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72nd (Duke of Albany’s Own Highlanders) Regiment of Foot

Last updated: 7 July 2014

Other ranks’ glengarry badge, 72nd (Duke of Albany’s Own Highlanders) Regiment of Foot, c1874Other ranks’ glengarry badge, 72nd (Duke of Albany’s Own Highlanders) Regiment of Foot, c1874
NAM. 1963-09-398


In the late 1770s, with the American War of Independence (1775-83) in full swing, the British Army needed new regiments. Kenneth Mackenzie, the recently reinstated Earl of Seaforth, began recruiting in the western Highlands of Scotland as a token of thanks to the Hanoverian Crown. His family had originally forfeited their title and estates for their support of the Jacobite Rebellion in 1715.

Mackenzie’s recruits were established as the 78th Foot at Elgin in January 1778. They were immediately sent to bolster the Channel Islands against America’s French allies. The regiment faced the French again in 1781, serving as marines in the naval action at Porto Praya (now in Cape Verde).

In 1782 it began 17 years on the Indian subcontinent, fighting in the Second Mysore War (1780-84) - at Trincomalee (1782) and Cuddalore (1783) - against the French at Pondicherry (1793), and on Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in 1795. Its time in India also saw it renumbered to become the 72nd Foot in 1786.

The regiment began the 19th century in Ireland, before joining the Highland Brigade sent to capture the Dutch Cape Colony (now in South Africa) in 1806. It remained there for much of the next 15 years, although it did join the invasion of Mauritius in 1810.

A 2nd Battalion was raised in 1804. This spent most of its existence in Ireland before disbanding in 1816. The regiment also ceased to be a Highland regiment in 1809.

Three men of the 72nd (Duke of Albany’s Own Highlanders) Regiment of Foot, 1856Three men of the 72nd (Duke of Albany’s Own Highlanders) Regiment of Foot, 1856
NAM. 1964-12-154-6-14

After fighting in the Fifth Cape Frontier War (1818-19), the regiment returned to Britain in 1821. It regained its Highland dress and status in 1823.

That same year it was re-named after Frederick Augustus, Duke of York and Albany, younger brother to King George IV and commander-in-chief of the British Army. It carried out sentry duty at the Tower of London before being sent back to the Cape Colony for 12 more years in 1828, going on to serve in the Sixth Cape Frontier War (1834-36).

1842 was an eventful year for the regiment. It was presented with new Colours by the Duke of Wellington and also put down industrial riots in Manchester. The following decade took it to Ireland, Gibraltar, the West Indies and Canada on garrison duties.

The 72nd fought with the Highland Brigade at Sevastopol during the Crimean War (1854-56) and in Central India during the Indian Mutiny (1857-59). In 1863 it took part in the Umbeyla Expedition on the North-West Frontier.

It returned to Britain for home service from 1865 to 1871, before moving to the subcontinent once again. While there it fought in the Second Afghan War (1878-80) at Peiwar Kotal (1878), Charasiah (1879), Kabul (1879) and Kandahar (1880).

In 1881 the regiment was amalgamated with the 78th (Highlanders) Regiment of Foot (The Ross-shire Buffs) to form The Seaforth Highlanders (Ross-shire Buffs).

Key facts


  • 'Cuidich'n Righ' (meaning 'Help the King', the Seaforth family motto)


  • The Macraes (a large number of men with this surname enlisted in the regiment early in its history)

Titles to date:

  • Seaforth (Highland) Regiment
  • 78th (Highland) Regiment of Foot, or Seaforth (Highland) Regiment
  • 72nd (Highland) Regiment of Foot
  • 72nd Regiment of Foot
  • 72nd (Duke of Albany’s Own Highlanders) Regiment of Foot
  • 1st Battalion, The Seaforth Highlanders (Ross-shire Buffs)
  • 1st Battalion, The Seaforth Highlanders (Ross-shire Buffs, The Duke of Albany’s)
  • The Queen’s Own Highlanders (Seaforth and Camerons)
  • The Highlanders (Seaforth, Gordons and Camerons)
  • 4th (The Highlanders) Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland

Find out more

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Regimental Merchandise

National Army Museum Collection


Karl Craig
17 November 2014, 7.05am

My wife's GGG Grandfather

My wife's GGG Grandfather Walter Ferguson was a sergeant in the 72nd at the turn of the 19th century. Here's a brief story of his service:

A brief outline of Walter’s service:

Walter joined the Lord Elgin Fencibles on 1 November 1799 at Cumnock in Ayrshire and became a private in 72nd Regiment of Foot on 4 July 1800 at Newry, County Down, Ireland. The fencibles were local militia who were recruited for home service, but not overseas service. These Highland militia groups were generally disbanded around 1799, and the Lord Elgin Fencibles were mostly recruited into the 72nd. Walter enlisted while aged 24 and was discharged with the rank of serjeant (the way foot regiments spelled ‘sergeant’) on 9 November 1819 when he was closer to 46 than the 43 recorded on his service record.

Walter’s wife, Anne Phillips (born in Cork, Ireland), also travelled with the regiment throughout his service. While we have no record of their marriage, it is likely they married while he was on active service in Ireland with the regiment in 1798–1806. While in Ireland, his first four children were born: Catherine in 1798/9; James in 1800/1; Margaret 1801/2; and Elizabeth 1803/4 – all of these died at two years or younger.

Walter and Anne went with the regiment when it captured the Cape of Good Hope (South Africa) from the Dutch in 1806. It was during this campaign that his first two children to survive to adulthood were born: Janet in 1806, and William in 1808 (Janet died in 1829 in Cumnock aged 23). Walter was made corporal on Christmas Day 1807, but was further promoted to serjeant on 25 June 1809.

The 72nd was next in action against the French during the Napoleonic Wars. The regiment helped capture Mauritius (Île de France) in November 1810, and the 72nd remained on as garrison troops in Port Louis until around June 1814. We know that his children Catherine (1811) and Walter (1815) were both born in Mauritius. The army registered this as service in the East Indies.

The regiment was known to have moved to Calcutta, India in 1815, and this is probably where he was during the period September 1815 and February 1816. His whereabouts from June 1814 to September 1815 are unknown, but the 72nd had returned to the Cape of Good Hope by 1816 as part of the Cape Province Garrison, and was soon involved in the Kaffir Wars of 1818–1819. During this period, his daughter Elizabeth (1816) and last child Thomas (1818) were born.

Walter, whose service was described as “very good”, was discharged from the army on 9 November 1819 after becoming a “supernumerary”. He incurred a disabling injury to his right hand while working with the Engineers. He returned to Cumnock in Ayrshire – along with Anne, Janet, William, Walter, Elizabeth and Thomas. Walter had 20 years service with the 72nd and, with his injury on duty, he was entitled to an army stipend as a Chelsea Out-Pensioner.

Rod Hooper-Box
10 September 2016, 7.36am

Most interesting

Most interesting information.
He must have known "Colour Sgt. John Grant who was discharged from the 72nd, on pension, in 1823. He was granted a farm (Grant's Valley near Bathurst - Eastern Cape) in 1825. He is buried there, having died on October 30 1854, aged 84.
PS I live in Bathurst

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