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Scots Guards

Last updated: 1 July 2014

Sabretache badge of the Scots Guards, c1800Sabretache badge of the Scots Guards, c1800
NAM. 1970-12-163-26

Introduction

In 1641 Britain was less than a year away from outright civil war. In Scotland, Charles I had to call a truce with the Covenanter opposition, making their leader, Archibald Campbell, the Marquess of Argyll.

In Ireland, attacks broke out against the Scottish settlers who had been arriving since the 1600s. Charles decided to go to Ireland in person and commissioned Campbell to raise a guards regiment of 1,500 soldiers to accompany him. Campbell had already raised a regiment for his own use three years earlier, which he transferred to the King. The regiment was sent to Ireland less than a month after Charles's commission to Campbell, but Charles soon became entangled in the English Civil War and never joined it there.

The regiment remained in Ireland for six years, only returning to Scotland once to fight against the Royalists at Kilsyth in 1645. It returned for good in 1649, by which time it was known as the Irish Companies.

The following year Charles II arrived in Scotland in an abortive attempt to retake the Scottish throne, renaming the Companies the Foote Regiment of His Majestie's Lyffe Guard. It fought for him at Dunbar and Worcester, but then fell into abeyance during the Commonwealth.

In May 1660 Charles II landed in England and was restored to the British throne. In October that year he ordered the raising of six independent Scottish companies to be his lifeguard troops north of the border. Recruitment began in January the following year and by May 1661 they were formally regimented together as the Scots Regiment of Foot Guards.

That regiment is seen as the successor to Campbell's unit and rose to 13 companies by 1666. Its early duties were to garrison the royal castles at Edinburgh, Dumbarton and Stirling, though by the end of the decade it had already been used elsewhere in Scotland against the Presbyterian Covenanters.

It was placed on the English establishment in 1686 as the 3rd Regiment of Foot Guards and in 1691 was sent to the Low Countries by William III, fighting at the siege of Namur. In the interim, in 1689 it also raised a 2nd Battalion, which lasted until 1993.

Between its formation and 1704 the regiment rose from six to 18 companies. From 1704 to 1714 one of these was kept in the Scottish Highlands to keep order there. The Regiment as a whole also remained in Scotland during the early 1700s until its 1709 posting to Spain.

During the First Jacobite Rebellion of 1715 it was on garrison duty in England and during the Second, 30 years later, both battalions briefly redeployed back from Flanders to protect London, with a detachment from 1st Battalion also being sent to pursue the rebel army to Carlisle on horseback. Its Flanders engagements during the 1740s included Dettingen, Fontenoy and Lauffeld.

The regiment's service during the 1750s included both the Germany campaign and amphibious raids on the Normandy coast. The following decade saw it and the other two foot guard regiments send 15 men per company to a composite Guards unit designed to fight in the American Revolutionary War. That unit fought at Brooklyn, Germantown, Guilford Courthouse and Yorktown.

The wars against France in the 1790s and early 1800s saw the regiment back in the Low Countries in both 1793 and 1809, as well as raiding the Spanish coast and fighting in Egypt and Spain. Its light companies garrisoned Hougoumont during the Battle of Waterloo and went on to keep order in France, Ireland and Manchester during the immediate post-war period. That period also saw them become the British Army's only Fusilier Guard regiment in 1831.

Scots Fusilier Guards parading at Buckingham Palace before departing for the Crimea, 1854Scots Fusilier Guards parading at Buckingham Palace before departing for the Crimea, 1854
NAM. 1952-01-68-1

One officer and three men from the unit won the Victoria Cross for their conduct at the Alma in the Crimea in 1854. It also fought at Inkerman and Sevastopol. The regiment was mostly based in London for the rest of the 19th century, though it did send 1st Battalion to Egypt in 1882 and the Ashanti War in west Africa in 1829, and 2nd Battalion to Canada in 1862 and to the Sudan in 1885. That period also saw the unit drop the 'Fusilier' from its name in 1877.

Both battalions deployed to the Boer War and to the Western Front of the First World War and it also sent detachments to the siege of Sidney Street in 1911. Both the 1st and 2nd Battalions saw service in North Africa during the Second World War, with the former also going to Norway and Italy and the 2nd to North West Europe.

The regiment's post-war deployments have also been varied, ranging from Malaya, Borneo and Kenya to frequent deployments to Northern Ireland and action at Tumbledown during the Falklands War. In 1993 the 2nd Battalion was turned into the ceremonial 'F' Company, whilst the 1st Battalion remains active as armoured infantry, which deployed to Iraq for six months in 2004.

Key facts

Motto:

  • 'Nemo Me Impune Lacessit' (meaning 'No One Attacks Me With Impunity')

Nicknames:

  • The Kiddies (the next highest regiment in the order of precedence, the Coldstream Guards, had a longer continuous history. It was formed in 1650 as a Parliamentary unit, existed throughout the Commonwealth and was transferred to Charles II's army in 1660, whereas the Scots Guards was only formally reconstituted as a unit in 1661.)
  • The Jock Guards

Titles to date:

  • Marquis of Argyll's Royal Regiment
  • The Irish Companies
  • Foote Regiment of His Majestie's Lyffe Guard
  • Scots Regiment of Foot Guards
  • The King's Regiment
  • The King's Foot Guards
  • Scotch Guards
  • 3rd Regiment of Foot Guards
  • Scots Fusilier Guards
  • Scots Guards

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Regimental Merchandise

National Army Museum Collection

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