The Highland Light Infantry (HLI) was formed in the 1881 Army reforms by merging the 71st (Highland) Regiment of Foot (Light Infantry) and the 74th (Highland) Regiment of Foot, which became its 1st and 2nd Battalions respectively.
Both these regiments were highland units, but the new unit recruited in Glasgow, so it became the only highland regiment given the lowland uniform of trews (trousers) not kilts, a decision not reversed until 1947.
During the 1880s and 1890s the regiment undertook garrison duties across the British Empire, but 1st Battalion was sent to South Africa on the outbreak of the Boer War (1899-1902), fighting throughout the conflict.
Both regular battalions served on the Western Front during the First World War (1914-18), although 1st Battalion also fought in Mesopotamia from 1916 onwards. The regiment also raised 14 Territorial battalions and 11 Reserve and Service battalions. Three of the Territorial battalions were sent to Gallipoli in 1915. In 1919 2nd Battalion joined the British force fighting the Bolsheviks in Northern Russia.
Following inter-war service in Palestine, Turkey, India, Ireland and Malta, both battalions fought in the Second World War (1939-45).
1st Battalion served in France and had to be evacuated from Cherbourg in June 1940. It then remained in Britain until October 1944 when it took part in the capture of the Dutch island of Walcheren. It went on to serve throughout the remainder of the North-West Europe campaign. Earlier, the Territorials of 10th Battalion had landed in Normandy, going on to fight at Caen and Falaise (1944).
In January 1959 the HLI was amalgamated with The Royal Scots Fusiliers to form The Royal Highland Fusiliers (Princess Margaret’s Own Glasgow and Ayrshire Regiment).
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Explore the history and collections of Highland Light Infantry by visiting the Royal Highland Fusiliers Museum.Find out more