Last updated: 7 July 2014
The regiment’s origins lie in the Sutherland Fencibles, home defence troops raised and disbanded three times in northern Scotland during the 18th century. On the Fencibles’ final disbandment in 1799, its former colonel William Wemyss re-recruited most of its troops into a new regular infantry regiment, on behalf of his cousin Elizabeth, Countess of Sutherland. This new regiment was given the number 93 in the army order of precedence and formally embodied at Inverness in 1800.
The new unit initially served in the Channel Islands, Scotland and Ireland before eight years at the Cape of Good Hope from 1806. It then fought against the Americans at New Orleans in 1814 during the War of 1812, before lengthy garrison duties in Ireland, the West Indies and Canada following the end of the Napoleonic Wars (1803-15). In 1813 a 2nd Battalion was raised but this was disbanded in 1816 after service in Britain and Newfoundland.
1st Battalion arrived back for home service in Scotland and England in 1848, providing an honour guard for Queen Victoria the following year. It then embarked for the Crimea in 1854.
It fought with distinction at the Alma (20 September 1854) and became the only infantry regiment to win the battle honour ‘Balaklava’ (25 October 1854) after holding off repeated Russian cavalry charges. This feat gained it the nickname ‘The Thin Red Line’, a term coined by the journalist William Howard Russell.
It was then re-deployed to India to deal with the Indian Mutiny (1857-59), winning six Victoria Crosses (VC) in one day during the storming of the Secundra Bagh in Lucknow. A seventh VC was won by William Bean, a lieutenant in the regiment, for killing 11 rebels at the gate of Kaiser Bagh. The unit then remained in India on garrison duty until 1870, taking part in the Umbeyla Campaign (1863-64).
It then carried out garrison duties in Britain, Ireland and Gibraltar until July 1881, when it amalgamated with the 91st (Princess Louise’s Argyllshire Highlanders) Regiment of Foot to form Princess Louise’s (Argyll and Sutherland) Highlanders.