The Highland Light Infantry

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  • The Glasgow Necropolis, an extensive cemetery east of the city centre
    The Glasgow Necropolis, where many soldiers from the Highland Light Infantry are buried
  • The Highland Light Infantry in 1914. Courtesy of the Royal Highland Fusiliers Museum
    The Highland Light Infantry during training days at Gailes Camp in 1914
  • 16th Battalion Highland Light Infantry marching home in 1919. Courtesy of the Royal Highland Fusiliers Museum
    16th Battalion Highland Light Infantry marching home in 1919
  • Courtesy of the Royal Highland Fusiliers Museum
    Highland Light Infantry officer in the trenches

Popularly known as the HLI, the Highland Light Infantry recruited mainly from Glasgow and the surrounding lowlands, but it more than lived up to its title with distinguished Highland lineage and identity.

Active:

1 July 1881 – 20 January 1959

Type:

Line Infantry

Regimental Depot:

Maryhill Barracks, Glasgow

Nicknames:

The regiment was nicknamed ‘Hell’s Last Issue’ (a humorous backronym) and ‘The Glesga Keelies’ which it inherited from its parent regiment the 71st Highlanders during the Peninsular War.

Motto:

Montis insignia Calpe (Badge of the Rock of Gibraltar)

March:

The Bugle Horne (quick)

Tartan:

MacKenzie

Mascot:

Elephant

Origins:

The Highland Light Infantry was formed by the amalgamation of the 71st (Highland) Light Infantry and the 74th Regiment of Foot in the wake of Childers Reforms in 1881. But the regiment can trace its history back a further 100 years from this date. The 71st Highlanders was originally raised by John Mackenzie, Lord MacLeod, in 1771 as the 73rd (Highland) Regiment of Foot, the first clan regiment raised following the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War. The 74th Regiment of Foot was raised in 1787 by Archibald Campbell, their first colonel, and consequently known as Campbell's Highlanders.

Soon after these two Highland units joined forces, the regiment’s 2nd Battalion was deployed to Egypt before serving in India for 15 years. The 1st Battalion was posted to Malta and then fought in the Second Boer War before being deployed to India for a decade. The regiment was eventually amalgamated with the Royal Scots Fusiliers in 1959 to form the Royal Highland Fusiliers (Princess Margaret’s Own Glasgow and Ayrshire Regiment).

First World War:

Following the outbreak of the First World War the 2nd Battalion was immediately deployed to the Western Front and remained there for the duration of the conflict. The 1st Battalion arrived in December 1914 before being dispatched to Mesopotamia (Iraq) in January 1916. Over the course of the war the regiment raised an additional 14 territorial battalions, three of which served at Gallipoli in 1915, alongside 11 reserve and service battalions. Several of its officers were recipients of the Victoria Cross.

Highland Light Infantry 'Recruiting March' pamphlet, 1915. Courtesy of the Royal Highland Fusiliers Museum

The Highland Light Infantry 'Recruiting March' pamphlet, issued in January 1915.

Major battle:

The 16th (Service) Battalion (2nd Glasgow) was made up of former members of the Glasgow Battalion of the Boys' Brigade just before the outbreak of the war. It became known as the Glasgow Boys' Brigade Battalion and is remembered for the remarkable bravery of 60 of its D company members of the Frankfurt trench at the Battle of the Ancre, the last offensive of the Battle of the Somme.

After becoming surrounded and cut off behind enemy lines, the men of the Frankfurt Trench refused to surrender even after failed relief attempts. When the Germans stormed the trench they were met by just 15 wounded survivors, three of whom died soon afterwards. General Sir Hubert Gough praised their stand under Army Order 193.

 Did you know?

  • The Highland Light Regiment was the only regular Highland regiment to wear trews (tartan trousers) as part of their full uniform.
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