Last updated: 7 July 2014
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.
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).