannonade, spiritedly answered by the British artillery, posted in advance of a road which ran along the crest of the rising ground in front of the division, and on each side of which was a hedge. Kempt’s brigade, deploying into line, advanced to this road, the light companies and the rifles descending into the valley, and maintaining a severe contest against overwhelming numbers. Meantime a heavy column of the enemy’s infantry, advancing towards the right of the division, was warmly received by the 28th; and the 32nd and 79th, following up the advantage, each attacking the column opposed to it, a close and obstinate engagement followed, "shedding lasting honour on Kempt’s brigade," till at length the enemy gave way in the greatest confusion.

It was during this contest that General Picton was killed and General Kempt severely wounded; but although unable, from the severity of the wound, to sit on horseback, the latter would not allow himself to be carried off the field. The column of the enemy thus routed was shortly afterwards surrounded and taken captive by Ponsonby’s brigade of cavalry.

Shortly after this the first brigade, being threatened by a body of the enemy’s cavalry, formed into squares, and soon afterwards returned to its former position on the road, ["During the formation, Piper Kenneth Mackay of the 79th, a brave Highlander, stepped outside of the bayonets and continued to play round the outside of the square, the popular air of ‘Cògaidh nà Sith' with much inspiriting effect. "—Jameson’s Historical Record.] lining the hedge nearest the enemy, where it was exposed to a galling and destructive fire, both from the guns and sharpshooters, against whom the light companies of Kempt’s brigade and the division rifles were several times sent.

After falling back for a supply of ammunition, the first brigade again moved forward, and a general charge having been made along the whole line about seven o’clock, the enemy gave way in all directions, pursued by the Prussians and the English cavalry. The fifth division rested for the night near the farm of La Belle Alliance.

The loss of the 79th was Captain John Cameron, Lts. Duncan Macpherson, Donald Cameron, and Ewen Kennedy, 2 sergeants, and 27 rank and file killed; Captains James Campbell, senior, Neil Campbell ; Lts. Alexander Cameron, Ewen Cameron, Alexander Forbes, Charles Macarthur, and John Powhog; Ensigns A. J. Crawford and J. Nash, 7 sergeants, 4 drummers, and 121 rank and file wounded. Captain Neil Campbell, Lts. Donald Cameron, John Powhug, and 48 men died soon afterwards. The total number of officers and men who entered the engagement on the 16th was 776, and out of that only 297 came out on the 18th unwounded; the loss of the 79th exceeded by one that of any other regiment in the army, except the 3rd battalion of the 1st Foot Guards, which was almost annihilated.

Wellington, in his despatch of the 19th, mentions the regiment in terms of high praise; and, as in the case of Toulouse, it was one of the only four British regiments—the 28th, 42nd, 79th, and 92nd—specially mentioned in the despatch. The distinction of a Companionship of the Bath was conferred upon Lt.-Colonel Neil Douglas, and upon Brevet Lt.-Colonels Andrew Brown and Duncan Cameron; Capt. Thomas Mylne was promoted by brevet to be major in the army; and Lt. Alexander Cameron, upon whom, from the great loss sustained in superior officers, the command of the regiment ultimately devolved, was promoted to the brevet rank of major for his distinguished conduct. Each surviving officer and soldier received the decoration of the "Waterloo" silver medal, and was allowed to reckon two additional years’ service.

The regiment, along with the rest of the army, proceeded on the 19th in pursuit of the enemy, arriving on July 8th at Paris, near which it was encamped till the beginning of December. While here, on the 17th of August, at the special request of the Emperor of Russia, Sergeant Thomas Campbell of the grenadiers, a man of gigantic stature, with Private John Fraser and Piper Kenneth Mackay, all of the 79th, accompanied by a like number of each rank from the 42nd and 92nd Highlanders, proceeded to the Palais Elysee in Paris, to gratify the Emperor’s desire of examining the dress and equipments of the Highland regiments. Sergeant Campbell especially was most minutely inspected by the Emperor, who, says Campbell, " examined my hose, gaiters, legs, and pinched my skin, thinking I wore something under my kilt, and had the curiosity to lift my kilt to my navel, so that he might not be deceived." After asking Campbell many questions, the Emperor "requested Lord Cathcart to order me to put John Fraser through the ‘manual and platoon’ exercise, at which performance he was highly pleased. He then requested the pipers to play up, and Lord Cathcart desired them to play the Highland tune ‘ Cògaidh nà Sith’ (‘war or peace’), which he explained to the Emperor, who seemed highly delighted with the music. After the Emperor had done with me, the veteran Count Plutoff came up to me, and, taking me by the hand, told me in broken English that I was a good and brave soldier, and all my countrymen were. He then pressed my hand to his breast, and gave me his to press to mine.

In the beginning of December 1815, the 79th, as part of the Army of Occupation, went into cantonments in Pas de Calais, where it remained till the end of October 1818, when it embarked for England, taking up its quarters at Chichester on the 8th of November.

After moving from Chichester to Portsmouth, and Portsmouth to Jersey, the regiment, in May 1820, embarked at Plymouth for Ireland, where it took part in the critical and not very agreeable duty necessitated by the disturbed state of the country, details of which will be found in our account of the 42nd Royal Highlanders, who were in Ireland at the same time.

On quitting Jersey, the "States of the lsland" transmitted to the commanding officer of the 79th an address, praising the regiment in the highest terms for its exemplary conduct while stationed in the island.

The 79th remained in Ireland till August 1825, being quartered successively at Fermoy, Limerick, Templemore, Naas, Dublin, and Kilkenny, furnishing detachments at each of these places to the district and towns in the neighbourhood. The regiment seems to have discharged its unpleasant duties as delicately and satisfactorily as did the 42nd Highlanders, and to have merited the esteem and respect of the people among whom it was stationed. On leaving Limerick, where it was quartered for nearly two years, the magistrates arid council presented an address to the commanding officer, Lt.-Colonel Douglas, in which they say,:—

"The mild manners and military deportment of the officers, as well as the excellent discipline and moral order of the brave men whom you so well command. are happily evinced in the general order which their uniform good conduct has excited in this city; and we beg of you to convey to them the expression of our highest approbation."

In April 1825, the regiment was augmented from eight to ten companies, of 740 rank and file, and in August, the six service companies embarked at Cork for Canada, under the command of Colonel Sir Neil Douglas, arriving at Quebec in the month of October, where they remained till June 1828. During this time, with the exception of a few months in Glasgow, the dépôt companies were stationed at various places in Ireland.

On the 24th of March 1828, It. -General Sir R. C. Ferguson, G.C.B., was appointed colonel of the regiment, in succession to Lt.General Sir Alan Cameron, K.C.B., who had died at Fulham, Middlesex, on the 9th, after being connected with the regiment for about thirty-five years.

On the 18th of June 1828, the anniversary of Waterloo, the 79th, which in that month had removed to Montreal, was presented with new colours, the gift of its new Colonel, Lt.-General Ferguson. The presentation, which was performed by Lady Douglas, took place on the Champs de Mars, in presence of a very numerous assemblage of the elite of the inhabitants of Montreal.

The regiment returned to Quebec in 1833, where it remained till its embarkation for England in 1836. In the October of that year, the service companies were joined at Glasgow by the dépôt companies, which had in the meantime been moving about from place to place in Ireland, England, and Scotland, being stationed for most of the time at various towns in the last mentioned country.

In September 1833, by the retirement of Sir Neil Douglas on half-pay, Brevet Lt. Colonel Duncan Macdougal succeeded to the command of the regiment; and on the latter’s retirement in March 1835, he was succeeded by Major Robert Ferguson.

The regiment remained in Glasgow till June 1837, removing thence to Edinburgh, where it was stationed till the following June, when it proceeded to Dublin. On account of the disturbed state of the manufacturing districts in the north of England in 1839, the regiment was ordered to proceed thither, being quartered at various places. Here it remained till about the end of 1840, when it was again ordered on foreign service, embarking at Deptford for Gibraltar, where it arrived in January 1841, and where it remained performing garrison duty till June 1848.

In April 1841, on the death of Sir R. C. Ferguson, Major-General the Honourable John Ramsay was appointed Colonel of the 79th, and was succeeded, on his death in July 1842, by Lt-General Sir James Macdonell, G.C.B., whose portrait will be found on the plate of Colonels of the 78th and 79th Regiments. Meantime, on the retirement, in June 1841, of Lt.-Colonel Robert Ferguson, Major Andrew Brown succeeded to the command of the regiment, but exchanged in October following with Colonel John Carter, K.H., from the 1st Royals, who retired in June 1842, and was succeeded by Major the Hon. Lauderdale Maule.

"The monotony of a regiment’s life at Gibraltar is well known to every corps that has had to perform garrison duty on the Rock. This monotony falls much more heavily on the men than on the officers of a regiment; the former, although they may leave the garrison gate under certain restrictions, cannot pass the lines which separate the neutral ground from Spanish territory.

A few of the more gifted, therefore, of the 79th, during its seven years’ sojourn at Gibraltar, tried from time to time to enliven the community by such means as were at their command, which were slender enough, but went a long way when properly utilised and duly encouraged. Among these, the most popular, perhaps, was the performance of private theatricals by a small company selected from more or less qualified volunteers; and in truth the way in which they contrived to put small pieces of a broad farcical nature on their improvised stage, did no small credit to their natural histrionic abilities. These performances at first took place in the schoolroom, or such other well-sized apartments as could be made available, and "the house" was at all times crammed with a most appreciative audience, comprising all ranks, and representing every corps in the garrison.

At a later period the amateurs of the 79th having discovered their strength, and the real merits of one or two stars (of whom more presently), engaged the town theatre, and gave one or two performances of the national drama "Rob Roy," in a manner which would not have disgraced the boards of many a provincial theatre at home. The one "bright particular star" of the company undoubtedly was a bandsman of the regiment, named C- . His role was broad comedy, and the Liston-like gravity of his immovable features gave irresistible point to the humour of such parts as he was accustomed to fill. But the one special character with which he became identified in his limited circle, nearly as completely as the late Mr Mackay was with the Edinburgh public, was ‘‘Bathe Nicol Jarvie." Dignity of position, bluntness of perception, dyspepsia itself, were not proof against his quaint delineation of this well-known character.

In 1849 or ‘50 the dramatic corps had been playing "Rob Roy" with much acceptance in an improvised theatre at Quebec, being a large room used for public meetings and so forth in the principal hotel there. The city is, or was, full of Scotchmen, most of them enthusiastically national, and the performances had been a great success. Unfortunately certain festivities, which were scarcely included in the programme submitted to the commanding officer, followed in connection with these entertainments, and poor C- , among others, was not entirely proof against their seductions. The members of the dramatic corps showed symptoms of falling into habits which could not but be detrimental both to their own welfare and the discipline of the regiment ; and the performances after a while had to be stopped.

Shortly after this, one fine morning, as the commanding officer, accompanied by the adjutant and one or two other officers, was crossing the barrack square on his way from the orderly-room, the party encountered the unfortunate quondam Thespian in a state of considerable elevation, between two men of the guard, who were conveying him to durance vile. As his dim eye fell on the form of his commanding officer, a gleam of tipsy humour for a moment lighted up his somewhat grotesque lineaments ; John Barley-corn had, for the time, extinguished all terrors of the august presence. "Hang a bailie I" hiccuped pour C- as he passed the group, who were carefully ignoring his vicinity "Hang a bailie ma conscience !" It is scarcely necessary to say that, when brought up for judgment some four-and-twenty hours afterwards, the unfortunate magistrate was dealt with as lightly as the code of military discipline permitted. C— was discharged soon afterwards, having served his time and his subsequent career was never, we believe, traced by his former comrades of the 79th."

On leaving Gibraltar, in June 1848, the regiment proceeded to Canada, but before embarking, the officers and men erected by voluntary subscription a handsome marble tablet, in the Wesleyan Chapel at Gibraltar (where divine service was held for the Presbyterian soldiers of the garrison), to the memory of those noncommissioned officers and soldiers who died during their period of service on the Rock. The regiment arrived at Quebec on the 27th of July 1848, and remained in Canada till August 1851, when it embarked for England, arriving in Leith Roads at the end of the month. On disembarking the headquarters proceeded to Stirling Castle and formed a junction with the dépôt, while three companies were detached to Perth and three to Dundee.

Previous to embarking for England, a highly complimentary letter was addressed to Lieutenant-Colonel the Hononrable Lauderdale Maule, by the magistrates and council of Quebec. " It is," says this letter, "with great pleasure that the magistrates bear testimony to the excellent conduct of the men of your regiment during their sojourn in Quebec, where they will be long and favourably remembered." Here also did the officers and men of the 79th erect, in the Scotch Presbyterian Church of St Andrew’s, a handsome marble tablet to the memory of the non-commissioned officers and soldiers who died during the period of service in Canada.

In February 1849, Major-General James Hay, C.B., was appointed Colonel in succession to Lt.-General Sir James Macdonell, appointed to the Colonelcy of the 71st Regiment; and in December 1852, Major Edmund James Elliot succeeded to the command of the regiment as Lt.-Colonel by the retirement of the Hon. Lauderdale Manic on half-pay.

In February 1852 the regiment removed to Edinburgh Castle, where it remained till April 1853, and after spending some time at Bury, Preston, and Weedon, it joined the encampment at Chobham in July, where it was brigaded with the 19th and 97th regiments, under the command of Colonel Lockyer, K.H. Here the regiment remained till the 20th of August, when the encampment was broken up, and the 79th proceeded to Portsmouth.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Part Three The 79th Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders

1853 - 1873

The Cameron Highlanders had had a long rest from active service since those two glorious days at Quatre Bras and Waterloo, in the events of which it bore such a prominent and gallant part and lost so many of its braves; now once again the declaration of war with Russia, on the 1st of March 1854, was to afford its untried men a chance to show what stuff they were made of. The 79th was destined to form part of that famous "Highland Brigade," which, under Sir Cohn Campbell, did its duty so gallantly with the allied army in the Crimea.

Previous to its embarkation for the East, Lt.-General W. H. Sewell, C.B., was in March appointed colonel in succession to the deceased Lt.-General James Hay; and on April 2 1st, new colours were, without ceremony, committed to its keeping by Lt.-Col. Edmund James Elliot.

The 79th embarked for active service under rather disheartening circumstances. Only a few weeks before, while it remained uncertain whether it would form part of the expedition, the regiment had been called upon to furnish volunteers to the 93rd regiment, which had received its orders, and was short of its complement. That strange feeling of restlessness which at all times characterises soldiers, added to the natural and praiseworthy wish to be where hot work was expected, had its result in depriving the 79th of some of its best soldiers. Many of the finest flank-company men took the opportunity of changing their tartan, and the officers of the grenadiers and light company were to be seen one fine morning, like Achilles, "arming, weeping, cursing," to attend the parade which was to see their "best and bravest" handed over to a rival corps. Then speedily came similar orders for the 79th, and volunteers for it were hastily summoned. In obedience to the above natural laws forth they came as fast as they were wanted, but not exactly the sort of men to replace those who had gone. However, they did their duty well and bravely throughout the hard days that were in store for them, and it would be wronging them deeply to say a slighting word.

The regiment embarked at Portsmouth in H.M. ship "Simoom" on the 4th of May, and arrived at Scutari on the 20th. Here it was encamped on the plain of Scutari, and was brigaded with the 93rd regiment, the two being joined on June 7th by the 42nd Royal Highlanders; the three regiments, as we have indicated, forming the Highland Brigade under Brigadier General Sir Cohn Campbell, and along with the brigade of Guards the 1st division of our army in the East. The regiment remained at Scutari till June 13th, when along with the other regiments of the division it was removed to Varna, where it encamped on the plain overlooking Lake Devnos, about a mile south of the town. While stationed here, it had the misfortune to lose its two senior field-officers, Lt.-Col. E. J. Elliot, and Brevet Lt.-Col. James Ferguson, from fever. About the same time also died Colonel the Hon. L. Maule, who for many years commanded the regiment, and who was now Assistant Adjutant - General to the second division.


Lt.-Col. Elliot was on August 13th succeeded by Major John Douglas. The regiment remained in the district about Varna till the end of August. the strength of many of the men being very much reduced by fever.

On the 29th of August the 79th embarked at Varna, and along with the rest of the allied army arrived at Kalamita Bay on Sept. 14th, disembarking on the same day. Along with the other regiments of its division it marched four miles inland, and bivouacked for the night near Lake Tuzla.

On the 19th, the army was put in motion along the coast towards Sebastopol. For details as to the order of march and incidents by the way, including the slight skirmish near the Bulganak River, we must refer the reader to our account of the 42nd. This regiment, along with the rest of the army, bivouacked near the Bulganak on the night of the 19th, and on the morning of the 20th advanced towards the River Alma, on the heights forming the left bank of which the Russians had taken up what they thought an impregnable position, and were awaiting the arrival of the invading army, never doubting but that, ere night, it should be utterly routed, if not extinguished.

About half-past one o’clock the action commenced by the Russians opening fire from the redoubt on the left upon the French, who were attempting to assail their position in that direction. The British forces then formed in line, and proceeded to cross the river about the village of Burliuk. The light and second divisions led the way preceded by the skirmishers of the Rifle Brigade, who advanced through the vineyards beyond the village, and spreading themselves along the margin of the river, engaged the Russian riflemen on the opposite bank.

The first division, which formed the left of the allied army, advancing in support, traversed the vineyard and crossed the river, protected by its overhanging banks. On reaching the slope of the hill, the three Highland regiments formed line in échélon, and, "with the precision of a field-day advanced to the attack, the 42nd Royal Highlanders on the right, and the 79th Cameron Highlanders on the left, the extreme left of the allied army." "The magnificent mile of line," says Captain Jameson, "displayed by the Guards and Highlanders, the prominent bear-skin, the undulating waves of the clan-tartans, the stalwart frames, steady and confident bearing of these young and eager soldiers advancing under fire, can never be forgotten by those who witnessed it, whilst it contributed materially to the discouragement of the enemy, whose columns perceptibly wavered as they approached. His masses of four - and - twenty deep, absolutely reeled and staggered to and fro under the murderous fire of the Scottish line, which was delivered with great effect at a distance of 200 yards."]

From its position, the 79th was the last of the Highland regiments to mount the slope on the Russian side of the river, and its appearance on the crest of the slope was opportune; it came in time to relieve the mind of Sir Colin, who trembled for the left flank of the 93rd, down upon which was bearing a heavy column of the enemy—the left Sousdal column. "Above the crest or swell of the ground," Kinglake tells, "on the left rear of the 93rd, yet another array of the tall bending plumes began to rise up in a long ceaseless line, stretching far into the east, and presently, with all the grace and beauty that marks a Highland regiment when it springs up the side of a hill, the 79th came bounding forward. Without a halt, or with only the halt that was needed for dressing the ranks, it sprang at the flank of the right Sousdal column, and caught it in its sin—caught it daring to march across the front of a battalion advancing in line. Wrapped in the fire thus poured upon its flank, the hapless column could not march, could not live. It broke, and began to fall back in great confusion; and the left Sousdal column being almost at the same time overthrown by the 93rd, and the two columns which had engaged the Black Watch being now in full retreat, the spurs of the hill and the winding dale beyond became thronged with the enemy’s disordered masses."

The three Highland regiments were now once more abreast, and as Kinglake eloquently puts it, the men "could not but see that this, the revoir of the Highlanders, had chanced in a moment of glory. A cheer burst from the reunited Highlanders, and the "hillsides were made to resound with that joyous, assuring cry, which is the natural utterance of a northern people so long as it is warlike and free."

There were still a few battalions of the enemy, about 3000 men, on the rise of a hill separated from the Highland regiments by a hollow; on these the Highland Brigade opened fire, and the Ouglitz column, as it was called, was forced to turn.

The loss in the battle of the Alma of the Cameron Highlanders, who, although they performed most important and trying service, had no chance of being in the thick of the fray, was 2 men killed and 7 wounded.

On account of the conduct of the regiment, a Companionship of the Bath was conferred upon Lt.-Col. John Douglas, and Captain Andrew Hunt was promoted by brevet to be major in the army.

After clearing the Russians out of the way the allied army marched onwards, and on the 26th took up its position before Sebastopol, Balaklava being taken possession of as a base of operations. On the 1st of October the first division encamped on the right of the light division to assist in the duties of the siege; and the 79th afterwards furnished a number of volunteers, to act as sharpshooters in picking off the enemy’s gunners and engage his riflemen. On the 8th of October, Sir Cohn Campbell was appointed to the command of the troops and position of Balaklava, and was succeeded in command of the Highland Brigade by Colonel Sir D. A. Cameron, K.C.B., of the 4 2nd, whose portrait we have given on the steel-plate of colonels of that regiment.

After the battle of Balaklava, on October 25th, the 79th along with the 42nd, was moved to a new position on the heights of the north side of the valley of Balaklava, where it continued till May 1855. "Although the Highland Brigade," says Captain Jameson, "was thus at an early period of the campaign unavoidably withdrawn from the siege operations before Sebastopol, it had all-important duties to perform besides those inseparable from the unremitting vigilance imperatively called for in the defence of the base of operations of the army; for in the months of December 1854, and January and February 1855, all the available duty men of the Highland brigade were usually employed at daylight every morning in the severe fatigue of conveying to the army before Sebastopol round shot, shell, and provisions, the load assigned to each man being generally a 32 lb. shot, carried in a sack, or 56 lbs. of biscuit. The preparation of gabions and fascines for the work of the siege, numerous public fatigue duties in the harbour of Balaklava and elsewhere, as well as the labour required for strengthening the entrenchments, likewise devolved upon the brigade."

During the first four months of 1855, low fever and dysentery prevailed in the regiment to such an extent that it was found necessary to put the 79th under canvass in a position about 300 yards higher up the slope, exposed to the sea breezes from the south-west. Very soon after this move the health of the regiment underwent much improvement.

In connection with what we have just stated, we shall introduce here a striking and intensely pathetic reminiscence of the campaign, which has been furnished us by Lt.-Col. Clephane. It shows how these comparatively raw soldiers of the Cameron Highlanders displayed a gallant devotion to their duty under the most trying circumstances which would have reflected credit upon veterans of a dozen campaigns.

"Shortly after the opening of the bombardment of Sebastopol, the 79th Highlanders furnished a party for trench duty, consisting of about 150 men, under command of a field officer, and accompanied by a similar number detailed from the brigade of Guards. They marched for the post of duty shortly before daybreak, taking the well-known route through the "Valley of Death," as it was called. At that time a foe more dreaded than the Russians had persistently dogged the footsteps of the army, never attacking in force, but picking out a victim here and there, with such unerring certainty that to be sensible of his approach was to feel doomed. The glimmering light was at first insufficient for making out aught more than the dark body of men that moved silently along the above gloomy locality in column of march four deep ; but as the sun approached nearer the horizon, and the eye became accustomed to the glimmer, it was seen that one man was suffering under pain of no ordinary nature, and was far from being fit to go on duty that morning. Indeed, on being closely inspected, it became evident that the destroyer had set his seal on the unfortunate fellow’s brow, and how he had mustered the determination to equip himself and march out with the rest was almost inconceivable. Upon being questioned, however, he persisted that there was not much the matter, though he owned to spasms in his inside and cramps in his legs, and he steadily refused to return to camp without positive orders to that effect, maintaining that he would be better as soon as he could get time to "lie down a bit." All this time the colour of the poor fellow’s face was positively and intensely blue, and the damps of death were standing unmistakeably on his forehead. He staggered as he walked, groaning with clenched teeth but keeping step, and shifting his rifle with the rest in obedience to each word of command. He ought probably to have been at once despatched to the rear, but the party was now close to the scene of action (Gordon’s battery), the firing would immediately commence, and somehow he was for the moment forgotten. The men took their places lining the breastwork, the troops whom they relieved marched off, and the firing began, and was kept up with great fury on both sides. All at once a figure staggered out from the hollow beneath the earthen rampart where the men were lying, and fell groaning upon the earth a few paces to the rear. It was the unfortunate man whose case we have just noticed. He was now in the last extremity, and there was not the ghost of a chance for him in this world; but three or four of his comrades instantly left their place of comparative safety, and surrounded him with a view of doing what they could to alleviate his sufferings. It was not much; they raised him up and rubbed his legs, which were knotted with cramps, and brandy from an officer’s flask was administered without stint. All in vain, of course; but, curiously enough, even then the dying man did not lose heart, or show any weakness under sufferings which must have been frightful. He was grateful to the men who were busy rubbing his agonised limbs, and expressed satisfaction with their efforts, after a fashion that had even some show of piteous humour about it. "Aye." groaned he, as they came upon a knot of sinews as large as a pigeon’s egg, "that’s the vaygabone !" It became evident now that the best thing that could be done would be to get him home to camp, so that he might at least die beyond the reach of shot and shell. The open ground to the rear of the battery was swept by a perfect storm of these misiles; but volunteers at once came forward, and placed upon one of the bloodstained litters the dying man, who, now nearly insensible, was carried back to his tent. This was effected without casualty to the bearers, who forthwith returned to their post, leaving their unfortunate comrade at the point of breathing his last."

Such were the men who upheld the honour of the Scottish name in those days, and such, alas were those who furnished a royal banquet to the destroyer, Death, throughout that melancholy campaign.

The 79th, in the end of May and beginning of June, formed part of the expedition to Kertch, described in the history of the 42nd. This expedition came quite as a little pleasant pic-nic to those regiments who were lucky enough to be told off as part of the force, and the 79th, along with the other regiments of the Highland brigade, had the good fortune to be so. Yenikali had been very hastily evacuated, all its guns being left in perfect order, and signs everywhere of little domestic establishments broken up in what must have been excessive dismay—expensive articles of furniture, ladies’ dresses, little articles of the same sort appertaining to children, all left standing as the owners had left them, fleeing, as they imagined, for their lives. Truth to tell, they would not have been far wrong, but for the presence of the British.

On its return in the middle of June, the Highland brigade took up its old position beside the Guards before Sebastopel, the command of the re-united division being assumed by Sir Cohn Campbell. After this the division was regularly employed in the siege operations, it having been drawn up in reserve during the unsuccessful attack on the Malakoff and Redan on the 18th of June.

In August, on account of the formation of an additional division to the army, the old Highland Brigade was separated from the Guards, and joined to the 1st and 2nd battalion Royals, and the 72nd Highlanders, these now forming the Highland division under Sir Colin Campbell.

On the 8th of September, the 79th, along with the other regiments of the brigade, was marched down to the front to take part in the contemplated assault upon the enemy’s fortifications. About four in the afternoon, the 79th, under command of Lt.-Col. C. H. Taylor, reached the fifth or most advanced parallel, in front of the great Redan, the 72nd being in line on its left. Before this, however, the Redan had been attacked by the right and second divisions, who, "after exhibiting a devotion and courage yet to be surpassed," were compelled to retire with severe loss; the French attack on the Malakoff had at the same time been successful.

The brigade continued to occupy its advanced position during the remainder of the day exposed to a heavy fire, it being appointed to make another assault on the Redan next morning. Such a deadly enterprise, however, fortunately proved unnecessary, as early next morning it was ascertained that the enemy, after having blown up their magazines and other works, were in full retreat across the harbour by the bridge of boats. The only duty devolving upon the 79th was to send two companies to take possession of the Redan and its works.

The loss of the regiment on the day of the assault, and in the various operations during the siege, was 17 rank and file killed, Lt. P. H. M’Barnet, Assistant-Surgeon Edward Louis Lundy, 3 sergeants, 1 drummer, and 39 rank and file wounded. While recording the losses of the regiment, honourable mention ought to be made of Dr Richard James Mackenzie, who gave up a lucrative practice in Edinburgh in order to join the British army in the east. He was appointed to the 79th while the regiment was stationed at Yarna, and until his death on September 25th 1854, shortly after Alma," he rendered to the regiment and the army generally services of the highest importance. He followed the army on foot, undergoing much fatigue and many privations, which, with the arduous labours he took upon himself after the battle, no doubt hastened his much lamented death. After the battle of the Alma, it is said, he performed no fewer than twenty-seven capital operations with his own hand. "So highly were his services appreciated by the 79th, that, after the battle of the Alma, on his coming up to the regiment from attendance on the wounded, several of the men called out, Three cheers for Dr Mackenzie !’ which was promptly and warmly responded to," The regiment, after the notification of peace, erected to his memory a neat tombstone, with an appropriate inscription, fenced in by a stone wall, on the heights of Belbek, near his resting-place.


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

To Be Continued

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

His heroic and humane deeds on the battle-field of the Alma were thoroughly appreciated by the 79th, and have been recorded by others. We may, however, faintly gather something of them from his letter to his brother Kenneth - the last he ever wrote. It was written on the day after the battle. In this letter he says " We (Dr Scott and himself) were shaking hands with all our friends, when, to my no small surprise end gratification, as you may believe, a voice shouted out from the column as they stood in the ranks— 'Three cheers for Mr Mackenzie,’ and enough I say it who shouldn’t I never heard three better cheers. You will laugh, my dear fellow, when you read this, but I can tell you I could scarcely refrain from doing t’other thing. All I could do was to wave my Glengarry in thanks." As to Dr Mackenzie’s coolness under fire, the quartermaster of the 79th wrote: "During the height of the action I was in conversation with him when a round shot struck the ground, and rebounding over our regiment, flew over our heads and killed an artillery horse a few yards in our rear." Mackenzie quietly remarked, "That is a narrow escape."

The regiment continued in the Crimea till June 1856, on the 15th of which month it embarked at Balaklava, and disembarked at Portsmouth on the 5th of July, proceeding immediately by rail to the camp at AIdershot.

After being stationed for a short time at Shorncliffe and for some months at Canterbury, and having been present at the distribution of the Victoria Cross by her Majesty in Hide Park on Tune 26th 1857, the 79th proceeded to Dublin, where it landed on the 28th. Here, however, it remained but a short time, as on account of the Sepoy revolt in India, it was again ordered to prepare for active service. The regiment was rapidly completed to 1000 rank and file, and set sail in the beginning of August, arriving at Madras Roads early in November, when it received orders to proceed to Calcutta, where it disembarked on the 28th of November and occupied Fort-William. After remaining there for a few days, the 79th, on Dec. 2nd, proceeded by rail to Raneegunge, under the command of Lt.-Colonel John Douglas. ‘I’owards the end of the month the regiment left Raneegunge for Allahabad, where it halted till the 5th of Jan. 1858, a day memorable in the history of the 79th for its having marched upwards of 48 miles, and gained its first victory in the East, viz., that of Secunclragunge, in which happily it had no casualties.

The regiment left Allahabad for Lucknow on the 18th of Jan., and on the 28th of Feb. it joined the force under Sir Cohn Campbell at Camp Bunterah. The regiment was then commanded by Lt.-Colonel Taylor, Lt.-Colonel Douglas having been appointed to the command of the 5th Infantry Brigade. After passing the Goomtee, the 79th joined the force under Sir James Outram, and was brigaded with the 1st battalion of the 23rd Fusiliers and the 1st Bengal Fusiliers, under the command of Brigadier General Douglas. The regiment was present, and performed its part bravely during the siege and capture of Lucknow, from the 2nd to the 16th of March 1858, its loss being 7 non-commissioned officers and privates killed, and 2 officers, Brevet-Major Miller and Ensign Haine, and 21 non-commissioned officers and privates wounded.

After the capture of Lucknow the 79th joined the division under the command of Major-General Walpole, in the advance towards Allahgunge, Shahjehanpoor, and Bareilly. Its next engagement was the action of Boodaoon, where the regiment had only 1 man wounded, who afterwards died of his wounds. On the 22nd of April the 79th was present at the action of Allahgunge, where it had no casualties. On the 27th, Sir Colin Campbell assumed command of the force and marched on Bareihly, the 79th, along with the 42nd and 93rd, forming the Highland brigade. On the 5th of May the 79th was formed in line of battle before Bareihly, when it helped to gain another glorious victory, with a loss of only 2 men killed and 2 wounded. The regiment received the special thanks of Sir Colin Campbell.

The 79th next made a forced march to the relief of Shahjehanpoor, under the command of Brigadier-General John Jones, and on the 21st of May was again under fire at the attack of that place. Thence it went to Mohoomdee, in the attack on which it took part on the 24th and 25th; here it had 2 men wounded, and, according to the Record-Book, upwards of 100 men suffered from sunstroke.

After this last action the regiment once more found itself in quarters at Futtehgurh and Cawnpoor, one wing being detached to Ahlahabad; this, however, was only for a short time, as on the 21st of October an order was received for the 79th to join the brigade in Oudh, under Brigadier-General Wetherall, C. B. On the 3rd of November the 79th was present at the storm and capture of Rampoor Kosilab, the regiment losing only 2 men killed, and 1 sergeant and 6 privates wounded. For its conduct on this occasion the 79th was complimented in General Orders by His Excellency the Commander-in-Chief. Brig.-Gen. Wetherall having left the force, was succeeded in command by Sir Hope Grant, K.C.B., who appointed Lt.-Col. Taylor, 79th, to command the brigade, Major Butt succeeding the latter in command of the 79th.

The 79th proceeded by forced marches to Fyzabad to commence the trans-Ghogra operations, and was present at the action of the passage of the Ghogra on the 25th of November, the skirmish at Muchllgan on the 6th of Dec., and the skirmish at Bundwa Kotee on the 3rd of Jan. 1859. After the last-mentioned engagement the 79th received orders to proceed to Meean Meer in the Punjab, under the command of Lt.-Col. Taylor.

Thus ended the Indian Mutiny, during which the casualties to the 79th Highlanders amounted to 2 officers wounded, and 158 of all ranks killed. For its gallant conduct during the Indian campaign the 79th received the thanks of both Houses of Parliament, and was authorised to bear on its colours the inscription "Capture of Lucknow." Lt.-Col. Douglas was appointed a K.C.B., and Lt.-Col. Taylor a C.B.

The regiment arrived at Meean Meer on the 8th of April 1859, and on the 15th the command passed into the hands of Lt.-Col. Butt, Colonel Taylor having proceeded to Europe on leave. Lt.-Col. Butt continued in command till the 2nd of April 1860, when he was appointed Chief Inspector of Musketry for Bengal, and was succeeded in command of the regiment by Lt.-Col. Hodgson. On the 16th of March, Lt.-Col. Douglas had retired on half-pay, and Lt.-Col. Taylor did the same on the 10th of May following.

The 79th remained in India till Sept. 1871. On the 5th of Nov. 1860, the right wing, consisting of 287 of all ranks, proceeded to Amritzir under the command of Major M’Barnet. Headquarters left Meean Meer on the 19th of Jan. 1861 for Ferozepoor, where it was joined by the wing from Amritzir in April.

The 79th left Ferozepoor in Feb. 1862 for Nowshera, where it remained till the following November, on the 23rd of which the regiment proceeded to Peshawur, on the frontiers of Afghanistan. In the previous March the regiment lost by death its colonel, General W. A. Sewell, who was succeeded by General the Honourable Hugh Arbuthnott, C.B.

During the stay of the regiment in Peshawur it lost two of its officers. A frontier war having broken out, Lts. Dougal and Jones volunteered their services, and were permitted to proceed with the expedition against the Sitana fanatics, under the command of Brigadier-General Sir M. Chamberlain, K.C.B. the former was killed when on picquet duty on the 6th of Nov. 1863, and the latter in action on the 18th of the same month.

The 79th remained in Peshawur till Jan. 1864, when it removed to Rawul Pindee, where it remained till 1866. During its stay it furnished a volunteer working party on the Murree and Abbattabad road, and also during 1864 a detachment of 300 of all ranks, under the command of Captain C. Gordon, to the Camp Durrgaw Gully.

In October 1864 the 79th lost by exchange its senior Lt.-Colonel, Colonel Butt having exchanged with Colonel Best of H.M.’s 86th Regiment. By this exchange Lt.-Colonel Hodgson became senior Lt.-Colonel.

For some time after its arrival at Rawul Pindee the regiment continued to suffer from Peshawur fever, a considerable number of men having had to be invalided to England. On the 8th of May 1865 the headquarters and 650 of all ranks proceeded as a working party to the Murree Hills, where the regiment remained till October, much to the benefit of the men’s health, as in a fortnight after its arrival all traces of Peshawur fever had disappeared. A similar working party, but not so large, was sent to the Murree Hjlls at the same time in the following year.

On the 10th of July of this year (1865) Lt.-Colonel Hodgson received his promotion by brevet to full Colonel in the army.

On the 1st of November 1866, the headquarters and left wing marched from Rawul Pindee for Roorkee, and the right wing under command of Major Maitland for Delhi, the former reaching Roorkee on the 15th and the latter Delhi on Dec. 27th. During the regiment’s stay at these places the two wings exchanged and re-exchanged quarters, both suffering considerably from fever during the spring of 1867. Both wings in the end of March proceeded to Umballah, to take part in the ceremonial attending the meeting between Earl Mayo, Governor-General of India, and Shere Ali Khan, - the Ameer of Cabul; the Cameron Highlanders had been appointed part of His Excellency’s personal escort.

On Dec. 7th the headquarters, under the command of Colonel W. C. Hodgson, left Roorkee en route to Kamptee, and on the 15th it was joined by the right wing from Delhi, at Camp Jubbulpoor. Here the regiment remained until the 24th, when it commenced to move by companies towards Kamptee, at which station the headquarters arrived on the 1st of January 1870. Shortly before leaving Roorkee a highly complimentary farewell letter was sent to Colonel Hodgson from Major-General Colin Troup, C.B., commanding the Meerut Division.

During January 1870 the 93d Sutherland Highlanders passed through Kamptee en route for home, when a very pleasing exchange of civilities took place between that distinguished regiment and their old comrades of the 79th. At a mess meeting held at Nagpoor on the 30th by the officers of the 93d, it was proposed and carried unanimously that a letter be written to the officers of the 79th, proposing that, in consideration of the friendship and cordiality which had so long existed between the two regiments, the officers of the two corps be perpetual honorary members of their respective messes. The compliment was, of course, willingly returned by the 79th, and the officers of the 93rd Highlanders were constituted thenceforth perpetual honorary members of the 79th mess.

The regiment remained at Kamptee for nearly two years, furnishing a detachment to the fort at Nagpoor. A very sad event occurred in the regiment during its stay at Kamptee: on Aug. 28th, 1871, Captain Donald Macdonald when at great gun drill at the artillery barracks, dropped down on parade, died instantaneously, and was buried the same evening. Captain Macdonald was by birth and habit a Highlander, and was most warmly attached to his regiment, in which he had served for seventeen years. Great regret was felt by all ranks in the regiment on account of his premature and unexpected death. He was only 34 years of age, and a monument was erected by his brother officers over his grave at Kamptee.

On the 2nd of August 1871 Colonel Best was appointed to the command of the Nagpoor field force, with the rank of brigadier-general.

In the same month the 79th received orders to be in readiness to proceed to England, and the non-commissioned officers and men were permitted to volunteer into regiments remaining in India. About 177 of all ranks availed themselves of this offer, a considerable number of whom were married men. The regiment left Kamptee in two detachments on Sept. 22nd and 23rd, and proceeded by Nagpoor and Deolahlee to Bombay, where it embarked on board H.M.’s India troop-ship "Jumna" on the 29th and 30th. The "Jumna" sailed for England on the 1st of October, and after a prosperous voyage by way of the Suez Canal arrived at Spithead on the evening of the 6th of November. Next day the regiment was transferred to three ships, and conveyed to West Cowes, Isle of ‘vVight, where it disembarked the same evening, and marched to the Albany Barracks, Parkhurst.

During the fourteen years that the 79th was stationed in India it was inspected by many distinguished general officers, including Sir Colin Campbell (Lord Clyde), Sir William Mansfield (Lord Sandhurst), Sir Hugh Rose (Lord Strathnairn), Sir Hope Grant, &c., all of whom expressed themselves highly satisfied with the appearance, conduct, and discipline of the regiment.

During its sojourn in the Isle of Wight the 79th was highly honoured on more than one occasion by the very particular notice of Her Majesty Queen Victoria. In Feb. 1872, Her Majesty being at Osborne, was pleased to express her desire to see the 79th Highlanders in marching order. The regiment accordingly paraded at 10 o’clock on the morning of the 16th, and proceeded towards Osborne. When the 79th was within a short distance of the approach to the house, Her Majesty, with several members of the Royal Family, appeared at an angle of the road, and watched the marching past of the regiment with great interest. The regiment, after making a detour towards East Cowes, was returning to Parkhurst by way of Newport, when Her Majesty reappeared, paying particular attention to the dress and appearance of the men as they marched past her for the second time.


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

This was the last occasion on which Colonel Hodgson was destined to command the 79th. On the 1st of March the regiment sustained an irreparable loss in his death, which took place, after a very short illness. Colonel Hodgson was 49 years of age, had served in the 79th for 32 years, and commanded it for 12, and by his invariable kindness and urbanity had endeared himself to all ranks. His sad and unexpected death spread a deep gloom over the whole regiment. Colonel Maitland, in announcing Colonel Hodgson’s death in regimental orders said,— "The officers have to lament the loss of one who was always to them a kind and considerate commanding officer; and the non-commissioned officers and men have been deprived of a true friend, who was ever zealous in guarding their interests and promoting their welfare."

Colonel Hodgson was buried in Carisbrooke Cemetery, and over his grave a handsome monument of Aberdeen granite has been erected by his brother officers and friends.

By Colonel Hodgson’s death Colonel Maitland succeeded to the command of the regiment; he, however, retired on half-pay on the 19th of October following, and Lt.-Colonel Miller was selected to succeed him.

On the 17th of Sept. the 79th had the honour of being reviewed by the late ex-Emperor of the French, Napoleon III., and his son, the Prince Imperial, who lunched with the officers. The Emperor made a minute inspection of the men, and watched the various manoeuvres with evident interest, expressing at the conclusion his admiration of the splendid appearance and physique of the men, the high state of discipline of the corps, and the magnificent manner in which the drill was performed.

During Her Majesty’s stay at Osborne the 79th always furnished a guard of honour at East Cowes at each of her visits. On the 17th of April 1873 Her Majesty bestowed one of the highest honours in her power on the regiment, when on that day she attended at Parkhurst Barracks to present it with new colours. The presentation took place in the drill-field, and was witnessed by a large number of spectators, who were favoured with a bright sky.

At 11 o’clock A.M. the 79th marched into the field under command of Colonel Miller. The ground was kept by the 102nd Fusiliers, the same regiment also furnishing a guard of honour to Her Majesty. General Viscount Templeton, K.C.B., commanding the district, was present, and also Sir John Douglas, K.C.B., commanding in North Britain, with his A.D.C., Lieutenant Boswell Gordon, of the 79th. The Mayor and Corporation of Newport attended officially, in their robes of office. At 11.45 A.M. Her Majesty arrived, attended by their Royal Highnesses Prince Leopold and Princess Beatrice, the Countess of Errol and other ladies, besides the Equerries in Waiting. The royal party having driven along the line, the band and pipers playing, the usual order of presentation was proceeded with.

The old colours were in front of the left of the line, in charge of a colour party and double sentries. The new colours, cased, were in the rear of the centre, in charge of the two senior colour-sergeants, Taylor and Mackie. The old colours having been trooped, these honoured and cherished standards, around which the Cameron Highlanders had so often victoriously rallied, were borne to the rear by Lts. Annesley and Money to the strains of "Auld Lang Syne." The regiment was then formed into three sides of a square, the drums were piled in the centre, the new colours were brought from the rear, and having been uncased by the Majors, were placed against the pile. Then prayer was offered by the Rev. Charles Morrison, formerly chaplain to the 79th in India, who had come from Aberdeen expressly to perform this duty. This being concluded, Major ###### handed the Queen’s colour and Major Percival the regimental colour to Her Majesty, who presented the former to Lt. Campbell and the latter to Lt. Methven, at the same time addressing them thus:—" It gives me great pleasure to present these new colours to you. In thus entrusting you with this honourable charge, I have the fullest confidence that you will, with the true loyalty and well-known devotion of Highlanders, preserve the honour and reputation of your regiment, which have been so brilliantly earned and so nobly maintained by the 79th Cameron Highlanders."

Colonel Miller then replied as follows:-

"I beg permission, in the name of all ranks of the 79th Cameron IHghlanders, to present our loyal and most grateful acknowledgments of the very high honour it has pleased your Majesty this day to confer on the regiment. The incident will ever remain fresh in the memories of all on parade, and of those also who are unable to have the honour of being present on this occasion, and of others who have formerly served with the 79th; and I beg to assure your Majesty that, wherever the course of events may require these colours to be borne, the remembrance that they were received from the hands of our Most Gracious Queen, will render them doubly precious, and that in future years, as at present, the circumstance of this presentation will be regarded as one of the proudest episodes in the records of the Cameron Highlanders."

After Colonel Miller’s address the regiment re-formed line, and the colours were received with a general salute, after which they were marched to their place in the line in slow time, the band playing "God save the Queen." The ranks having been closed, the regiment broke into column, and marched past Her Majesty in quick and double time, line was then re-formed, and Lt.-Gen. Viscount Templetown, K.C.B., called for three cheers for Her Majesty, a request which was responded to by the regiment in true Highland style. The ranks having been opened, the line advanced in review order, and gave a royal salute, after which the royal carriage withdrew.

After the parade was dismissed, the old colours, carried by Lts. Annesley and Money, escorted by all the sergeants, were played round the barracks, and afterwards taken to the officers’ mess. On the 30th of the month the officers gave a splendid ball at the Town-hall, Ryde, at which about 500 guests were present, the new colours being placed in the centre of the ball-room, guarded on each side by a Highlander in full uniform. To mark the occasion also, Colonel Miller remitted all punishments awarded to the men, and the sergeants entertained their friends at a luncheon and a dance in the drill field.

At the unanimous request of the officers, Colonel Miller offered the old colours to Her Majesty, and she having been graciously pleased to accept them, they were taken to Osborne on the 22nd of April. At 12 o’clock noon of that day the regiment paraded in review order and formed a line along the barracks for the colours to pass, each man presenting arms as they passed him, the band playing "Auld Lang Syne." The colours were then taken by train from Newport to Cowes. At Osborne the East Cowes guard of honour, under command of Captain Allen, with Lts. Bucknell and Smith, was drawn up at each side of the hall door. The old colours, carried by Lts. Annesley and Money, escorted by Quartermaster-Sergeant Knight, Colour-Sergeant Clark, two other sergeants, and four privates, preceded by the pipers, were marched to the door by Colonel Miller, the guard of honour presenting arms. The officers then advanced, and, kneeling, placed the colours at Her Majesty’s feet, when Colonel Miller read a statement, giving a history of the old colours from the time of their presentation at Portsmouth, in the month of April 1854, by Mrs Elliot (the wife of the officer at that time colonel of the regiment), a few days before the regiment embarked for the Crimea.

Colonel Miller then said:—

"It having graciously pleased your Majesty to accept these colours from the Cameron Highlanders, I beg permission to express the gratification which all ranks of the 79th feel in consequence, and to convey most respectfully our highest appreciation of this kind act of condescension on the part of your Majesty."

The Queen replied:—

"I accept these colours with much pleasure, and shall ever value them in remembrance of the gallant services of the 79th Cameron Highlanders I will take them to Scotland, and place them in my dear Highland home at Balmoral."

The guard then presented arms, and the colour party withdrew. Her Majesty afterwards addressed a few words to each of the colour-sergeants.

On the 24th of April, Colonel Miller received orders for the troops of the Parkhurst garrison to march towards Osborne on the following day, for Her Majesty’s inspection, and the troops accordingly paraded at 10 o’clock AM. in review order. On arriving near Osborne the brigade was drawn up in line on the road, the 79th on the right, and the 102nd on the left. Her Majesty was received with a royal salute, and having driven down the line, the royal carriage took up its position at the crossroads, and the regiments passed in fours; the royal carriage then drove round by a bye-road, and the regiment again passed in fours, after which the troops returned to Parkhurst.

We may state here that on the day on which Her Majesty presented the new colours to the regiment, Colonel Ponsonby, by Her Majesty’s desire, wrote to the Field-Marshal Commanding in Chief that "Her Majesty was extremely pleased with the appearance of the men and with the manner in which they moved," and hoped that His Royal Highness might think it right to communicate the Queen’s opinion to Lt.-Colonel Miller. The letter was sent to Colonel Miller.

The Queen still further showed her regard for the 79th by presenting to the regiment four copies of her book, "Leaves from our Journal in the Highlands,"—one to Colonel Miller, one for the officers, one for the noncommissioned officers, and one for the privates.

To crown all these signal marks of Her Majesty’s attachment to the Cameron Highlanders, she was graciously pleased to let them bear her own name as part of the style and title of the regiment, as will be seen by the following letter, dated—

"Horseguards, 10th July 1873.

Sir, —By direction of the Field-Marshal Commanding in Chief, I have the honour to acquaint you that Her Majesty has been pleased to command that the 79th Regiment be in future styled "the 79th Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders," that the facings be accordingly changed from green to bide, and that the regiment be also permitted to bear in the centre of the second colour, as a regimental badge, the Thistle ensigned with the Imperial Crown, being the badge of Scotland as sanctioned by Queen Anne in 1707, after the confirmation of the Act of Union of the kingdoms—I have, &c. &c.

(Signed) " J. W. ARMSTRONO

"Deputy Adjutant-General.

Lieutenant-Colonel Miller,

"Commanding 79th Regiment."

In acknowledgment of this gracious mark of Her Majesty’s regard, Colonel Miller despatched a letter to Major-General Ponsonby, at Osborne, on the 12th of July, in which he requests that officer

"To convey to the Queen, in the name of all ranks of the 79th, our most respectful and grateful acknowledgments for so distinguished a mark of royal condescension, and I beg that you will assure Her Majesty of the gratification felt throughout the regiment in consequence of the above announcement."

Finally, on the 13th of August Colonel Miller received a notification that Her Majesty had expressed a wish that the regiment should be drawn up at East Cowes to form a guard of honour on her departure from the island on the following day. The regiment accordingly marched to East Cowes on the following afternoon, and presented arms as Her Majesty embarked on her way to Balmoral.

On 18th of September of the same year the 79th left Parkhurst for Aldershot, where it arrived on the same afternoon, and was quartered in A and B lines, South Camp, being attached to the 1st or Major-General Parkes’ brigade.

The Black Watch has received great and well-merited praise for its conduct during the Ashantee War, in the march from the Gold Coast to Coomassie. It ought, however, to be borne in mind that a fair share of the glory which the 42nd gained on that dangerous coast, under the able command of Major-General Sir Garnet J. Wolseley, really belongs to the Cameron Highlanders. When the 42nd, at the end of December 1873, was ordered to embark for the Gold Coast, 135 volunteers were asked for from the 79th, to make up its strength, when there at once stepped out 170 fine fellows, most of them over ten years’ service, from whom the requisite number was taken. Lieutenants R. C. Annesley and James M’Callum accompanied these volunteers. Although they wore the badge and uniform of the glorious Black Watch, as much credit is due to the 79th on account of their conduct as if they had fought under the name of the famous Cameron Highlanders, in which regiment they received all that training without which personal bravery is of little avail.


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Part four The 79th Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders

1873 - 1886

WHILE the volunteers were thus gallantly maintaining the honour of the country in a foreign land, the main body of the regiment at home was passing the time at Aldershot in the usual duties and exercises of that station, and during the time that it remained in the A and B lines of the South Camp in 1873-74-75 there was but little to break the ordinary routine of these proceedings. During the summer of the last of these years, orders were received to proceed to Edinburgh, and on the 2d of August, after a very agreeable passage of four days, the 79th disembarked at Granton and took up quarters at Edinburgh Castle. On landing, the regiment was welcomed by Major-General Sir John Douglas, K.C.B., commanding the North British District, and Colonel J. B. Butt, commanding the 62d sub-district (both formerly of the 79th Highlanders), who accompanied it to the Esplanade. There—after an enthusiastic reception from the dense crowds that lined the streets—square having been formed, Sir John Douglas addressed the regiment, and having complimented all ranks on the character they so justly bore, urged the men not to forget, after an absence of 22 years from their native country, that the regiment had always been noted for its general good bearing in quarters, and to remember that it was the particular duty of each individual to do his utmost to maintain the credit of the Cameron Highlanders— recommendations that were well attended to by all concerned.

During the visit of Her Majesty to Holyrood in 1876, the 79th furnished the Guard of Honour on the 16th, 17th, and 18th of August, and on the 17th assisted in lining the streets through which the Queen passed on her way to unveil the statue of the late Prince Consort in Charlotte Square. The band also played the accompaniment to the Prince’s Chorale, which was sung during the ceremony. On the 24th and 25th of the same month, the annual inspection was made by Major-General J. R. Stuart, C.B., then commanding the North British District, who expressed himself extremely well satisfied with everything he had seen. In September a detachment was sent to Ballater to form a Guard of Honour for the Queen.

On the 12th of October headquarters and the five companies then in Edinburgh proceeded to Granton to embark on H.M.S. "Assistance" for Fort George, which was reached on the 14th. The regiment was accompanied on the route through Edinburgh by an immense crowd, but notwithstanding this, and the great enthusiasm of the farewell, there was no irregularity among the men, and only one private (a recruit) was absent; in consequence of which satisfactory state of matters, Lieutenant-Colonel Miller, C.B., was pleased to remit the unexpired portions of all sentences of confinement to barracks. The only noteworthy events during the stay in the north were the sending of detachments to Ballater as a Royal Guard of Honour in May and August 1877; the annual inspection, which was made on the 6th and 7th of July by Major-General Stuart, C.B., who intimated on parade that he considered the battalion in splendid order, and would have much pleasure in making a favourable report; and the despatch, on the 25th of July, of a draft of 286 rank and file to Malta to join the linked regiment, the 42nd Highlanders.

Orders having been issued for transfer to Glasgow, the 79th, under the command of Major and Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel Cumming, embarked on the 18th of October 1877 on H.M.S. "Orontes" for Greenock, and thence proceeded to its destination by rail, headquarters and two companies going to the Gallowgate Barracks, and the other companies to the new barracks at Maryhill, where the men were employed on the works: Lieutenant-Colonel Miller, C.B., having completed his term of command, was, on the 15th of October, placed on half-pay, and was succeeded by Lieutenant-Colonel Cumming. In March 1878, the headquarters was transferred from Gallowgate to Maryhill Barracks, and the usual garrison routine was thereafter broken only by the despatch of detachments to Balmoral in May and August to form Guards of Honour for the Queen; and by the temporary increase in numbers from the 28th of April to the 31st of July, due to the mobilisation of the Army and Militia Reserves, in consequence of the strained relations then existing between Great Britain and Russia.

On the 14th of January 1879, Lieutenant-General Sir John Douglas, G.C.B., was appointed Colonel of the regiment in succession to Sir A. H. Horsford, G.C.B., Military Secretary, who was transferred to the 14th Foot; and on the 15th of May the same year orders were issued to prepare for immediate embarkation to relieve the linked battalion at Gibraltar. For this station the 79th, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Cumming, and with a total strength of 20 officers and 538 non-commissioned officers and men, accordingly sailed from Greenock on the 3d of June on board H.M.S. "Himalaya," and on the 11th quarters were taken up at the Buena-Vista Barracks, changes taking place in the following year, first to Town Range, and afterwards to South Barracks, with detachments at Wellington and North Fronts. The annual inspection in 1880 was made on the 24th and 25th of November by Major-General Anderson, who expressed great satisfaction at the state in which he found the regiment, stating that the books and interior economy were perfect, and that he had never seen cleaner barracks or kits better laid down. With regard to the drill, of course a great many allowances had to be made, owing to the difficulty of getting men on parade, as they were generally engaged on working parties, and he had no doubt that there were several men in the ranks who had not been on parade since last inspection. Taking this, however, into consideration, the close formations were good, and if the regiment did not drill so well as last year, it undoubtedly showed that it was keeping up as much as possible the good instruction it had received at a former period.

In January 1881 the establishment was increased by the addition of 100 men to the rank and file; and in the same month intimation was made of proposals for the reorganisation of the army, the chief changes being, of course, the abolition of linked regiments (double battalions being substituted), and the replacing of the old regimental numbers by territorial designations. As the 79th was at this time linked with the Black Watch, it was at first proposed to make it the 2d battalion of that regiment, and on the 28th of January the following telegram was sent by the Adjutant-General to the officer commanding :—" If 79th is linked to 42nd, will your regiment adopt tartan of the 42nd Regiment ? Linked regiments must wear the same tartan. Wire reply." Lieutenant-Colonel Leith, who was in command of the regiment during the absence of Lieutenant-Colonel Cumming on sick leave, immediately answered—" No. The Cameron Highlanders will not adopt 42nd tartan." He also at the same time sent the following letter to the Adjutant-General:-

"GIBRALTAR, 30th January 1881.

"Sir,—I have the honour to forward a copy of a telegram despatched by me this morning in reply to your telegram received yesterday evening, and which in transmission through Spain had become somewhat illegible. It was with the greatest sorrow that the officers of the 79th Cameron Highlanders heard of the proposal to deprive the regiment of the Cameron tartan, worn by them for so many years, and regarded with pride and affection by all ranks. No one serving in the 79th would willingly adopt the tartan of the 42nd Regiment, which would virtually mean the extinction of the 79th Cameron Highlanders as a regiment. May I most respectfully request that you will have the goodness to move H.R.H. the Field-Marshal Commanding-in-Chief to preserve, if it be possible, for the regiment that tartan which has been their distinctive dress since they were raised by Sir Allan Cameron in 1793, and, as the inscriptions on their colours testify, has been worn with honour in many hard-fought battles."

Nothing more was heard of time matter until the Secretary of State for War, in his comprehensive speech in the House of Commons upon the new scheme, stated that the 79th would be the only single-battalion regiment in the army; and thereafter the following letter, addressed to the commanding officer, was received from the Adjutant-General


"5th April 1881.

"Sir,—With reference to your letter of the 30th January last, I have the honour, by desire of the Field-Marshal Commanding-in-Chief; to acquaint you that, as the regiment under your command is to have a separate existence under the new linking, it is presumed that the regiment will now retain its tartan.

‘‘I have, etc.,

(Signed) "R. BLUNDELL, A.A.G."

The depôt was to be at Inverness, but as the barracks there were not completed till 1886 it was temporarily located at Fort George. The establishment was fixed at 26 officers, 2 warrant officers, 48 serjeants, 23 drummers, and 800 rank and file; and the Highland Light Infantry Militia was added as the 2d Battalion, while the number 79th was dropped, and the designation became The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders. In consequence of the other army changes, the Honorary Colonel, General Sir John Douglas, was placed upon the retired list, as was also Lieutenant-Colonel Gumming, who had held command for only three years and nine months.

The latter, who received the honorary rank of Colonel, published the following Regimental Order on the occasion:-

"It having been notified to Lieutenant-Colonel Cumming that he is to be placed on the retired list under the provisions of the Royal Warrant of 25th June 1881, he wishes to express his deep regret at leaving the regiment in which he has served for 35 years. He also desires to thank the officers, noncommissioned officers, and men for the very cordial support he has invariably received from them during the period for which he has commanded the Corps, and he now wishes them farewell, confident that they will continue to maintain the high character for which the regiment has so long and so justly been famed."

Colonel Cumming was succeeded by Lieutenant-Colonel Leith, under whose command the battalion was, on the 17th and 18th of November, inspected by Major - General Adams, who expressed himself thoroughly satisfied with its efficiency; and a letter was subsequently received expressing the complete satisfaction of the Field-Marshal Commanding-in-Chief with the inspecting officer’s report.

Where matters in Egypt came to a crisis in July 1882, the Quartermaster-General telegraphed to Lord Napier of Magdala, Governor of Gibraltar, inquiring whether regimental transport could be furnished to the Cameron Highlanders if they should be required to embark, and as the answer was in the affirmative, every one set to work at once to prepare for active service. On the 14th of July the regiment was ordered to hold itself in readiness to embark, and from this time every telegram was eagerly scanned and discussed, and an intense feeling of excitement and enthusiasm pervaded the regiment. Bitter indeed was the regret when an order was issued that all men under 20 years of age were to be left behind, and though application after application was made to have this altered, the only modification permitted was in the case of drummers. On the 30th Lord Napier received a telegram that H.M.S. "Orontes" would reach Gibraltar about the 4th of August for the purpose of conveying the battalion to Alexandria; on the 6th the baggage horses and mules were put on board; and on the 7th the final parade and inspection before starting took place in presence of Lord Napier at the New Mole. After the inspection Lord Napier addressed the regiment in the following terms:-

"Colonel Leith and The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders,—You are about to leave Gibraltar for active service, after having been quartered here for more than three years. Perhaps we take a special interest in you from having seen your young striplings grow up into fine men during the time you have been here. You have a very noble list of campaigns on your colours, commencing with Holland, then Egypt, the country to which you are again going; and there are few parts of the world where your colours have not been borne, and on every occasion they have gained honour, and I am sure it will be the same now if you have the opportunity.

"Your conduct during the long time you have been here has been most satisfactory; your steadiness and regularity in barracks and elsewhere has been remarkable. This is the foundation of a good regiment, and these qualities, combined in the fine men I see in your ranks, make me confident that the Cameron Highlanders can go any where and do anything. I shall have the pleasure and honour of reporting to Her Majesty that the Cameron Highlanders embarked in the best order, and not a single man absent. I now bid you farewell, wishing you every success, being sure that you will on all occasions do your duty, and that, if the opportunity should occur, you will cover yourselves with glory."

The strength of the battalion was 25 officers, 48 non-commissioned officers, and 599 drummers, pipers, and rank and file—a total of 672. The companies marched down to the quay as steadily as on an ordinary parade. The last farewells were said, and amidst a burst of cheering, and to the strains of "Auld Lang Syne" played by the bands on shore, followed by the "79th’s Farewell to Gibraltar" from the pipes on board, the "Orontes" started.

Alexandria was reached on the 14th, but the disembarkation was delayed for five days, the intervening time being occupied in an inspection by Lieutenant-General Sir John Ayde, K.C.B., Chief of the Staff, and in staining with tea the white belts, spats, and helmets, so that these might not show conspicuously against the desert sand. On landing, the regiment was conveyed by train to Ramleh, where, next morning, it was hurriedly called to arms in expectation of an attack, but its services were not required. On the 20th and 22d it took part in reconnaissances along the railway, but though the enemy was engaged there were no casualties.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites


On the 29th it was announced that the Highland Brigade, of which the 79th formed part, was to proceed to Ismailia to form a portion of the force which Sir Garnet Wolseley was collecting there; and accordingly, on the 30th, all arrangements having been completed and the camp struck, the regiment marched to Alexandria and embarked on the steam-transport "Lusitania," on board of which were also Lieutenant-General Sir E. B. Hamley and his staff. Anchor was dropped in Lake Temsah on the 1st of September, but though fatigue parties were daily sent on shore, no orders for landing were given until the 8th of the month, by which time the effective strength of the battalion had been, by the arrival of a draft from England, made up to 27 officers, 54 non-commissioned officers, and 750 rank and file. The disembarkation took place on the 9th, the valises and all baggage being sent on by train with the tents. Two days’ rations were taken in carts, and each man carried his blanket in place of his greatcoat, his mess-tin, and 70 rounds of ammunition. The desert march to El Magfa was, though short, very severe, and many of the men had to fall out; but all were present before the march was resumed next morning. So great was the thirst on reaching the camp-mg-ground, that a picket had to be posted at the fires where the cooks were preparing tea, in order to prevent the kettles from being emptied before the tea was put in. After such fatigue and the over powering heat and tainted air encountered during the following two days, the short rest at Kassassin before the advance on Telel-Kebir was very welcome. There was meanwhile a suppressed eagerness for the coming struggle, as the old 79th was going into battle for the first time since the Indian Mutiny, and, inasmuch as Arabi’s strongly intrenched position was to be stormed, there was no doubt that the loss would be considerable.

The following preparatory Brigade Order was issued on the 12th:-

"Commanding officers are to be very particular about the fitness of water-carts, which will be filled and follow in rear of the battalions; and to make sure, by the personal inspection of company officers at 5 P.M. to-day, that every man has his water-bottle full, if possible with cold tea.

"Commanding officers, through officers commanding companies, must impress upon their men the absolute necessity of carrying and husbanding rations, which will be issued to them to-day, as, until the period for which these rations are issued expires, nothing more can be obtained from the commissariat.

"As many spare water-bottles as possible will be sent to the brigade from headquarters, so that a certain number of each company will carry two water-bottles; to-night the men will carry 100 rounds of ammunition in their pouches, but no blankets. Officers commanding must arrange regimentally as to the best mode of carrying this extra ammunition.

"In each corps the mode must be uniform.

"In the event of a night march taking place, the utmost attention must be paid to perfect silence in the ranks ; the slightest sound when near the enemy might cause the miscarriage of the best-planned enterprise.

"Reserve ammunition of each battalion will follow it into action, and the most careful arrangements must be made by officers commanding for the bringing up of ammunition from the mules to companies engaged.

‘‘The stretchers assigned to each regiment must follow it in charge of the medical officer, who is responsible for the best arrangements which circumstances will permit of being made for the care of the wounded.

"The Major-General will see commanding officers at headquarters at 3 P.M."

After the return of Lieutenant-Colonel Leith to camp, the following Regimental Orders were issued:-

"Camp to be struck at 5.45 P.M. Tents, blankets, greatcoats, valises, and band instruments to be piled alongside the railway, and left in charge of a guard.

"The regiment to fall in at 6.30 P.M. Each man to carry 100 rounds of ammunition.

"The position of Tel-el-Kebir is to be attacked with the bayonet; no one is to load, not a shot is to be fired until over the intrenchments."

The position assigned to the Cameron Highlanders was the left centre of the Highland Brigade, with the 75th and 42nd to the right, and the 74th to the left, and the right of the A company had the honour of being the flank of direction for the brigade—Lieutenant R. Macleod, the right guide, being directed by Lieutenant Rawson, R.N., who was guided by the stars. After a short halt at Nine-gun Hill, the advance was resumed at 1 A.M., and then began that weird night-march over the desert, long to be remembered by the army and by the country—the monotonous tramp, the sombre lines, and the dimly discerned sea of sand faintly lighted by the stars, all combining to form an impressive sight, the memory of which will never be forgotten by those who took part in the operation. Just as dawn was breaking, two shots were fired from the left front, one of which killed a private, and in a few seconds these shots were followed by others, the bugles of the Egyptians rang out, shells screamed overhead, and a living stream of fire poured from the enemy’s trenches. Bayonets were silently fixed, and the 79th moved steadily on in an unbroken line, not a shot being fired in reply. On the "advance" being sounded by Drummer John Alcorn, Lieutenant - Colonel Leith galloped to the front, waving his sword and calling, "Come on the 79th;" and then, breaking into double time to the shrill music of the pipes, the men cheering as they ran, the regiment charged the line of intrenchments. Private Donald Cameron was the first to gain the top of the trench, but fell dead at once, shot through the head; but through the now full trench, mounting on each other’s shoulders and scrambling up, the front line gained the fiery top. Lieutenant Malcolm at once sprang down among some gunners, and, though wounded, succeeded in making good his position. Men fell fast, as flash after flash continued along the line, until the bayonets had done their work, and the inside of the rampart was full of dead and dying. The Egyptians retreated straight to the rear, turning from time to time and kneeling to fire, the front line following them up in a confused mass— Pipe-Major Grant playing "The March of the Cameron Men" lustily. The second line, which had now surmounted the works, became mixed with the first; and before any effort to reform the regiment could be successful, it was evident that a heavy cross-fire from shelter trenches on each side must be silenced. Advancing therefore to the left in skirmishing order, a portion of the battalion, under Lieutenants Urquhart, Grant, and Cavaye, speedily cleared the trench on that side, and drove the enemy along it and through a small camp to the trench in the rear. Major Chalmers, with Lieutenants D. F. Davidson and Ewart, at the same time led a small body of men against, and speedily captured, a two-gun redoubt in front; and Colour-Sergeants Newall, Young, and M’Laren, and Corporal Syme, advanced against another on the left, killed the gunners in it, drove across the Canal some Egyptian cavalry who were preparing to charge, and turned a captured Krupp gun against the retreating foe.

The remainder of the regiment, under Lieutenant-Colonel Leith, with Lieutenants Campbell, Mackenzie, C. Davidson, and Scott-Elliot, pushed on, along with the 42nd and 75th, to the trench in front, and after clearing this of the enemy, arrived at the crest of the hill overlooking the camp and railway station. The latter part of the progress of the British force was more a prolonged rush than anything else. "Without any great regard," says Lieutenant-General Hamley, "to the order of the ranks, or awaiting the coming up of troops constantly left behind, the advance was pushed at a great pace along the last line held by the enemy. . . . So rapid was the advance, that on reaching the last work there were not above two hundred men and officers in the front line; the colonel of the 79th was one of them, but I do not remember whether the rest were all of that regiment, or partly of the 75th; Sir Archibald Alison was also among them on foot."

From the rising ground thus gained, a terrible scene of confusion was visible. The Egyptians were leaving the camp by hundreds, some running across the desert, some along the railway, and some in their excitement jumping into the canal. A train full of fugitives had just started, and, in spite of the artillery which had by this time arrived on the hill in rear of the lines, it got safely away. The Highland Brigade, with portions of the 46th and 60th Regiments which had now come up, speedily cleared the camp of all the remaining Egyptians. The battle was won, and Arabi’s great force was melting away in the distance never to gather again.

After Major-General Alison had been greeted with a hearty cheer as he passed, Lieutenant-Colonel Leith ordered that the men should occupy some of the Egyptian tents and rest in their shade, while Sergeant-Major Campbell and a body of volunteers, shaking off the fatigue of their recent exertions, nobly set off at once to give such assistance as they could to the wounded; and it need hardly be said how acceptable their services were to Surgeon-Major Will, who, in spite of a severe attack of illness, from which he had been suffering ever since the regiment left Ramleh, was diligently devoting all his energies to caring for those that had been injured, and trying to alleviate their sufferings. The regiment lost 13 men killed in action, and had 3 officers (2 dangerously) and 44 non-commissioned officers and men wounded, of whom 4 afterwards died from their wounds. The following officers, non-commissioned officers and men, were reported to Major-General Sir A. Alison as having specially distinguished themselves:- Captain and Adjutant Baynes, Lieutenants Malcolm and Macdougal, Surgeon-Major Will, Sergeant-Major Campbell, Colour-Sergeants Newall, Young, M’Laren, Gunn, and M’Neil, Sergeant- Piper Grant, Sergeant - Drummer Sanderson, Sergeants Souter and Donald Gunn, Corporal Syme, and Privates Taylor, Chalmers, and Sheehan; while Lieutenant Colonel Leith, Major M’Causland, Captain Hunt, Sergeant-Major Campbell, and all the above-mentioned non-commissioned officers and privates were subsequently mentioned in Sir Garnet Wolseley’s despatch.

The day after the battle, the Cameron Highlanders advanced to Zagazig, whence they were, after a day’s rest, sent on to Benha, where a large building within the enclosure of the palace was occupied as quarters. The baggage had all been left behind, and the only bedding was green sugar-canes strewn over the stone floor. At Cairo, which was reached on the evening of the 16th, the only accommodation available was some unoccupied rooms in the citadel, and as the stone floors had not been cleaned since the Egyptian troops marched out, the dirt and smell were beyond description. There, nevertheless, the men had to remain till the 21st, when camp was formed at Gezireh, close to the 74th Highlanders. The brigade was again completed on the 23d by the arrival of the Black Watch from Belbeis, and on the 10th of October the army ceased to be an army in the field.

On the 21st, Major-General Sir Archibald Alison handed over the command of the brigade to Major-General Graham, V.C., and at a parade in "fighting dress," delivered the following address:-

"Officers and men of the Highland Brigade,—The exigencies of the service require that I should this day lay down the command which three short months ago I took up with so much pride. I cannot quit the brigade without returning my best and most sincere thanks to the officers commanding battalions for the warm and uniform support which I have ever received from them, and which has made my command to me a period of constant pleasure. I have to thank the officers for the admirable way in which they have always discharged their duties. I have to thank the non-commissioned officers and men for their excellent conduct in quarters, and their brilliant gallantry in the field.

"It was the dream of my youth to command a Highland Brigade! It has been granted to me in my old age to lead one in battle. This brigade has been singularly fortunate in having had assigned to it so important a part in what must ever be considered one of the most brilliant victories which have been won by our arms in modern times.

"There is one thing that I want to impress upon you. and that is,—it was not the fiery valour of your man over the entrenchments of Tel-el-Kebir, but the disciplined, restraint of the long night march over the desert preceding it which I admired the most. That was one of the most severe tests of discipline which could be exacted from men, and by you it was nobly borne. When in the early dawn we looked down from the summit of the ridge upon the camp of Arabi lying defenceless at our feet, and upon Isis army dissolving before us, the first thought that came into my mind was, that had my old chief Sir Colin Campbell risen from his grave, he would have been proud of you. He would have thought that you had well maintained the reputation of the Highland regiments, amid the honour of the Scottish name; he would have deemed you the worthy successors of that now historic brigade which he led up the green slope of Alma.

"I cannot do better than wish that you may afford to that distinguished officer, Major-General Graham, to whom I have this day handed over the brigade, the same satisfaction that you have given to me. And now, to every commanding officer, to every officer, to every non-commissioned officer, and to every man of the Highland Brigade, I wish God speed."’

On the 29th the regiment moved back to the citadel, of which Lieutenant-Colonel J. M. Leith became commandant. For services during the campaign, Lieutenant-Colonel Leith was made a C.B., and received the 3d class of the Medjidieh; Major M’Causland was promoted to a Brevet Lieutenant Colonelcy, and received the 4th class of the Osmanlie; Captain Hunt became a Brevet-Major, and received the 4th class of the Medjidieh and Lieutenant Blackburn received the 5th class of the Medjidieh; while for their gallant services at Tel-el-Kebir, Colour-Sergeant Young and Sergeant Donald Gunn received distinguished-conduct medals, and Sergeant Souter was promoted to a Lieutenancy in the Black Watch.

On the 21st of February 1883, the regiment paraded at 11.30 A.M. for the presentation of the war medals by Lady Alison, who was accompanied by Major-General Graham. Whilst the regiment was waiting, drawn up in line at Olsen order, Field-Marshal the Right Honourable Lord Napier of Magdala, who was travelling in Egypt, came up, and was received with a Field-Marshal’s salute. It did the regiment good to see him again, and the inclination to raise a hearty cheer for the fine old soldier who had so much endeared himself to every one whilst at Gibraltar, and whose name will never be forgotten by the 79th Cameron Highlanders, was repressed with difficulty. Previous to the distribution, General Graham addressed the regiment, complimenting it on its past career, and regretting the absence of Sir Archibald Alison, who, he said, having been with it in action, would have spoken more accurately of the exemplary services it had rendered during the recent campaign, and especially as to the gallant storming of Telel-Kebir. He concluded by saying, "You men who have survived that gallant charge, and who are about to receive your medals, must not forget those intrepid comrades whose lives were sacrificed, and especially would I mention Private Donald Cameron, who was first into the trenches, and died shot through the head."

Colonel Leith replied, thanking General Graham for the kind manner in which he had referred to the regiment, and expressing a hope that it would in the future maintain the high reputation which it had hitherto enjoyed. The medals were then distributed, Lady Mison pinning them on the breasts of those who had specially distinguished themselves. The bronze stars granted by H.H. the Khedive were presented to the regiment on the 2d of June in Abdin Square.

In the month of June 1883, the establishment of the regiment was reduced to home strength, and as the order was to take effect from the 1st of April, it was at the time 69 above the proper number, and all recruiting was in consequence unfortunately stopped. In July cholera, which bad been raging for some time in Egypt, in most of the towns north of Cairo, seized the troops at the capital, those who were sick in hospital being the first attacked, and in most cases the first to succumb. Four men of the 79th died on the 24th of July, and on the following day the regiment moved into camp on the Moktam heights, about a mile from the citadel, leaving G company in charge of the barracks. The change from the foul atmosphere of the citadel to the fresh air outside resulted in an almost complete cessation of the epidemic, and whilst the regiment was under canvas there were only two cases, of which one, that, unfortunately, of the gallant Pipe-Major Grant, terminated fatally. Others, however, occurred in the detachment left behind, and the total number who died during the outbreak was ten. The regiment returned to the citadel on the 1st of September.

On the 14th of November the members of the regiment were present in spirit at the ceremony (see the account of the 92nd) of placing the old colours of many of the Scottish regiments in St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh. One of the stands was that carried by the 79th from 1828 to 1854. The flags, presented at Montreal on the 18th of June (the anniversary of Waterloo), had, when retired immediately before the departure of the regiment for the Crimea, passed into the possession of Lieutenant-Colonel the Hon. Lauderdale Maule, by whose relative, the Right Honourable the Earl of Dalhousie, K.T., they were now gifted to the committee charged with the St Giles’ arrangements. In the procession from Edinburgh Castle to the Cathedral they were carried by Lieutenants Hacket-Thompson and Urmston (93rd), and escorted by Colour-Sergeants Smith and Templeman from the depot at Fort George.

The disastrous effects of the reduced establishment were felt in January 1884, when, though recruiting for the regiment was again open, recruits came in very slowly, and on the departure of the expedition to Suakim under Major-General Sir Gerald Graham, V.C., K.C.B., in February, the regiment was so numerically weak (49 under home establishment), that it could not form part of the force. Three officers, however, and a number of men who volunteered, were fortunate enough to take part in the operations, Captain Baynes, Assistant Military Secretary to Sir Gerald Graham, carried home the despatches, in which he was mentioned, and received a brevet majority and the addition of two clasps to his medal; Lieutenant Scott, Aid-de-Camp to General Graham, was mentioned in despatches, and received the two clasps; while Lieutenant C. Davidson, who was doing duty with the 1st Battalion of the Gordon Highlanders, received the two clasps. During General Graham’s absence, Lieutenant-Colonel Leith was in command of the 2nd Brigade at Cairo.

On the 1st of April the establishment was again raised to the satisfactory strength of 809 of all ranks; but thereafter, except the movements of companies to various points on detachment duty, nothing of importance occurred till the 9th of September, when Lord Wolseley arrived in Egypt to assume command of the force intended to proceed up the Nile to the relief of Major-General Gordon, who, early in the year, accompanied by Colonel Stewart, had undertaken to relieve the Egyptian garrisons in the Soudan, and to restore order about Khartoum, but whose situation had, in consequence of the rapid spread of the Mahdist rebellion, become exceedingly critical. On the 19th of September, Lord Wolseley inspected the regiment, expressing himself highly pleased with the fine appearance of the men; and on the 18th of November —-the interval being necessary on account of the extensive commissariat arrangements required along the river—the Cameron Highlanders left Cairo by rail for Assiout, and were thence conveyed on barges and steamers to Assouan, which was reached on the 30th of the month. Here orders were given to proceed to Korosko, and on the 1st of December the battalion disembarked, and, after proceeding by rail to Shelal at the head of the First Cataract, was conveyed to its destination in barges towed by steamers and in diabehas.

Korosko, the name given to a few mud huts lying midway between Assouan and Wady Haifa, was important as commanding the northern end of the desert route to Abu Rained (270 miles in length, and avoiding all the most difficult cataracts of the Nile), which is distant only 10 days by camel from Khartoum. This route the regiment hoped to open up, and so take an active part in the subsequent operations. These hopes were, however, doomed to disappointment, for on the 28th of January Lieutenant-Colonel Leith, who was in command of the station, received from Lord Wolseley the sad news of the fall of Khartoum and the death of General Gordon. The river and desert columns were ordered to retire on Korti, and the Arab levies were disbanded, so that all chance of active service seemed over, when a telegram arrived from Sir Evelyn Wood, V. C., intimating that the Cameron Highlanders would spend the summer at Korosko, and that, with a view to comfort and health, huts for the men should at once be erected—an order which seemed to point to an intention on the part of Lord Wolseley to keep the army in summer quarters in the Soudan, and to advance again on Khartoum in the autumn.

On the 29th of February the battalion lost the valuable services of Major Baynes, who had acted as adjutant for over four years, and who now left the regiment to take up duty on the staff of General Sir Gerald Graham; and on the 31st of March a still greater loss was suffered through the departure of Lieutenant-Colonel Leith, who had received the appointment of Assistant Quartermaster-General at Suakim. As Colonel Leith’s period of command had nearly expired, this appointment necessitated his saying farewell to the Cameron Highlanders, of whom he took leave in the following Regimental Order:-

"Colonel Leith, having been ordered to proceed to Suakim, bide farewell, with great regret, to the 79th Cameron Highlanders, in which he has served for thirty-one years, and which he has had the honour to command for nearly five years. Never could a Commanding Officer have a prouder command, or one more easy to exercise, owing to the cordial and efficient support he has always received from the officers; to the zeal and ability shown by the warrant officers, staff-sergeants, and non-commissioned officers in maintaining the discipline and high reputation of the regiment which it always has and always will enjoy; and to the general good conduct and soldier-like qualities of the men, whether in the field or quarters."

Colonel Leith was succeeded by Lieutenant Colonel St Leger, and Major Baynes as adjutant by Lieutenant Ewart.

The progress of the hutting operations was personally inspected by Lord Wolseley on the 7th of April, and by the middle of May accommodation was ready for eight companies. Just at this time a few cases of small-pox occurred, but the prompt measures taken to prevent the spread of the disease were successful, and the outbreak was stopped. On the 11th of May, Major Money left on appointment as Assistant Military Secretary to Major-General Sir F. Stephenson, K.C.B., commanding in Lower Egypt.

It had now been decided to withdraw the Nile and Suakim expeditions, and fresh dispositions being thus necessary, the Cameron Highlanders became part of the Frontier Field Force under Major-General Grenfell, intended to hold the Soudan frontier. For this purpose the 79th retained its position at Korosko; the West Kent Regiment was stationed at Wady Haifa, and the Yorkshire Regiment and 20th Hussars at Assouan. Colonel Leach, V.C., R.E., who had been appointed to the command of the garrison at Korosko, arrived on the 16th of July, and on the following day inspected the regiment, and complimented all ranks on having maintained such a smart and soldier-like appearance under suck disadvantageous circumstances. Under the new commander the hutting arrangements were quickly finished, and the camp put in a complete state of defence, every one having worked hard and cheerfully notwithstanding the great heat and the trying climate.

No long period of rest was, however, permitted, for on the 5th of October orders were received that the regiment was to be held in readiness to proceed to Wady Halfa, as a large Arab force was advancing against that station and Akasheh; and when Lieutenant-General Stephenson came, on the 10th, to make his inspection, all was ready for the start. The relieving (the Yorkshire) regiment having arrived on the 13th, the Cameron Highlanders embarked, and were conveyed up the Nile by steamers and barges, Wady Halfa being reached on the 17th. Here orders were received that the right half-battalion and headquarters should remain under canvas, while the left half-battalion, under Lieutenant-Colonel Everett (who had been promoted from a majority for services in the Soudan), was to occupy advanced posts at Kosheh and Akasheh. Lieutenant-Colonel Everett, with two companies, remained at the latter place, while the former position—a small brick fort 113 miles south of Wady Haifa and 26 miles from Akasheh—was held by two companies under Major Chalmers. In the end of October a reinforcement of 50 men for each post was received from the right half-battalion, and on the 9th of November the D company, under Major Annesley, was sent to Sarras, 37 miles south of Wady Haifa, to protect the railway to Akasheh while 12 men, under Sergeant A. Mackenzie, occupied a block-house at Mograt Wells. Meanwhile, as the Arab advance had become more threatening, the whole of the left half-battalion had been concentrated at Kosheh on the 7th, and on the 19th the whole of the right half-battalion moved to Akasheh, and thence to an old ruined Arab fort at Mograkeh, which was now put in a state of defence so as to keep open the line of communication between Akasheh and Kosheh. As it was known that the Soudanese were approaching rapidly, every one worked cheerfully and hard at the defences at both stations. The old towers at Mograkeh were quickly loopholed, the walls cut down and banquettes constructed, and a zareba of mimosa formed at the most exposed points; while at Kosheh trees were felled, the ground levelled, and a zareba constructed on the west bank of the river.

The right half-battalion, having been relieved by the 3d battalion of the Egyptian army, advanced to Kosheh, where, on the hills above Amara, the enemy had been seen in great force on the 28th, and where the garrison now consisted of the Cameron Highlanders, a troop of the 20th Hussars, a troop of mounted infantry, a detachment of the Royal Artillery, and a detachment of Egyptian soldiers, while H.M.S. "Lotus" and "Shaban" patrolled the river. Between the 29th of November and the 4th of December the cavalry and mounted infantry were out skirmishing, and efforts were made to induce the enemy to attack, while on two occasions the "Lotus" hotly engaged the opposing forces along both banks. On the 5th of December the Arabs advanced on both sides of the river, occupying the sand-hills on the west, and the village, palm-grove, and "black rock" on the east, about 700 .yards from the Fort, on which, as well as on the zareba, they kept up an almost ceaseless musketry fire from this time till the end of December.

As soon as it became evident that the enemy did not mean to attack in earnest, but to harass and annoy the garrison as much as possible, traverses, covered ways, magazine trenches, and other internal defences were constructed for the protection of the men, and the force was divided into three watches, so that a third of the number was always ready to repel any attack and to return the Arab fire; while, on the 9th, detachments of the Cameron Highlanders and Egyptians, under Major Annesley, cleared the palm-grove and houses on the east bank of the Nile, and set fire to the village; and again, on the 16th, two companies of the Highlanders, under Lieutenant-Colonel Everett, made a demonstration against the village and black rock, the latter position being cleared. The enemy’s shell-fire from the west bank was about this time particularly destructive, a number of officers and men being killed or severely wounded. The loss of Lieutenant W. G. Cameron, who died of wounds, was much felt, the commanding officer saying, in the regimental order announcing his death, that the regiment had "lost a most promising and gallant young officer, whose zeal and readiness to perform any duty, however difficult or dangerous, will long be remembered by all who served with him."

On the 28th the enemy again showed in great strength on the hills near Giniss, as if meditating an attack, but the arrival of Lieutenant-General Sir F. Stephenson at Mograkeh on the 29th, with 4000 British and Egyptian troops, put an end to all the Arab hopes; and the investment of Kosheh, which had lasted for thirty-one days, was at an end. On the following day the dervish force was attacked and routed, the Cameron Highlanders and Egyptians carrying the village of Kosheh at the point of the bayonet, and afterwards occupying and burning the village of Giniss, where they bivouacked for the night. Next morning two companies, under Captain Hacket-Thompson, dislodged some dervishes, who were still holding out in a fortified house near Kosheh — an operation accomplished without loss—and then the battle of Giniss was over. The victory was complete, all the enemy’s standards and ammunition and five guns falling into the hands of the British and Egyptians. The loss of the Cameron Highlanders was 8 privates wounded, and during the siege one officer and 5 non-commissioned officers and men were killed or died of wounds, and 2 officers and 16 noncommissioned officers and men were wounded. For their services Colonel St Leger and Lieutenant-Colonel Everett received the Distinguished Service Order.

With Giniss active work came to an end, and as all ranks had suffered from the severe strain of the siege, the regiment was, on the 6th of January 1886, sent to Wady Halfa to recruit. During the spring it proceeded to Cairo, where it remained as part of the army of occupation till the 11th of March 1887, when it embarked on H.M.S. "Tamar" for home—Plymouth being reached on the 25th, and quarters taken up at Devonport Barracks. The day before the departure from Cairo it was announced in the Egyptian Gazette that H.H. the Khedive, desirous of recognising the distinguished conduct of the Cameron Highlanders at the battle of Giniss, where they had fought in line with the 9th battalion of the Egyptian Army, had been pleased to confer the 3d class of the Imperial Order of the Medjidieh on Lieutenant-Colonel Everett, the 4th class of the same order on Captain Napier, and the 5th class on Lieutenant Ewart; while he had also ordered, as a further mark of his favour, that the Master of Ceremonies should be in attendance at the Cairo railway terminus at the departure of the regiment, to wish it farewell and bon voyage on behalf of His Highness.

The gratification of reaching home after such glorious services was at first somewhat marred by rumours that the regiment was to be deprived of its historic position and dress, and converted into a 3d battalion of the Scots Guards, but the intention has happily been abandoned. An application has been made to the War Office for permission to send a recruiting detachment of an officer and 20 men to North Uist and the other western isles of Inverness-shire, for the purpose of trying to increase the number of Highlanders in the ranks, and form the nucleus of a second battalion.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites


Lieut.-Colonel Clephane, who for many years was connected with the Cameron Highlanders, has been good enough to furnish us with a number of anecdotes illustrative of the inner life of the regiment in his time. Some of these we have already given in the text, and we propose to conclude our narrative with one or two others, regretting that space does not permit our making use of all the material Colonel Clephane has put into our hands.

It may probably be affirmed, as a rule, that there exists in the regiments of the British army an amount of harmony and cordial reciprocation of interest in individual concerns, which cannot be looked for in other professional bodies. From the nature of the circumstances under which soldiers spend the best years of their lives, thrown almost entirely together, sometimes exclusively so, and moving, as fate and the War Office may determine, from one point to another of Her Majesty’s dominions on their country’s concerns, it naturally arises that an amount of familiar knowledge of each other’s characteristics is arrived at which in the world at large is rarely attainable. We should state that the period of the following reminiscences is comprehended between the year 1835 and the suppression of the Indian mutiny.

In the 79th Highlanders the harmony that existed among the officers, and the completeness of the chain of fellow-feeling which bound together all ranks from highest to lowest, was very remarkable. It used to be said among the officers themselves that, no matter how often petty bickerings might arise in the fraternity, anything like a serious quarrel was impossible; and this from the very reason that it was a fraternity, in the best and fullest sense of the word.

And now a temptation arises to notice one or two of those individual members of the regiment whose demeanour and eccentricities of expression furnished a daily supply of amusement :—There was a non-commissioned officer, occupying the position of drill-sergeant about five-and-thirty or forty years ago, whose contributions in this way were much appreciated. " I think I see him now," writes Colonel Clephane, "sternly surveying with one grey eye, the other being firmly closed for the time being, some unlucky batch of recruits which had unfavourably attracted his attention his smooth-shaven lip and chin, a brown curl brought forward over each cheek-bone, and the whole surmounted by the high white-banded sergeant’s forage cap of that day set at the regulation military angle over the right ear. He was a Waterloo man, and must have been verging on middle age at the time of which I write, but there was no sign of any falling off in the attributes of youth, if we except the slight rotundity beneath the waistbelt." No one could be more punctiliously respectful to his superior officers than the sergeant, but when he had young gentlemen newly joined under his charge at recruit drill, he would display an assumption of authority as occasion offered which was sometimes ludicrous enough. On one of these occasions, when a squad of recruits, comprising two newly-fledged ensigns, was at drill in the barrack square, the sound of voices (a heinous offence as we all know) was heard in the ranks. The sergeant stopped opposite the offending squad. There was "silence deep as death"— "Ah—m-—m!" said he, clearing his throat after a well-known fashion of his, and tapping the ground with the end of his cane—" Ah—m—m! if I hear any man talkin’ in the ranks, I’ll put him in the guard ‘ouse" (here he looked with stern significance at each of the officers in turn)—’’ I don’t care who he is I" Having thus, as he thought, impressed all present with a due sense of the respect due to his great place, he gave a parting "Ah—m—m!" tapped the ground once or twice more, keeping his eye firmly fixed to the last on the more suspected of the two ensigns, and moved stiffly off to the next batch of recruits. No one ever dreamed of being offended with old "Squid," as he was called, after his pronunciation of the word squad, and those who had, as he expressed it, "passed through his hands" would never consider themselves as unduly unbending in holding serious or mirthful colloquy with their veteran preceptor. Thus, on another occasion of considerably later date than the above, some slight practical joking had been going on at the officers’ mess, a practice which would have been dangerous but for the real cordiality which existed among its members, and a group of these conversed gleefully on the subject next morning after the dismissal of parade. The peculiar form assumed by their jocularity had been that of placing half a newspaper or so upon the boot of a slumbering comrade, and setting it on fire, as a gentle hint that slumber at the mess-table was objectionable. One officer was inclined to deprecate the practice. " If he had not awoke at once," said he, "he might have found it no joke." "Ah—m—m !" uttered the well-known voice close behind the group, where the sergeant, now dépôt sergeant-major, had, unnoticed, been a listener to the colloquy, " I always grease the paper." This was literally throwing a new light on the subject, and was the worthy man’s method of testifying contempt for all undue squeamishness on occasions of broken etiquette.

One or two subordinates in the same department were not without their own distinguishing characteristics. Colonel Clephane writes—’’I remember one of our drill corporals, whose crude ideas of humour were not un amusing when all were in the vein, which we generals were in those days. He was quite a young man, and his sallies came, as it were, in spite of himself, and with a certain grimness of delivery which was meant to obviate any tendency therein to relaxation of discipline. I can relate a slight episode connected with this personage, showing how the memory of small things lingers in the hearts of such men in a way we would little expect from the multifarious nature of their occupations, and the constant change to them of scenes and features. A young officer was being drilled by a lance-corporal after the usual recruit fashion, and being a tall slip of a youth he was placed on the flank of his squad. They were being marched to a flank in what was called Indian or single file, the said officer being in front as right hand man. When the word ‘halt’ was given by the instructor from a great distance off—a favourite plan of his, as testing the power of his word of command—the officer did not hear it, and, while the rest of the squad came to a stand still, he went marching on. He was aroused from a partial reverie by the sound of the well-known broad accent close at his ear, ‘ Hae ye far to gang the nichtl’ and, wheeling about in some discomfiture, had to rejoin the squad amid the unconcealed mirth of its members. Well, nearly thirty years afterwards, when probably not one of them, officer, corporal, or recruits, continued to wear the uniform of the regiment, the former, in passing through one of the streets of Edinburgh, came upon his old instructor in the uniform of a conducting sergeant (one whose duty it was to accompany recruits from their place of enlistment to the head-quarters of their regiments). There was an immediate cordial recognition, and, after a few inquiries and reminiscences on both sides, the quondam officer said jestingly, "You must acknowledge I was the best recruit you had in those days." The sergeant hesitated, smiled grimly, and then replied, "Yes, you were a good enough recruit; but you were a bad richt hand man!"

The sequel of the poor sergeant’s career furnishes an apt illustration of the cordiality of feeling wherewith his officer is almost invariably regarded by the fairly dealt with and courteously treated British soldier. A few years subsequent to the period of the above episode, Colonel Clephane received a visit at his house, quite unexpectedly, from his old instructor. The latter had been forced by this time, through failure of health, to retire from the active duties of his profession, and it was, indeed, evident at once, from his haggard lineaments and the irrepressible wearing cough, which from time to time shook his frame, that he had "received the route’ for a better world. He had no request to make, craved no assistance, and could with difficulty be persuaded to accept some refreshment. The conversation flowed in the usual channel of reminiscences, in the course of which the officer learned that matters which he had imagined quite private, at least to his own circle, were no secret to the rank and file. The sergeant also adverted to an offer which had been made to him, on his retirement from the 79th, of an appointment in the police force. "A policeman" said he, describing his interview with the patron who proposed the scheme "for Godsake, afore ye mak a policeman o’ sue, just tie a stane round my neck and fling me into the sea " After some time, he got up to retire, and was followed to the door by his quondam pupil, who, himself almost a cripple, was much affected by the still more distressing infirmity of his old comrade. The officer, after shaking hands, expressed a hope, by way of saying something cheering at parting, that he should yet see the veteran restored to comparative health. The latter made no reply, but after taking a step on his way, turned round, and said, in a tone which the other has not forgotten, "I’ve seen you once again any way ;" and so they parted, never to meet again in this world.

These are small matters, but they furnish traits of a class, the free expenditure of whose blood has made Great Britain what she is.

There is in all regiments a class which, very far remote as it is from the possession of the higher, or, at all events, the more dignified range of attributes, yet, as a curious study, is not undeserving of a few notes. It is pretty well known that each officer of a regiment has attached to his special service a man selected from the ranks, and in most cases from the company to which he himself belongs. Now, it is not to be supposed that the captain of a company will sanction the employment in this way of his smartest men, nor, indeed, would the commanding officer be likely to ratify the appointment if he did; still, I have seen smart young fellows occasionally filling the position of officer’s servant, though they rarely continued long in it, but reverted, as a rule, sooner or later, to their places in the ranks, under the influence of a soldier’s proper ambition, which pointed to the acquisition of at least a non-commission officer’s stripes not to speak of the difference between Her Majesty’s livery and that of any intermediate master, however much in his own person deserving of respect. The young ensign, however, in joining will rarely find himself accommodated with a servant of this class. He will have presented to him, in that capacity, some steady (we had almost said "sober," but that we should have been compelled forthwith to retract), grave, and experienced old stager, much, probably, the worse of wear from the lapse of time and from subsidiary influences, and serving out his time for a pension (I speak of lays when such things were), after such fashion as military regulations and an indulgent captain permitted. This sort of man was generally held available for the newly joined ensign, upon much the same principle as that which places the new dragoon recruit on the back of some stiff-jointed steed of super natural sagacity and vast experience of a recruit’s weak points in the way of security of seat, which last, however, he only puts to use when he sees a way of doing so with benefit to his position, unaccompanied with danger to his hide ; in other words, while regarding with much indifference the feelings of the shaky individual who bestrides him, he has a salutary dread of the observant rough-rider. A soldier servant of the above class will devote himself to making what he can, within the limits of strict integrity, out of a juvenile master but woe betide the adventurous wight whom he detects poaching on his preserve ! On the whole, therefore, the ensign is not badly off for the veteran is, after all, really honest, and money to almost any amount may be trusted to his supervision; as for tobacco and spirits, he looks upon them, I am afraid, as contraband of war, a fair and legitimate forfeit if left within the scope of his privateering ingenuity.

Many years ago, while the 79th Highlanders formed the garrison of Edinburgh Castle, Her Majesty the Queen, who had very lately ascended the throne of Great Britain, paid a visit to the metropolis of her Scottish dominions, and a guard of honour from the above regiment was despatched down to Holyrood to keep watch and ward over the royal person. It was late in the season, or early, I forget which, Colonel Clephane writes, and when the shades of evening closed round, the officers of the guard were sensible, in their large, gloomy chamber, of a chilly feeling which the regulated allowance of coals failed to counteract. In other words, the fuel ran short, and they were cold, so it was resolved to despatch one of their servants, a type of the class just alluded to, for a fresh supply. Half-a-crown was handed to fun for this purpose—a sum which represented the value of more than a couple of hundredweights in those days,—.and Donald was instructed to procure a scuttlefull, and bring back the change. Time went on, the few embers in the old grate waxed dimmer and dimmer, and no Donald made his appearance. At last, when the temper of the expectant officers had reached boiling point, increasing in an inverse ratio to their bodily caloric, the door opened, and Donald gravely entered the apartment. The chamber was vast and the light was dim, and the uncertain gait of the approaching domestic was at first unnoticed. Calmly disregarding a howl of indignant remonstrance on the score of his dilatory proceedings, the latter silently approached the end of the room where the two officers were cowering over the dying embers. It was now seen that he carried in one hand a piece of coal, or some substance like it, about the size of a sixpounder shot. "Where have you been, confound you! and why have you not brought the coals I" roared his master. Donald halted, steadied himself, and glanced solemnly, first at the "thing" which he carefully bore in his palm, then at the speaker’s angry lineaments, and in strangely husky accents thus delivered himself:-

"Not another—hic—bit of coal in Edinburgh; coalsh—hic—--’sh very dear just now, Mr Johnstone!" The delinquent’s master was nearly beside himself with fury when he saw how the matter stood, but he could not for the life of him help, after a moment or two, joining in the merriment which shook the very frame of his comrade. Donald, in the meantime, stood regarding both with an air of tipsy gravity, and was apparently quite bewildered when ordered to retire with a view to being placed in durance vile. This incident naturally ended the connection between him and his aggrieved master. It is but fair to state that the hero of the above little anecdote, though I have called him "Donald," was a Lowlander.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Great coverage of a proud regiment. Well done yet again Larry!

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks Chilli, I know there are a few folks out there who enjoy these. I have a few more I want to add...

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Makes for some very interesting reading. Thanks.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

To take the time and effort to put this together and share it with us wow thank you. Any one who has served can appreciate this again thank you

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank-you for posting this. My great-grandfather, QMS James Knight, was a member of the 79th from 1854 to 1885. Most of what i know about him I have learned through regimental histories, including this one. I have a newspaper clipping from 1873 with an illustration of Queen Victoria reviewing his medals at Osborne, as was noted in the text..

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow . . . Thank You for the incredible research Cactus! I'm a Clark, which means we fight alongside Camerons.

Great Stuff! Again, thanks!

Semper Fi


Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now