Military Wiki
Gordon Highlanders
Cap Badge of the Gordon Highlanders
Active 1881 - 1994
Country Scotland, UK
Branch British Army
Type Line Infantry
Part of Scottish Division
Garrison/HQ Gordon Barracks, Aberdeen
Motto(s) Bydand[1]
March Cock o' the North
Engagements Mysore
Peninsular War
South Africa 1899-1902
Battle honours Relief of Ladysmith
Battle of Kandahar
Ceremonial chief King Edward VIII
Henry William Frederick Albert, 1st Duke of Gloucester
HRH The Prince of Wales KG KT GCB AK QSO DC
Tartan File:Gordon tartan (Vestiarium Scoticum).png

The Gordon Highlanders was a British Army infantry regiment from 1881 until 1994. The regiment took its name from the Clan Gordon and recruited principally from Aberdeen and the North-East of Scotland.


92nd Highlanders at Kandahar
by Richard Caton Woodville (1856-1927).

The regiment was formed on 1 July 1881 instigated under the Childers Reforms. The new two-battalion regiment was formed out of the 75th (Stirlingshire) Regiment of Foot - which became the 1st Battalion of the new regiment - and the 92nd (Gordon Highlanders) Regiment of Foot, which became the 2nd.

The 75th Highlanders were raised in 1787 by Colonel Robert Abercromby of Tullibody for service in India, where they saw a great deal of action. They went on to serve in South Africa, the Indian Mutiny, Egypt and on the North-West Frontier.

The 92nd were raised as the 100th Highlanders by the Duke of Gordon in 1794 being renumbered 92nd in 1798. Their early service included the Low Countries and Egypt, followed by Corunna, the Peninsula, Waterloo, Afghanistan and South Africa.

The 92nd (2nd Bn Gordon Highlanders)served throughout the 2nd Afghan War culminating in the march from Kabul to Kandahar. Bound for return to England after years overseas, they were re-routed to S Africa to fight in the disastrous 1st Boer War. Severe casualties at Mujaba Hill.

The 75th now serving as the 1st Bn Gordon Highlanders fought at the battle of Tel-El-Kebir(Egypt) in 1882.

It was during 1897 operations on the North West Frontier (Oct), during the storming of the Dargai Heights that one of the regiment's most famous Victoria Crosses was earned. Piper George Findlater, despite being wounded in both legs, continued to play the bagpipes during the assault.

First World War

British troops, believed to be the 4th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders (20th Brigade, British 7th Division) crossing no man's land near Mametz on 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

The Gordons raised 21 battalions in the First World War, serving on the Western Front and in Italy and winning 65 battle honours.

The regular force battalions (1st and 2nd Gordons) were immediately assigned to the British Expeditionary Force on the outbreak of war. 3rd (Reserve) Gordons remained in Aberdeen to serve as the depot unit for the duration of the war. The 1st Gordons in Plymouth was assigned to 8 Brigade of the 3rd Division, while 2nd Gordons was assigned to 20 Brigade in the 7th Division following its recall from Cairo. The first line Territorial Force battalions; 1/4th (Aberdeen,) 1/5th (Buchan and Formartine), 1/6th (Banffshire and Donside), 1/7th (Deeside), were assigned to 153 (2nd Highland) Brigade of the 51st (Highland) Division. This brigade was also known as the Gordons Brigade until May 1915 because of its composition solely of Gordon Highlanders battalions. A further eight Territorial Force battalions (2/4th, 2/5th, 2/6th, 2/7th, 3/4th, 3/5th, 3/6th, and 3/7th) were formed as part of the second line Home Service. These units were chronically undermanned and ill-equipped throughout the war and did not serve overseas. Four Service battalions; 8th (Service), 9th (Service), 10th (Service), and 11th (Service), were formed as part of Lord Kitchener's New Army scheme with 9th Gordons eventually serving as a pioneer battalion. A 1st Garrison battalion was formed in 1916 for service in India.

Unusually, the Gordon Highlanders did not serve on any of the other battle fronts where British soldiers fought during the war. The sole exception was the 2nd Gordons which was sent as part of a joint Anglo-French force to aid the Italians in 1917 after their heavy defeat by Austro-German forces at the Battle of Caporetto.

The regiment lost 1,000 officers and 28,000 men during the war. The legendary folk singer and Scottish Traveller Jimmy MacBeath served with the regiment during this era.

Second World War

A further 27 honours were added in World War II when the regiment served in France in 1940, in Malaya, North Africa, Sicily, Italy and north-west Europe.

The 1st and 5th Battalions were with the 51st (Highland) Infantry Division during the Battle for France in 1940 when they were trapped and had to surrender at Saint-Valéry-en-Caux. The 1st Battalion was reformed in August 1940 and went on to serve with the second formation of the 51st Highland Division throughout the rest of the Second World War.

The 2nd Battalion was based in Malaya as part of the Singapore garrison and fought in the battle for Singapore in February 1942, surrendering along with 130,000 other British Commonwealth soldiers on 15 February. The men of this battalion suffered more casualties as Prisoners of War in Japanese captivity than they did during the fighting on Singapore Island and Malaya The 2nd Battalion was reformed in May 1942 from personnel of the 11th Battalion and fought with the 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division, throughout North West Europe. They formed part of 227th Highland Infantry Brigade - the Junior Brigade in the Division. They were involved in the heavy fighting around Cheux and Tourville-sur-Odon in Normandy, the fight for Holland and in the Battle of Uelzen in Germany near to the end of the war.

The 4th (City of Aberdeen) Battalion was converted to an artillery regiment on 1 November 1941, becoming the 92nd Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery, as part of the 9th Armoured Division, but saw no active service during the war.

The 6th (Banffshire) Battalion was transferred from the 51st Highland Division before it surrendered in 1940 and joined the 2nd Infantry Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division. The 6th Battalion fought through the North African and Italian Campaigns before ending the war on garrison duty in Palestine.

The 7th (Mar and Mearns) Battalion served with the second formation of the 51st Highland Division throughout the war.

The 8th (City of Aberdeen) Battalion was also converted to artillery, becoming the 100th Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery. This battalion served with the 2nd Infantry Division in the Burma Campaign.

The 9th (Donside) Battalion (originally part of the 9th (Highland) Infantry Division along with the 11th Battalion) were initially posted to the Shetland islands. Later they were amalgamated with the 5th Battalion and sent to India for training. Converted to an armoured regiment in 1942 as the 116th Regiment Royal Armoured Corps (Gordons), they continued to wear the Gordons cap badge on the black beret of the RAC.[2] 116th RAC were sent to Burma where as part of 255th Indian Tank Brigade they were involved in the dash for Rangoon and were heavily involved in the battle of Meiktila, signalling the end of Japanese hopes in Burma.

The London Scottish battalions were part of the Gordon Highlanders although they were a London-recruited regiment.


After the war the Gordons saw active service in the Malayan Emergency and Northern Ireland.

The regiment was amalgamated with The Queens' Own Highlanders (Seaforth and Camerons) on September 17, 1994 to form The Highlanders (Seaforth, Gordons and Camerons).

In 2006, The Highlanders were merged with Scotland’s other remaining infantry regiments to form The Royal Regiment of Scotland.

Victoria Cross recipients

Popular culture references

James Kennaway based the script for the movie Tunes of Glory on his experiences in the Gordon Highlanders.

The novelist George MacDonald Fraser was posted as a lieutenant to the 2nd Battalion in the immediate post-war period, and wrote three volumes of short stories (the "McAuslan" books), which were lightly fictionalised recollections of his time with the regiment.


The original tartan of the 75th is not certain but it may have been akin to what is now known as Campbell of Breadalbane. The 92nd has always worn the Government sett with a yellow stripe, which is worn as a clan tartan by those of the name Gordon.

The regimental marches were Cock o' the North, St Andrew's Cross and The Garb of Old Gaul. HRH The Prince of Wales was Colonel in Chief.


See also


  1. Meaning abiding, steadfast, an adjectival use of the Middle Scots present participle of bide.
  2. Forty p. 51.


  • Forty, George (1998). British Army Handbook 1939–1945. Sutton Publishing. ISBN 0-7509-1403-3. 
  • Royle, Trevor (2007). The Gordon Highlanders A Concise History. Mainstream Publishing Company. ISBN 9781845962708. 

External links

(9th Bn/116 RAC)
External images
Memorial to some of the men of the 1st Battalion who died during the Second Boer War (Genealogical Society of South Africa)
Memorial to the men of the 1st Battalion who died as a result of action in the Battle of Johannesburg (Genealogical Society of South Africa)
Memorial to the men of the 2nd Battalion who died of disease at Ladysmith (Genealogical Society of South Africa)
Memorial to the men of the 2nd Battalion who died of disease at Intombi during the Siege of Ladysmith (Genealogical Society of South Africa)
Memorial to the men of the 2nd Battalion who died at Van Wyk's Vlei (Genealogical Society of South Africa)
Memorial to the men of the 2nd Battalion who died at Wagon Hill during the Siege of Ladysmith (Genealogical Society of South Africa)

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