WW II, a British focus  




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The Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders have a long and distinguished record of service.


In 1808 during the Peninsular War, the 91st (now 1st Battalion The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders had joined Sir John Moor's army which was returning into the heart of Spain in order to relieve Madrid. Madrid fell before Moore could reach it, and found the enemy were surrounding him. He had no choice but to retreat to the nearest sea port Corunna, leaving his lines of communication, and sending an order to the fleet to meet him.

The conditions under which the retreat was made were terrible, -- lack of clothing, shortage of food, Artic cold, and the superior French armies in pursuit. Most of the British Army became a rabble. Only the Brigade of Guards and the rear guard never lost their morale or discipline.

The 91st were in the rear guard. On arrival at Corunna the French attacked, but were beaten off, the 91st Fighting beside the Brigade of Guards –and the embarkation was effected.


During the Second Kaffir War in South Africa, 1846-47, a draft of the 91st was going out to join the regiment which, together with drafts from ten other regiments, all young soldiers, was performed that most gallant and self-sacrificing act during the wreck of the Birkenhead, which showed a disciplined

Heroism even greater than that which has won battle honours. The ship struck a submerged rock off Simon's Town. Most of the boats were broken by the masts and funnels falling overboard. The men were fallen in on the quarterdeck. There they remained on parade, while the women and children were got off in such boats that were left, till the ship broke in two, and those who could saved themselves by swimming. Of 631 souls on board, only 103 were saved. Not a woman or child was lost. The German Emperor at that time was making an army out of the Prussians, ordered an account of this act to be posted up in every barrack Prussian barrack room as an example of what could be achieved by discipline.


During the Crimea War the 93rd (now 2nd Battalion The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders), with a few Marines and Turks, were the only troops left to cover the Base at Balaclava, which the Russians attempted to capture on October 25th, 1854. As the Russian Cavalry advanced the Turks fled. The 93rd formed in line and, unsupported, this single battalion broke the Russian cavalry charge by steady musket fire alone---a feat never before attempted by British infantry, square being the invariable formation. This action gained for them the name of " The Thin Red Line" and the battle honour of "Balaclava" which only they of the British Infantry Regiments bear.


In the Great War, of the 15 battalions which eventually composed the regiment, one or more were present at nearly all the famous battles in France, Flanders, Salonica, Gallipoli, Egypt and Palestine Including Mons and that retreat, the Marne, the Aisne, the battles around Ypers, the heavy fighting at Loos, the great offensives on the Somme and at Arras, and at all the subsequent actions, culminating in the defeat of the Germans and the victory of our arms, in comparison with which many of the old battle honourswere but skirmishes. To enumerate the gallant deeds of individual Battalions in these actions is not possible here. Captain Liddell, Lieutenants MacIntyre, Bisset, Buchan, Graham, and Henderson gained the V.C. The 12th Battalion were awarded the Croix De Guerre by the French, being one of the few Battalions in the British Armies which gained this high honor. Not only was the tradition of the regiment maintained by both old and new Battalions, but fresh honor has been added in enterprises, the magnitude of which our ancestors never dreamed.


The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders are composed of the Depot at Stirling Castle, the 1st Bn (which at present at home), and the 2nd Bn (which is abroad). These three units are separated sometimes by thousands of miles, but they have the same traditions and customs, and they wear the same uniform. Officers and men constantly change from one unit to another, and in the course of his service a soldier normally serves with each unit of the regiment in turn.


A recruit begins his service at the home of the regiment, the Depot at Stirling Castle. This grand old fortress has played for many centuries a leading part in Scottish history. Nearly two thousand years ago it was an out post of the Roman Empire. In 1304 it's garrison, under that gallant Scottish Knight, Sir William Oliphant of Aberdalgie, resisted for three months the onslaughts of the English Army under Edward the First. William Wallace knew it; for it's possession Robert the Bruce fought and won the Battle of Bannockburn. It was the favourite residence of the Scottish Kings and Queens, who planned the three great buildings which remain today. These are the Chapel Royal, where James the Sixth was Christened; the Parliament house, where recruits now live and sleep; and the Palace, where they eat their dinners in the very rooms in which Mary, Queen of Scots, once held her Court. Within these historic walls a recruit passes his first period of training for the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. The Castle is old, but for comfort and convenience it compares well with modern buildings. The soldiers have the use of a bath house with hot baths, a comfortable reading room with library, radio and news papers, a billiard room and canteen where all kinds of goods are sold very cheaply. The food is excellent and it is almost unknown for a recruit to lose weight during his time at the Depot. After enlisting, a recruit spends about six months at the depot. He is provided with a complete outfit of uniform and equipment free of charge, and as soon as possible he begins his military training in a squad of thirty men. This includes Drill, physical Training, Musketry, and education.

The physical Training is carried out under expert instructors. The gymnasium is large and well equipped. Each year a voluntary Gymnastic Display Team gives a performance at the Highland Gatherings at Oban and elsewhere. In addition to Physical Training, the gymnastic Staff give instruction in boxing and fencing to any soldiers who wish to learn these arts. In the winter a weekly dance is held in the gymnasium.

There are two Rifle Ranges at the Castle. At first the recruits are taught to shoot with the Miniature Rifle, and then when they have mastered the use of this they learn to use the Service Rifle. Voluntary shooting takes place in the evenings, and occasionally a Rifle meeting is held, when the more expert shots try their luck at competition shooting.

The Depot has a very good playing field, and Football, Cricket and Athletics form an important part in the recruit's training. Matches and competitions are arranged with other military units and with local civilian teams.


When a recruit's training at the Depot is completed, he is sent to the 1st Bn The Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders. This Bn, the old 91st Argyllshire Highlanders, was raised by Colonel Campbell of Lochnell in 1793. It played a distinguished part in the peninsular war, in several campaigns in South Africa, and in the Great War of 1914-18. In 1881 the 91st Argyllshire Highlanders were linked with the 93rd Sutherland Highlanders to form one Regiment—The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

Life in a Battalion at home is very different to the life at the Depot. By the time a man joins the 1st Bn he is able to carry out his military duties with less supervision than at the Depot, and his work is more interesting and varied. He may find himself performing in a Searchlight Tattoo, in a guard of Honor or in a Demonstration Platoon at a Territorial Army Camp. Soldiers are given a months furlough in winter, when they are allowed to wear Plain clothes.


The majority of soldiers stay for some time in the 1st Bn, and may then be drafted to the 2nd Bn, which is stationed abroad. The second Battalion, formally the 93rd Sutherland highlanders, was raised in 1799 by General Wemyss of Wemyss. Their history is a most distinguished one, and in the Crimea War and the Indian Mutiny they won undying fame.

At Balaclava they earned the honored name of "The Thin Red Line" and their gallant conduct at the siege and capture of Lucknow will never be forgotten.

In 1914 the 93rd were amongst the first troops to land in France, and in four years of fighting on the Western Front, they proved that their old martial qualities were unimpaired. The 93rd are distinguished in Peace no less than in War, and before they went abroad in 1927, they had one of the best football teams and one of the best Military Bands in the Kingdom, and they were reported on as being the "best trained Battalion in the British Army".


A soldier has a pleasant time at home, but the real British Army is the Army of India, China and Egypt. The Army guards our Empire. The soldier in a foreign garrison knows that on him and on his comrades depends the safety and peace of the Empire, and that he plays a part of real importance in the Imperial organization. Most soldiers look back on their foreign tour as the happiest and most useful period of their service. As many of the men who enlist in The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders may serve with the 2nd Bn in India, a description of the soldier's life in that country will be of interest.

The winter climate of India is one of the most perfect in the world. The nights are cold and fresh, and in the day time the sun shines brightly, but it is not too hot for exercise in the open air. The troops the troops work hard at military training, but there is plenty of time to play every kind of game. In the hot weather work finishes early in the day, and most men rest in the afternoon and take their exercise before sundown in the evening. In many stations the troops spend part of the hot weather at one of the hill stations. A number of Indian servants are attached to a Battalion , and much of the menial work which soldiers do at home is done for them by Indians.


The 2nd Bn has twice been on active service on the North West Frontier in the last few years. In 1935 they took part in the Mohmand Operations, and in 1937 they spent seven months in Wasiristan, where they had their full share of the fighting.


When a soldier's time in the Army is nearly finished, his Commanding Officer and his Company Commander give him all the help they can to attend a course at an Army Vocational Training Centre, Where he may learn a trade. They also help him to find work in civil life. There is a Regimental Association and Club with branches in Edinburgh, Glasgow and London, which is useful in helping ex soldiers of the A & S Highlanders to keep in touch with old comrades and finding civil employment after leaving the Regiment.

The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders combine the great tradition of the past with the amenities of modern life. The Army of today offers a useful and happy life, and no young Scotsman who enlists in the Argyll's is likely to regret it.

To-day the Regiment worthily maintains the traditions of the past. All serving members realize with pride that the honor of the Regiment is in their keeping. Recruits are welcomed at the Depot, where They are given every opportunity of showing their worth. In due course after they have completed their training at the Depot, they join the home Battalion, where an interesting, varied and useful life presents to all who make the effort. BUT there is no place in The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders for the man who is not prepared to give his best. T.O.B. 1997