The History of Army Piping and Pipe Bands


The precise history of Bagpipes is unclear and there are various claims as to their origin. It has been suggested that they originated in the Middle East and were brought to Scotland by Celtic forefathers; whereas others claim that the instrument was introduced to the Scots by the Romans. Wherever the credit lies, it cannot be denied that the Bagpipes were adopted by the Scots, who gave them the distinctive music and idiom which has become identified as Scotland’s national musical instrument. There is also no doubt that it was in the Scottish Highlands that the modern Great Highland Bagpipe was developed. The birth of Bagpipe music as we know it today can be traced directly to the MacCrimmon family in the Isle of Skye, who were hereditary Pipers to the MacLeods between 1600 and 1825; and who ran a College of Piping at Borreraig in Skye from around 1670.

There are, however, also strong links between Bagpipe music, Pipe Bands and the British Army; and clear evidence that Scottish Regiments played a major role in the development of Pipe Bands. Between 1740 and 1840 it was customary for Highland Chiefs who raised Regiments to take their personal Piper with them; but it was not until 1854 that Pipers were recognised officially by the then War Office. Drummers on the other hand were recognised in military circles much earlier as in these days military commands were beaten out on the drum

Army Pipe Bands developed around the mid-1800s, when regimental Pipers and Drummers would play together on long route marches in order to keep a steady tempo and maintain the morale of the troops. The Head Piper became known as the Pipe Major. As the British Empire expanded, so its Scottish troops travelled the world taking with them their national music. Scots who emigrated to the New World and beyond also effectively spread Scottish culture and traditional Scottish music around the world. There is also evidence that the suppression of the Highland clans by the British Army following the Battle of Culloden was a major factor in Scottish emigration to America and other countries. All this contributed to generating the strong interest in Piping and Pipe Band music which exists worldwide today. Bagpipes are also often referred to as an instrument of war and there is no doubt that they were used as a motivational tool for British troops and as a means of creating fear among the enemy, particularly during World Wars 1 and 2.

Army School of Bagpipe Music and Highland Drumming

The Army School of Bagpipe Music and Highland Drumming dates back to the year 1902, when a provisional committee of five piping enthusiasts consulted interested friends with the proposal to form a Society which would have as its objectives “the preservation of all Old Highland Piobaireachd and the dissemination of knowledge concerning them”. The need for the Society was based on the lack of Pipers’ repertoires, the standards of playing, the urgent need for some kind of collection and preservation of Piobaireachd manuscript, and the lack of Piobaireachd studies generally. This situation arose after the emergence of Pipe Bands, as before this Pipers played mostly Piobaireachd, with light tunes only supplementing their repertoires. Like any new development, Pipe Bands had progressively become more and more popular with greater emphasis placed on music more suited to concert playing.

The Society duly formed was named “The Piobaireachd Society” and it held its first meeting in Edinburgh on 19 January 1903. From the outset it had a very strong Military flavour, the majority of its members being serving Officers. Teaching was not one of the early objectives of the Society but it soon became apparent that, if more Pipers were to be encouraged to play Piobaireach, teaching would be the best method to use. It was not until 1907, however, that the following three instructors were appointed:

  • John MacDonald (Inverness)
  • John MacDougall Gillies
  • John MacColl

A number of other prominent pipers taught on behalf of the Society but those three were the main instructors. Their first priority was to teach the tunes the Society had chosen for the major competitions at Oban and Inverness, and among the many aspiring pupils were Regimental Pipers. In view of the interest shown by Army Pipers an arrangement was made with the then War Office that the Army would provide the facilities if the Piobaireachd Society paid the instructor. On 15 October 1910 John MacDonald was duly appointed instructor for The Army Class. Although the Piobaireachd Society wanted the Class to be held in Edinburgh, the War Office decided that it would be held in Cameron Barracks, Inverness. The Passing-Out Parade was, however, held at Edinburgh Castle on 17 January 1911. The Class lasted for three months but was deemed to be too short and was subsequently increased to six months.

John MacDonald complained continually about the facilities in Inverness and the lack of inspections by the Piobaireachd Society, primarily due to the distance between Inverness and Edinburgh. The Class was, therefore, moved to Edinburgh Castle on 5 January 1914, although the accommodation there realistically was no better than at Cameron Barracks.

The 1914/15 Class did not assemble due to the outbreak of World War 1. John MacDonald enlisted in the 4th Camerons and, after a short period as Pipe Major in Bedfordshire, he was medically discharged, later finding employment as a traveller for the distillers company, William Younger. During the War years 1914-18, Pipe Major John Grant ran the Classes at 27 Comely Bank Street, Edinburgh. This was not satisfactory and John Grant was dismissed in 1918. It is rumoured that some of the students complained about John Grant to J P Grant, a senior and very influential member of the Society.

In 1919, Pipe Major William (Willie) Ross (ex Scots Guards) was appointed instructor to The Army Class, initially on an interim basis as it was hoped that John MacDonald would return as instructor. Willie Ross was apparently unaware of this but, as John MacDonald did not want to return, Ross was made the official instructor on 20 January 1920. Pipe Major Ross remained at Edinburgh Castle until 1957, when at the age of 78 he became too ill to continue. The 1957/58 Class was completed by Pipe Major George Stoddart BEM, The Royal Scots Fusiliers and Pipe Major of The Lowland Brigade. The following Class was taken by Pipe Major Donald MacLeod, The Seaforth Highlanders, Pipe Major of The Highland Brigade. It became clear that Willie Ross would be unable to continue and that the Piobaireachd Society would be unable to provide him with a pension and fund a replacement at an up-to-date salary. As a consequence, following a meeting between the Society and the Army in early 1959, Lt Col (then Major) D J S Murray of the Cameron Highlanders, an amateur Piper who played like a professional, was asked to prepare a paper which in due course would become the ground plan for The Army School of Piping.

The scheme in outline was to appoint a full-time military instructor to teach, on a much broader basis to a variety of classes and standards, at a School of Piping which would be wholly funded, managed and disciplined by the Army. The Army School of Piping was duly formed by October 1959. Pipe Major (WO1) John A MacLellan was appointed as Chief Instructor. John MacLellan was RSM of the 11th Seaforth Highlanders and he had turned down a commission to be appointed to the Army School. He remained as Pipe Major until 1968, when he was commissioned and appointed the first Director of Army Bagpipe Music. At the same time the title of the School was changed to The Army School of Bagpipe Music. The Army School remained based at Edinburgh Castle until April 1999, when it merged with the Piping and Drumming Wing to form The Army School of Bagpipe Music and Highland Drumming.

The Piping and Drumming Wing had been established in April 1995 as a result of the closures of the Divisional Piping Schools – The Guards Depot Piping School, The Scottish Division School of Music and The Irish Depot, Ballymena. The combined School was situated at Milton Bridge Camp, Glencorse Barracks, Penicuik, and it became the centre for basic Piping and Pipe Band Drumming instruction in conjunction with Advanced Drumming courses.

The Army School of Bagpipe Music and Highland Drumming is now located at Inchdrewer House, Colinton Road, Edinburgh, within the perimeter Redford Barracks. It is commanded by the Commanding Officer, Headquarters Infantry Training Centre, Catterick, as part of the Army Recruiting and Training Division (ARTD). The Senior Commander in Scotland is responsible for all Army piping policy and is President of The Army Piping and Highland Drumming Committee. The Officer Commanding the School, who is its Chief Instructor, is the Director of Army Bagpipe Music. The aim of the School is to improve the standard of Piping, Pipe Band Drumming and Bugling of those Regiments which have Pipe Bands. The School offers a co-ordinated Centre of Excellence where Pipers and Drummers from all established Army Pipe Bands receive instruction at all levels. All courses now also offer the opportunity to achieve Piping and Drumming Qualifications Board (PDQB) qualifications which are certificated by the Scottish Qualifications Authority. The courses on offer are:

Class 1 Piper Course7 weeks1 per year
Pipe Major Course28 weeks1 per year
Class 3 Drummer Course22 weeks2 per year
Class 2 (Elementary) Drummer Course6 weeks1 per year
Class 2 (Intermediate) Drummer Course10 weeks1 per year
Class 2 (Instructor) Drummer Course6 weeks1 per year
Class 1 Drummer Course10 weeks1 per year
Drum Major Drill Course2 weeks1 per year

In addition to his role within the Army School, the Director of Army Bagpipe Music visits all Piping Regiments in the Regular Army at least once every two years. A report of their present standards is sent to the Unit Commanding Officer, the Director of Infantry, the respective Divisional Headquarters and the Divisional Lieutenant Colonel of the The Scottish Division. The Director of Army Bagpipe Music also co-ordinates the music and Massed Pipes and Drums for the annual Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, and is responsible for any parade in which more than two Military Pipe Bands are participating.

The Centenary of The Army Class was celebrated with a Dinner at Inchdrewer House on 25 February 2011.

Army School Directors and Pipe Majors

The Army Class Directors 
Pipe Major John MacDonald, ex Cameron Highlanders1910-1914
Pipe Major John Grant, ex Seaforth Highlanders1914-1918
Pipe Major William Ross MBE, ex Scots Guards1919-1958
Directors of Army Bagpipe Music 
Captain John A MacLellan MBE, Queens Own Highlanders1968-1976
Captain Andrew Pitkeathly, Argyll& Sutherland Highlanders1976-1981
Major John M Allan MBE, Queens Own Highlanders1981-1990
Major Gavin N M Stoddart MBE BEM, Royal Highland Fusiliers1990-2003
Captain Stuart D Samson, The Highlanders2003-2008
Major Steven Small, SCOTS2008-2016
Major Gordon Rowan, SCOTS2016-date

Army Regiments and Pipe Bands

The main purpose of preparing this historical document was to add to the History Section of the Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association (RSPBA) website information about one of the main sectors which has influenced Piping and Pipe Band development, and has had a significant impact on the RSPBA itself. It has been tradition for all Scottish regiments to have a Pipe Band, some with a Pipe Band in each or more than one Battalion. In researching the document, however, it has proved impossible to identify all the Army Pipe Bands which have existed over the years; and it has also proved difficult to elicit detailed information about the majority of the Army Pipe Bands which have been identified. As a consequence this document has evolved more as a historical record of Scottish regiments and how they have been restructured over the years. Where possible, information about their respective Pipe Band/s has been added. It is hoped, however, that overall it provides a framework which will encourage others to supplement the information progressively, to achieve a more comprehensive historical record in a Pipe Band context.

The first Army Pipe Band is understood to be the Drums and Pipes of The Gordon Highlanders. The format of the name, which is possibly unique in the world of Pipe Bands, reflects the fact that drummers were important in early military regiments for marching and command purposes before the emergence of Piping. The traditional role of Drummers and Buglers was to send signals and keep order by the beat of the drum. By the time of the World War 1, Drummers were also used as runners to take messages to different parts of their Battalion, and to act as stretcher-bearers. There is evidence of Drummers with a rank and pay structure in the Gordon Highlanders in the late-1700s but it was not until the mid-1800s that Bagpipes were recognised officially in Scottish Regiments resulting in the formation of Pipe Bands. Since that time there have been many reorganisations and restructuring of Scottish Regiments by successive Governments.

While it has proved difficult to identify a great deal of information about the individual Army Pipe Bands, it is clear that the Army has produced many Pipers and Drummers who have made their mark as solo players or in Pipe Bands or in other ways, whilst in the Army and in civilian life afterwards. The names are wide-ranging and individuals such as Willie Ross, John MacLellan, Donald Shaw Ramsay, Iain McLeod, John MacAllister, Angus MacDonald, Alasdair Gillies, Gordon Walker, Donald Mackay, Bob Montgomery, Adrian Hoy and Mick O’Neill are only a few who readily spring to mind.

It is also important to note that, while many Army Pipe Bands were able to compete in SPBA/RSPBA competitions only on a limited scale when their regimental duties allowed, over the years a few were able to reach and sustain Grade 1 status for a significant period. This not only reflected the quality of players, but also deserves recognition of the dedication of the players to furthering their musical skills when their priorities necessarily had to be devoted to being active soldiers. The high standards are also reflected in the fact that individuals like Donald Shaw Ramsay, John MacAllister and Iain McLeod subsequently progressed to becoming Pipe Majors of civilian Pipe Bands which won the coveted World Pipe Band Champions title. Bob Montgomery also progressed to being Leading Drummer of a Grade 1 World Pipe Band Champion as well as winner on two occasions of the World Solo Drumming title. More recently Adrian Hoy and Mick O’Neill both became Leading Drummers of Grade 1 civilian Pipe Bands. Outwith the competition scene Army Pipe Bands have always had a very prominent role in Royal, Armed Forces, Government and major public events, when their musicianship, marching and smart dress have been showcased to the highest standards. Probably the majority of Army Pipe Bands have at one time or other also featured in the annual Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

The Gordon Highlanders

The Gordon Highlanders regiment was formed in 1881 as a result of the Childers Reforms. The 1st Battalion was formed out of the 75th (Stirlingshire) Regiment of Foot; and the 2nd Battalion out of the 92nd (Gordon Highlanders) Regiment of Foot. The 92nd was originally raised as the 100th Highlanders by the Duke of Gordon in 1794, being renumbered 92nd in 1798. When formed in 1881 the 1st Battalion of The Gordon Highlanders was in Malta and subsequently distinguished themselves as part of the Highland Brigade in Egypt from 1882 during the battle of Tel-El-Kebir and during the following Nile/Sudan campaigns. While on operations on the North East Frontier in October 1897, during the storming of the Dargai Heights, one of the regiment’s famous VCs was earned when Piper George Findlater continued to play his Bagpipes during the assault despite being wounded in both legs. In the 1st World War Drummer William Kenny was awarded a VC for his heroism in repeatedly rescuing wounded colleagues whilst under heavy enemy fire during the first Battle of Ypres in October 1914.

The Gordon Highlanders raised 21 battalions in the 1st World War, serving on the Western Front and in Italy, winning 65 battle honours. A further 27 honours were added during the 2nd World War when the regiment served in France, Malaya, North Africa, Sicily, Italy and North-West Europe. After the War the Gordons saw active service in the Malayan emergency and in Northern Ireland.

The Drums and Pipes of The Gordon Highlanders have existed since Pipers were first introduced to the 100th Highlanders in 1796, two years after the first soldiers were recruited. Pipers were renowned for playing their comrades into battle to inspire them and also to terrify the enemy. In the 1st World War the 1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders lost 16 out of 18 pipers in its first two weeks in 1945. The size of the Drums and Pipes has varied over the years. All the Drummers were trained Buglers; and all the Pipers and Drummers were trained as Highland Dancers. In 1881 the regimental march of The Gordon Highlanders was “Highland Laddie”. “Cock o’ the North” became the regimental march in 1932, reflecting the fact that the 4th Duke of Gordon (who raised the regiment in 1794) was known as the Cock o’ the North, the traditional nickname given to the Chief of the Clan Gordon.

The regiment was amalgamated with The Queen’s Own Highlanders (Seaforths and Camerons) in 1994 to form The Highlanders. In 2006 The Highlanders were merged with Scotland’s remaining infantry regiments to become part of The Royal Regiment of Scotland. Since 2006 The Highlanders have been known as 4 SCOTS The Highlanders.

The Cameron Highlanders

The regiment was formed in 1793 during the French Revolutionary Wars (1792-1802) by Sir Alan Cameron of Erracht. It was originally named the Cameron Volunteers after one of the most powerful Highland Clans of the time; but was soon designated as the 79th Regiment of Foot (Cameronian Volunteers). The regiment initially served in the West Indies and remained at Martinique for two years, where it suffered significantly from disease to the extent that men were transferred to other regiments and only 200 returned to England in 1797.

In 1799 the regiment was part of the Heider Campaign during the War of the Second Coalition (1798-1802) and took part in the Battle at Egmont-op-Zee. The 79th was also part of a failed assault on the Spanish coast at Ferrol in 1800. In 1808 the 79th moved to Portugal, and then Spain as part of the Peninsular War (1808-1814), fighting at the Battle of Corunna; the Battle of Busaco; the defence of Cadiz; the Battle of Fuentes d’Onor; the Battle of Salamanca; the occupation of Madrid; the siege of Burgos; the Battles of the Pyrenees, Nivelle & Nive; and the Battle of Toulouse. In 1815 the 79th formed part of the Duke of Wellington’s force at the Battle of Waterloo. In 1854 the regiment served during the Crimean War at the Battles of Alma and Sevastopol before moving to India to assist the Honourable East India Company in crushing the Indian Rebellion in 1857. The 79th also took part in the recapture of Lucknow in 1858 before remaining in India for 12 years. On return the regiment was stationed on the Isle of Wight and performed ceremonial duties for Queen Victoria, for which it was awarded the title the 79th Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders.

In 1881 the regiment was one of the few to escape amalgamation during the Childers Reforms, when it became the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders. It then served in Egypt until 1886 as part of the successful Tel-el-Kebir before participating in the Boer War, the fall of Pretoria, the Battle of Diamond Hill, the capture of Spitzkopf and the Battle of Nooitgedacht, returning to Scotland in 1904. The regiment then served in both World Wars.

In 1961 the Cameron and Seaforth Highlanders were amalgamated to form The Queen’s Own Highlanders (Seaforth and Camerons). In 1994 the regiment was merged with The Gordon Highlanders to become The Highlanders. In 2006 The Highlanders became part of The Royal Regiment of Scotland and known as 4 SCOTS The Highlanders.

The Seaforth Highlanders

The regiment was officially formed in 1881 when the 78th Highlanders (Ross-shire Buffs) and 72nd Highlanders Duke of Albany’s Own) Regiments of Foot were amalgamated as a result of the Childers Reforms, although its history can be traced back at least 100 years before that. It was based at Fort George, near Inverness, for most of its life but the Seaforth Highlanders served in Britain’s colonial wars in Egypt (1882), the Sudan (1885), India (1895) and the Boer War (1899-1902).

At the outbreak of World War I the 1st Battalion was serving in India and the 2nd Battalion was based at Shorncliffe Camp in Kent, England, when it was sent to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force. It was involved in the retreat from Le Cateau, the Battle of the Marne and the Battle of the River Aisne. The 1st Battalion was posted to France in late 2014 and took part in the Battle of Givenchy. During the War the three front line Territorial Battalions all served in the 51st (Highland) Division.

In 1921 the 1st Battalion was deployed to the Scottish coalfields to maintain order during strike action by the miners. The Battalion subsequently served in Ireland during and after the partition. The 1st Battalion returned to India in the late 1920s and both Battalions served in Palestine in the 1930s.

During World War II the 6th Battalion was sent to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force. The Battalion was involved in the Blitzkrieg in May 1940 and escaped through Dunkirk. The 2nd and 4th Battalions were also part of the British Expeditionary Force in 1940, serving in the 51st (Highland) Division. The Seaforth Highlanders served with distinction as part of 152 Brigade from El Alamein onwards until the German surrender in Sicily. Subsequently 152 Brigade joined the D-day campaign in 1944 and served continuously until the capture of Bremen and VE-day. The 7th Battalion Seaforths also served in North West Europe with the 15th (Scottish) Division in 1944.

In 1961 the Cameron and Seaforth Highlanders were amalgamated to form The Queen’s Own Highlanders (Seaforth and Camerons). In 1994 the regiment was merged with The Gordon Highlanders to become The Highlanders. In 2006 The Highlanders became part of The Royal Regiment of Scotland and known as 4 SCOTS The Highlanders.

The Royal Scots

The Royal Scots, the oldest infantry regiment in the British Army, was formed in 1633, when Sir John Hepburn raised a body on men for service in France under a Royal Warrant granted by King Charles 1. By 1635 the regiment comprised over 8,000 men, including many who had fought as mercenaries in the “Green Brigade” for King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden. In 1661 the regiment became the original model for others when it was summoned to Britain to bridge the gap between the disbandment of the New Model Army and the creation of a Regular Army. In 1680 the regiment was sent to Tangier, where it won its first battle honour. On its return to England in 1684 the title “The Royal Regiment of Foot” was conferred by Charles 11.

During the 1700s the regiments saw service from Canada to the West Indies. During the Napoleonic Wars the regiment was expanded to four Battalions, with service in Egypt, the West Indies, India and Europe. The 3rd Battalion saw action at Corunna in 1808 and then took part in the Peninsular War, and the Battles of Quatre Bras and Waterloo. The 1st and 2nd Battalions then saw action in India between 1817 and 1831, followed by the Crimean War and the Boer War. World War 1 saw the Battalions increased to 35, of which 15 served as active front line units. The active service Battalions were also involved in areas from the Western Front to the Dardanelles, Macedonia, Egypt and North Russia. 71 Battle Honours and 6 VCs were awarded to the regiment during this time. Battalions subsequently served in Ireland, Egypt, Burma, China and the North West Frontier. At the start of World War 2 the 1st Battalion served in France and was forced to retreat with heavy casualties at Dunkirk. The 2nd Battalion saw action against the Japanese in Hong Kong. After Dunkirk the reconstituted 1st Battalion took part in the Arakan campaign in Burma in 1943 and the Battle of Kohima in 1944. A new 2nd Battalion formed in 1942 served in Italy and Palestine whilst the 7th/9th and 8th Battalions fought in Europe after D-Day. Since 1945 the regiment has served in Germany, Korea, Cyprus, Suez, Aden and Northern Ireland. The regiment celebrated its 350th Anniversary in 1983. In 1990 the 1st Battalion was deployed to Saudia Arabia as an armoured infantry battalion to take part in the Gulf War. Since that time it has also served in Bosnia and Iraq.

Like the other Scottish regiments the Pipes and Drums of The Royal Scots comprised serving soldiers and through the years the Pipe Bands have featured in many military and public ceremonial occasions. The sound of the Bagpipes was also renowned as an important motivator during many battles. Some of the early players in the Colinton and Currie Pipe Band, near Edinburgh, served in The Royal Scots; and it is known that the C&CPB rope tension Bass Drum which is now on display in the museum at RSPBA Headquarters in Glasgow was played in The Royal Scots during World War 1.

In 2006 the Royal Scots and KOSB Battalions merged to form The 1st (Royal Scots Borderers) Battalion of the new Royal Regiment of Scotland, now known as 1 SCOTS The Royal Scots Borderers.

The King’s Own Scottish Borderers

The regiment was raised in Edinburgh in March 1689 by David Leslie, 3rd Earl of Leven. It first saw action at the Battle of Killiecrankie on 27 July 1689. Although the Jacobite rebels forced the Government army to retreat, the new regiment acquitted itself well and was granted the privilege of recruiting by beat of drum within the City of Edinburgh without the prior permission of the Lord Provost. In 1691 the regiment saw action in Ireland during the assault of Ballymore, the siege of Athlone, the Battle of Aughrim and the sieges of Galway and Limerick. This was followed by fighting the French in the Low Countries between 1692 and 1697.

Renewed Jacobite activity in the 18th Century resulted in the Battles of Sheriffmuir in1715 and Culloden in 1746. The regiment was then stationed in Gibraltar between 1726 and 1736; the West Indies between 1740 and 1743; and Flanders in 1744. The regiment formed part of a hollow square of infantry at the Battle of Fontenoy in 1745 and it became the 25th Regiment of Foot in 1751. A lengthy period of service in Minorca followed between 1768 and 1780 before an expedition to Gibraltar in 1782. The same year the regiment was retitled The 25th (Sussex) Regiment of Foot. The regiment also saw action at the Battle of Egmont-op-Zee in Holland in1799. During the 19th Century served in Egypt in 1801 and in the West Indies during the Napoleonic War. In 1805 it became the 25th (King’s Own Borders) Regiment of Foot and was engaged in operations in various parts of the British Empire – West Indies (1837-39), Ireland (1837-39), South Africa (1840-42), India (1842-55), Gibraltar (1858-63), Malta (1863-64), Canada (1865-66), Ireland (1872-75), India (1875-81), Afghanistan (1878-80) and Burma (1889-90). A second Battalion was also raised in 1859 which saw service in Ceylon (1863-68), India (1869-75), Sudan (1888) and India (1890-1903). In 1881 the regiment moved to a new Depot at Berwick-upon-Tweed Barracks; and in 1887 it acquired the title The King’s Own Scottish Borderers.

The 1st Battalion saw action in South Africa between 1900 and 1902. During World War 1 several new Battalions were raised. The 1st Battalion fought on the Gallipoli Peninsula and on the Somme, Ypres, Lys and Cambrai. The 2nd Battalion served at Mons, Le Cateau, the Aisne, Ypres, the Somme, Vimy Ridge and Lys. The 4th and 5th Battalions fought at Gallipoli, and in Palestine and France. The 6th Battalion suffered heavy casualties at the Battle of Loos in 1915, and on the Somme, at Arras and at Ypres. The 7th and 8th Battalions lost much of their strength at the Battle of Loos; and were amalgamated in 1916 before fighting on the Somme and at Arras, Pilckem, and the Marne. Between the two World Wars the 1st Battalion served in India and Chanak (1922), and in Malta and Palestine (1936). The 2nd Battalion served in Ireland, Egypt, Hong Kong and India.

When World War 2 broke out in 1939 the 1st Battalion KOSB embarked for France. In May 1940 it crossed the Belgian border where it was forced to withdraw in view of enemy superiority in numbers. At the end of May the Battalion was evacuated from the beaches at Dunkirk, before returning to France on D-Day in 1944. It fought around Caen and then advanced north through Belgium and Holland to the Rhine and Bremen. The 4th and 5th (Territorial) Battalions also served in France in 1940 at St Malo before being evacuated from Cherbourg. These Battalions subsequently trained as mountain troops and as air-transportable troops, before fighting on Walcheren Island at the mouth of the River Scheldt and then moving into Germany to take part in the capture of Bremen. The 6th Battalion was involved in fierce battles in Caen and the River Odon in 1944 before advancing into Germany ending the War beyond Hamburg. The 7th Battalion became glider-borne troops with the 1st Airborne Division, serving at Arnhem in 1944. The 2nd KOSB received jungle training and was posted to Burma in 1943.

Following World War 2 the 2nd, 6th and 7th Battalions were disbanded. The 1st Battalion served on security duties in Palestine between 1945 and 1947 before being posted to Korea for active service in 1951. Between 1955 and 1959 it was engaged in the jungle against Communist terrorists. Between 1962 and 1964 it was on internal security operations in Aden. In 1965 it was in Borneo, patrolling the Malaysia/Indonesia border. From 1970 onwards the Battalion spent a great deal of time in Northern Ireland, the last tour being between 2004 and 2006. In 1991 the Battalion was deployed to the Gulf as part of Operation Granby/Desert Storm. There was also service in Belize (1978) and Cyprus (1999-2001). In 2003 the Battalion was deployed to southern Iraq to help maintain law and order in the aftermath of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. In March 2006 the regiment became The Kings Own Scottish Borders Battalion as part of The Royal Regiment of Scotland. On 1 August 2006 the Royal Scots and KOSB Battalions merged to form The 1st (Royal Scots Borderers) Battalion of the new Regiment, now known as 1 SCOTS The Royal Scots Borderers.

The Royal Highland Fusiliers

The Royal Highland Fusiliers (RHF) were formed in 1959 as a result of the amalgamation of the Royal Scots Fusiliers (21st) and the Highland Light Infantry (71st, 73rd and 74th). The Royal Scots Fusiliers, the 21st Foot, were raised in 1678 by the 5th Earl of Mar. The regiment’s first engagement was the Battle of Walcourt in 1689. By 1695 it was officially known as the Scots Fusiliers and the regiment achieved Royal status in 1712. One of the regiment’s nicknames was “Marlborough’s Own” as a result of distinguished service under the Duke of Marlborough between 1702 and 1712. During this time the regiment fought in the Battles of Blenheim and Ramilles amongst others. As a result of the Cardwell Reforms of 1881 the regiment became known officially as the County Regiment of Ayrshire.

The 73rd Highlanders were raised by John MacKenzie, Lord Macleod, as the first clan regiment in 1777 in response to the American War of Independence. In 1786 it became the 71st Highlanders. The 74th Highlanders were formed in 1787 as a result of the War in India. As a result of the Cardwell reforms in 1881 the 71st and 74th were linked as the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Highland Light Infantry. In 1923 the regiment became known officially as the City of Glasgow Regiment. The next reforms of infantry regiments resulted in the formation in 1959 of the Royal Highland Fusiliers (Princess Margaret’s Own Glasgow and Ayrshire Regiment).

The regiment has seen action in many battles, from Blenheim in the early 1700s to the Gulf War and Afghanistan. Battle Honours include Blenheim (August 1704 – War of the Spanish Succession); Assaye (September 1803 – Mahratta War); the Storming of Badajos (April 1812 – Peninsular War); Vitoria (June 1813 – Peninsular War); Waterloo (July 1815); Inkerman (November 1854 – Crimean War); and Gheluvelt (October 1914 – World War I, France)

Since 2006 the RHF have been known as 2 SCOTS The Royal Highland Fusiliers as part of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

The Black Watch

The Black Watch was raised in the wake of the 1715 Jacobite rebellion, when companies of trustworthy Highlanders were drawn from loyal clans comprising Campbells, Grants, Frasers and Munros. Six companies were then formed in 1725 and stationed in small detachments across the Highlands to prevent fighting between clans, to deter raiding and to help enforce laws against the carrying of weapons. In 1739 King George II authorised the raising of four additional companies to be formed into a “Regiment of the Line” of the regular army, with the Earl of Crawford as Colonel. The first mustering of the new Black Watch regiment took place near Aberfeldy the following year. The Black Watch name was derived from the dark colour of the tartan and the original role of the regiment to “watch” over the Highlands. In 1743 the regiment was ordered to march to London for inspection by the King. Due to a rumour that they were to be forced to serve in the West Indies rather than service in Scotland for which they had been enlisted, many of the men mutinied and decided to return home. Over a hundred were captured and returned to London, where they were tried by court martial and three of the leaders were condemned to be shot in the Tower. The remainder of the regiment proceeded to Flanders for action against the French. It remains for speculation whether the 1746 Rebellion could ever have taken place had the Black Watch been left to fulfil its original role of policing the Highlands.

Between 1745 and 1800 the Black Watch saw action in Fontenoy, the French-Indian War at Ticonderoga, Guadaloupe, Martinique, Havanna and the American War of Independence. The next 15 years saw action against the French in Egypt, the Peninsular War in Spain and Portugal and Napoleon’s Waterloo campaign. During the later 1800s the regiment saw service in the Crimean War, the Indian Mutiny, conflicts in Africa and the Boer Wars. At the start of the 1st World War in 1914 there were 7 Black Watch Battalions and the regiment saw action in Mons, the Western Front, Mesopotamia and Palestine. During the 2nd World War the regiment saw action in Palestine, Somaliland, France, North Africa, Italy, North West Europe and Burma.

More recently the Black Watch served in Palestine, Hong Kong, Korea, Kenya, Northern Ireland, the Balkans and Iraq.

In recent years the Pipes and Drums of the Black Watch have carried out 11 tours in North America on behalf of Columbia Artists, some accompanied by the regiment’s Military Band.

A significant milestone in the history of the Black Watch Pipe Band was when 9 pipers from the Band played at the State Funeral of President John F Kennedy of the USA in November 1963, reflecting the impact which the Pipe Band had made in an earlier tour of the USA.

The regimental tunes are the quick march “Hielan Laddie” and the slow airs “My Home” and “Highland Cradle Song”.

Since 2006 the Black Watch regiment has been known as 3 SCOTS The Black Watch as part of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders

In 1793 King George III requested the 5th Duke of Argyll to raise a kilted regiment of 1,100 men, which became the 98th Argyllshire Highlanders as part of the British Army on 9 July 1794 (re-numbered to the 91st Argyllshire Highlanders in 1798). In 1795 the regiment embarked to South Africa to capture the Cape of Good Hope from the Dutch, returning to England in 1803 to help patrol the southern counties against the possibility of an invasion by Napoleon. In 1808 the regiment was deployed to Portugal as a rearguard action against Napoleon’s army; and in 1812 was part of the advance which pushed the French out of Spain. 1814 saw service in New Orleans followed by deployment to the West Indies, Canada and Crimea. Later it also served in St Helena, India and South Africa. In 1881 it became the 1st Battalion Princess Louise’s Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

Between 1881 and 1914 the regiment served in South Africa, Ceylon and Hong Kong before taking part in the Boer War between 1899 and 1902, and thereafter in Malta, India and South Africa. Following the outbreak of World War I the regiment served in France, Flanders and the Mediterranean. Between 1919 and 1939 there was service in Turkey, Jamaica, Hong Kong, China, India, Egypt and Sudan. World War II saw service in Palestine, North Africa, Crete, Ethiopia, Sicily, Italy, Malaya, France and Belgium.

Post 1945 saw service in Palestine and the Korean War and then in British Guiana, Berlin and Egypt, Cyprus and the Rhine. In 1964 the regiment moved to Singapore and then Borneo and Aden. The regiment was stationed at Canterbury in Kent as part of 16 Air Assault Brigade, Britain’s primary Rapid Reaction Force; and it subsequently saw service in Afghanistan.

The strength of the Pipes and Drums of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders has varied in numbers throughout the years; and whenever the regiment was stationed in the UK the Pipe Band has been permitted to play in the relevant grade in national Pipe Band competitions. The training of Cruachan, the regimental pony mascot, is undertaken to prepare the mascot to participate in parades with the Pipes and Drums, including the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

Since 2006 the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders have been known as 5 SCOTS The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders as part of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.

The Scots Guards

The Scots Regiment of Foot Guards had its origin in the civil wars of the 17th century, and its existence can be traced back to 1639. In that year Archibald Campbell, 8th Earl of Argyll, Chief of the Clan Campbell, raised a Regiment of Foot to join the Covenanting Army. The regiment was stationed in small detachments throughout the Western Highlands for the next 3 years. In 1642 King Charles l approved the transfer of the regiment to “King’s service”, when it became known as the Lyfe Guard of Foot and thereafter served in Ireland for seven years. In 1661 the regiment was granted the title The Scottish Regiment of Foot Guards by King Charles II; and it was used to fight against the Covenanters in Scotland, including the Battle Rullion Green in 1666 and the Battle of Bothwell Brig in 1679. In 1713 the regiment became known as the Third Regiment of Foot Guards. In 1830 King William IV restored to the Third Guards a Scottish title and the following year the regiment became known as the Scots Fusilier Guards. In 1877 the name of the regiment was changed by Queen Victoria to the Scots Guards. Thereafter the regiment served in Dublin, Egypt, Sudan and South Africa.

The regiment’s first engagement in World War 1 in 1914 was at Mons as part of the British Expeditionary Force. The second engagement was at the First Battle of the Marne and then the Battle of the Aisne and the First Battle of Ypres. In 1915 the regiment saw action in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle and the Battle of Loos; and in 1916 in the Battle of the Somme. In July 1917 the regiment began its involvement in the Third Battle of Ypres and later that year the Battle of Cambrai. March 1918 saw action in the second Battle of the Somme and in subsidiary battles at St Quentin, Bapaume, Arras and Albert. The regiment also took part in the final stages of the War on the Western Front, in the Battle of Selle and the Battle of Sambre before joining the British Army of Occupation in Cologne and then returning home in 1919.

Following World War 1 the regiment was deployed in Shanghai and Hong Kong between 1927 and 1929. In 1933 the regiment formed an alliance with the Winnipeg Grenadiers of Canada. 1935 saw deployment to Egypt and Palestine. Following the outbreak of World War II the 1st Battalion saw action in 1940 in Norway as part of the 24th Guards Brigade. The 2nd Battalion, as part of the 22nd Guards Brigade, took part in fighting the Italians in Egypt and thereafter in Libya. The regiment also saw action at the Battle of Halfaya Pass against Rommel’s Afrika Korps.

The Battalion was also involved in Operation Battleaxe to relieve the city of Tobruk. In 1942 the 2nd Battalion saw heavy fighting against German forces and suffered heavy casualties before being reformed in Egypt and then further action at the Battle of Medenine. Thereafter the 1st and 2nd Battalions saw further action in North Africa. Both Battalions were back in the UK by 1946 and in 1948. The 1st Battalion assumed the role of Guards Training Battalion, a role which lasted until 1951. The 2nd Battalion then saw further deployment in Malaya.

In 1951 the 1st Battalion was deployed to Cyprus and then to the Suez Canal Zone in Egypt. In 1952 the regiment formed a new alliance with the Royal Australian Regiment. Between 1953 and 1957 the 2nd Battalion was deployed to West Germany and in 1957 the 1st Battalion was posted to Hubbelrath. The regiment subsequently also saw service in Kenya, Malaysia, Borneo, the Persian Gulf and Northern Ireland. During the Falklands War the regiment saw service in South Georgia and in the Battle of Mount Tumbledown. During the 1980s and 1990s the regiment served in Hong Kong, Cyprus, Northern Ireland, West Germany, Canada, the Gulf and the Persian Gulf. Since the new millennium the regiment has again seen service in Ireland and was also deployed to Sierra Leone. In 2003 the 1st Battalion was deployed to Munster, Germany followed by Iraq in 2004. Under the British Army reforms in 2004 the Scots Guards remained as a single Battalion regiment.

Pipers and Drummers in the Scots Guards have traditionally been deployed with their Battalions on operations and there are many stories of them leading the troops into battle. They are also fully trained as Guardsmen and perform that role when necessary. More recently, when on operations and exercises, they have been employed as Medics and Armoured Fighting Vehicle Drivers or Commanders, and they can attain skills as Combat Medical Technician. During the Falklands War in 1982, the Pipes and Drums of the 2nd Battalion were deployed with distinction in the Reconnaissance Platoon. During the Gulf War in 1991, the Pipes and Drums of the 1st Battalion were deployed as a Machine Gun Platoon, with six members attached to each company.

The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards

In 1678 three independent troops of dragoons were raised in Scotland to quell the Covenanters. At that time dragoons were mounted infantrymen armed with sword and short musket. In 1681 King Charles 11 ordered General Thomas Dalyell of The Binns in West Lothian to raise more troops to form a regiment to be known as the Royal Regiment of Scots Dragoons and which was later to win fame as the Royal Scots Greys. In 1694, before embarking to Flanders, they were reviewed in Hyde Park, London by William lll, when the entire regiment rode grey horses, from which the name of the regiment was derived.

The Greys served in most campaigns in which the British Army was involved, the most famous being the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. The regiment was also involved in the Crimean War in 1854, the Boer War, World War 1 and were part of the Eight Army during World War 2. Post war years saw the regiment in various locations before, in 1971, amalgamating with the 3rd Carabiniers (Prince of Wales’ Dragoon Guards) to form the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (Carabiniers and Greys). The regiment was subsequently equipped with Challenger tanks and has seen action in both Gulf Wars.

Cavalry regiments traditionally did not have Pipe Bands but the Royal Scots Greys established an unofficial Pipe Band while serving in India in the 1920s. In 1946, after the World War 2, a Pipe Band again became part of the regiment when Pipers and Drummers of the Lothians and Border Horse under Pipe Major Gray were posted to the Royal Scots Greys on the disbandment of the 52nd Lowland Division. In 1947 the Pipe Band was officially recognised by The War Office and King George V1, who was Colonel in Chief; and the wearing of the Royal Stewart tartan by the Pipers was sanctioned.

Over the years the Pipe Band of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards has had an impressive reputation publicly and competitively, reaching for a lengthy period Grade 1 status in the RSPBA rankings. In 1972 the Pipe Band had a Number 1 record in the charts for 5 weeks with a recording of “Amazing Grace” under Pipe Majors James Pryde MBE and Tony Crease. The Band’s subsequent recording “Spirit of the Glen” in 2008 was nominated for the Classical BRIT Awards. The Band was also Grade 2 World Champions in 1982 under Pipe Major John Allan and was upgraded to Grade 1 the following year, where it remained for almost 10 years. In 1987, under Pipe Major John Bruce, the Band gained 5th place at the British Championships, 4th place at the European Championships and 10th place at the World Championships. In 1990 the Pipe Band was deployed to the Gulf as tank crewmen as part of Desert Storm.

Current Scottish Regimental Structure

In 2006 the Scottish Regiments were restructured to form The Royal Regiment of Scotland, consisting of 5 Regular Battalions and 2 Territorial Battalions comprising:

Regular Army
1 SCOTS The Royal Scots Borderers (comprising the former Royal Scots and Kings Own Scottish Borderers)
2 SCOTS The Royal Highland Fusiliers
3 SCOTS The Black Watch
4 SCOTS The Highlanders
5 SCOTS The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders

Territorial Army
6 SCOTS 52nd Lowland
7 SCOTS 51st Highland

The Scots Guards and Royal Scots Dragoon Guards continue to exist as separate regiments.

Prepared by the RSPBA Historical Research Group from various sources, with assistance from Major Steven Small, former Director of Army Bagpipe Music.
November 2016

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