Regimental History from 1793 until 1815
One can only imagine Napoleon’s troops as they faced regiments
of kilted Highlanders advancing towards them across the battlefield, marching to the unique
sound of their pipes. Napoleon is supposed to have called the Highlands "The devils in
skirt's" at the battle of Waterloo.
Cameron's are well known as one of the bravest and most chivalrous of the Highland clans; they were
one of the last clans to support the Stuart's claim to the British throne. The
79thCameron Highlanders whose origin started back on the 17th August
1793 when Alan Cameron of Erracht was given authority to raise the
79thRegiment of Foot.
His intention was for the 79thto be the Clan Cameron regiment with recruits from Lochaber and the Western
Islands but he was forced by competition from other regiments to recruit from all over the
Highlands and also from the major cites and towns. In late January 1794 at Stirling Scotland the regiment was inspected
at it had 1000 men, and Alan Cameron was appointed lieutenant
Colonel Commandant 1, the unit was first called the
"Camerionian Volunteers" but was later changed to the Cameron Highlanders. The most
distinctive feature of this new regiment was its tartan, for it was the only
tartan not to be based on the Government pattern. Tradition states that it was designed by Alan Cameron’s
mother who based it upon a local pattern from Lochaber.
After being sent to Ireland and
the south of England in early 1794, and then sent to Flanders in August 1794; where
they lost 200 men due to the weather and the camp environment. Later in the summer of 1795 the
Cameron's were sent to the West Indies where Yellow fever and other diseases decimated them
the survivors were drafted into other regiments. As a result of this Alan Cameron returned in 1798
to start recruitment all over
newly constructed regiment soon saw action, distinguishing itself in the
Netherlands at Bergen-op-Zoom in 1799. This was followed by postings to Malta, Egypt,
Minorca, Ireland again and Copenhagen. Whilst in Egypt (1801) they saw action
at both Aboukir and Alexandria for which they were granted the famous Sphinx
badge and the word "Egypt" on it's colours and appointments; with
thanks from the king and parliament.
It was in
1806 that the title Cameron Highlanders was confirmed on the 79thRegiment of
they joined the British army in Portugal fighting at Corunna in 1809. Following
taking part in the Walcheren Expedition they returned to the
Peninsula in 1810. Action was seen at Busaco, Fuentes d’Onor where their commanding
officer was killed together with 287 other casualties, Salamanca,
Burgos, Pyrenees, Neville, the Nive and Toulouse. Having returned home
they were soon back in Ireland but in January 1815 they set sail for North America but their ships
were driven back by extreme gales and hence this regiment of Peninsular veterans were soon
dispatched for service in Belgium fighting bravely at Quartet Bras and Waterloo
during which time out of the original 675 men they sustained 456 casualties
with 103 of these brave men being killed. Piper Kenneth McKay exemplified this bravery by playing outside
the relative security of a square to rally and encourage his hard-pressed regiment,
a feat captured in a famous painting of the action. The regiment
then remained for a further three years in France as part of the allied occupation of Paris, they
arrived there on 08th July.
in Paris whereon 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 McKay, all of the 79th, accompanied by a like
number of each rank from the 42nd and 92nd Highlanders, proceeded to the Palais Ely see 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.
The regiment survives today, known only as the Highlanders,
having been amalgamated with the Sea forth Highlanders in 1961, and again with the Gordon's in
It is to
the memory of these brave men that the 79thCameron Highlanders (1815) was formed a number
of years ago.
Any persons interested in joining our re-creation of this proud Highland regiment should
contact Helen who will be able to give you further
Email: Helen (Unit Secretary) firstname.lastname@example.org
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