Turnbull Clan Association

When I was in Scotland last year, I heard some discussion about the Scottish Regiments being merged.  Indeed when I revisited Edinburgh Castle I was speaking with a tourist guide who had served in the Highlanders Regiment, and that day the Colonels of all of the Scottish Regiments were meeting to discuss their forced merger by the Government.  In Scotland there are war memorials all over the place, and the name Turnbull came up many times, especially in Glasgow and the Lowlands, listing the name of the Turnbull who had died and the regiment or the Service in which he served and died.

Getting the latest news from Scotland has not been easy, however a recent letter from Scotland posted in the DUBH GHLASE the publication of the Clan Douglas Society has given an update on the recent developments.  Part of this re-organization is part of the Labor (Labour) Government’s continued re-structuring of the Armed Services of Great Britain, and reflects the more technological aspects of modern warfare, where there is less reliance on the BPI (Poor Bloody Infantry).

The government has decided that the 6 Scottish Regiments are to be formed into THE ROYAL REGIMENT OF SCOTLAND, hereafter indicated as RRS. The following regiments will be merged into Battalions of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, along these lines.


The First Battalion RRS

The Royal Scots (1st of Foot) the oldest regiment in the British Army (formed in 1633, but with a history much older) and the Kings Own Scottish Borders (25th of Foot) (The City of Edinburgh Regiment formed in 1689) will merge into the 1st Battalion of the RRS. These two Regiments were until now, only the few regiments in the British Army that has never been merged with another Regiment, surviving many army re-organizations especially the Caldwell reforms of 1881.

The Royal Scots (1st of Foot) were formed in 1633 however they traced their ancestry to 1421 when they became established in the service of France, as mercenary troops.

The Kings Own Scottish Borderers (25th of Foot) was formed on March 19, 1689 and was known as the Earl of Leven’s Regiment. It was formed in the City of Edinburgh to counter the opposition of the Highlanders to the accession of William III and Mary in that year.

Therefore, in these new reforms The Kings Own Scottish Borderers will be the only regiment of the six regiments to lose their identity, even as a battalion of the new Regiment.

While on the subject of Lowland Regiments, there is the The Cameronian Regiment – the 26th of Foot, which no longer exists. It was formed 1689 and in a major army reform in 1881 merged with the Perthshire Regiment, but were still known as the Cameronians. The Regiment was very strong in Presbyterian influence, and its members came from the Douglas Clan area, and each new recruit received a Bible upon enlisting. However, faced with another merger with another Scottish Regiment, (probably the Kings own Scottish Borderers or the Highland Light Infantry) the serving officers of the Regiment held an election and voted to disband the Regiment. On May 14, 1968 the Regiment disbanded at Castle Dangerous on its 279th Birthday. The Regiment wore the Douglas Tartan.

The Second Battalion RRS


The Second Battalion will be known as The Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion RRS. This Regiment was a result of the merger of the Highland Light Infantry (City of Glasgow Regiment) and the Royal Scots Fusiliers, in 1959 to form The Royal Highland Fusiliers.

The Royal Scots Fusiliers (21st of Foot) were originally raised as the Earl of Mar’s Regiment in 1678 and their purpose was to counter the resistance of the Covenanters to the imposition of the Episcopal Church in Scotland, and their history spans the wars in Europe and rebellions in Scotland including Culloden.

The Highland Light Infantry (71st and 74th of Foot) was formed in 1881 by a merger of the 71st Highland Light Infantry and the 74th Highlanders.

The 71st formed in 1777, by John Mackenzie as the 73rd of foot and later were re-numbered the 71st).  A second battalion was raised in 1787 by George Mackenzie. 

The 74th Highland Regiment was formed in 1787 by Major General Archibald Campbell in 1787.  Of course this Regiment came from the Campbell lands in Argyle.

The 71st and 74th of Foot were merged in 1881 to form the Highland Light Infantry, and because they did a lot of recruiting in Glasgow they were also known as the City of Glasgow Regiment (made official in 1923).  It was in this Regiment that James Y. Turnbull won his Victoria Cross posthumously in 1916 during WWI.  It may be noted that each Battalion refused to speak with each other, because of the Highland and Lowland nature of each Battalion.

“Although his party was wiped out and replaced several times, Sergeant Turnbull never wavered in his determination to hold the post, the loss of which would have been  very serious. Almost single-handed he maintained his position, and displayed the highest degree of valour and skill. Later in the day this very gallant soldier was killed while bombing a counter-attack from the parados of our trench.”


 The Royal Scots Fusiliers and the Highland Light Infantry merged in 1959 to form the Royal Highland Fusiliers.  What I find interesting is that here is an example of a Highland and a Lowland merging, but my recollection is that it was more of an absorption of the Royal Scots Fusiliers by the Highland Light Infantry.

Herein the history of the various Scottish Lowland Regiments ends, and we move unto the Highland Regiments.

The Third Battalion RRS


 The actual name of this Battalion will be The Black Watch. 

This is the most famous Highland Regiment and its Tartan, The Black Watch Tartan is also the Government Tartan. The Black Watch Tartan is one of the oldest tartans known, and from it many military and civilian tartans are based, mainly with the addition of over stripes of red, yellow and white lines. The Black Watch is also known for its famous Red Hackle which is worn with the Balmoral bonnet and no Cap Badge is worn.

The Black Watch comes from the independent police companies raised to watch the Highlands after the first Jacobite Rebellion in 1715. It served in America, and there is a least one Turnbull who served in the Regiment at Fort Ticonderoga, and our family name appears on a Cairn at the Fort. 


In Memory of

290443, "B" Coy. 8th Bn., Black Watch (Royal Highlanders)
who died age 34 on 19 July 1918
Son of Robert and Hanna Turnbull, of Denholm, Hawick; husband of Jessie Robertson Connor (formerly Turnbull), of 18, Landale Terrace, Cowdenbeath, Fife.

 A second Battalion was raised in 1779 and received separate regimental status as the 73rd Highland Regiment, in 1786. It was in this Regiment that the Duke of Wellington purchased a lieutenancy (a common practice in that time), but never actually served in it.

In 1809 the 73rd Regiment lost Highland status, but was given the title of The Perthshire Regiment. In the 1881 army re-organization, the Regiment was merged back again with the 42nd and became known as 1st and 2nd Battalions the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment).

The Fourth Battalion RRS


 This Regiment will be known as The Highlanders.

The Highlanders is the result of a recent merger of the Gordon Highlanders, with The Queens Own Highlanders (Seaforth and Cameron). The Queens Own Highlanders (Seaforth and Cameron)  was formed in 1961 with the merger of the Queens Own Cameron Highlanders and The Seaforth Highlanders.

The Gordon Highlanders represent a merger of the 75th of Foot, the Stirlingshire Regiment and the 92nd of Foot the Gordon Highlanders, during the army reforms of 1881.  However, it was a matter of one Regiment absorbing the other regiment in name and character, with the Gordon Highlanders being foremost. The 75th was formed in 1787 as an East India Company Regiment, and around 1793 became attached to the British Service.

The 92nd (originally the 100th of foot) was formed in 1794 when France was presenting a serious threat to Great Britain.  Its tartan, the Gordon, is similar to the Black Watch with the yellow over strip. Unique to the Gordons is that the buttons on the spats are black, rather than white, in memory of Sir John Moore, who is known as the father of the (modern) British Army. 

The Turnbulls once again have a keen interest in this Regiment, because from about 1925 to 1937 the Pipe Major of the 2nd Battalion, - the 92nd - was Charles Turnbull. He was called back into service at the beginning of the 2nd World War, and served in the Liverpool Scottish Regiment, a Territorial (similar to our National Guard) regiment to the Gordons, but headquartered in England.

The Queens Own Cameron Highlanders were merged with the Seaforth Highlanders on February 7th 1961, as The Queen’s Highlanders (the 72nd 78th and 79th of Foot).

The 72nd of Foot, (Due of Albany’s Own) Highlanders were merged in 1881 with the 78th Highland Regiment (the Ross shire Buffs) to form the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Seaforth Highlanders.

The 72nd was raised in 1778 by William, the 5th Earl of Seaforth, whose grandfather had joined the forces of Prince Charlie. It was originally numbered the 78th of foot, until about 1793. 

In 1793 with the declaration of war with France, one Francis Humberson Mackenzie of Seaforth received authority to raise a regiment, which assumed the number 78.  A second Battalion of the 78th was formed in 1794, again from the Mackenzie estates, and took the title of Ross shire Buffs. However the 2nd battalion was merged with the 1st battalion in 1796. Both Regiments were from the North of Scotland, in the Mackenzie lands, and their tartan was the same as the  MacKenzie Clan, and again based upon the Black Watch pattern, with red and white over stripes.

In the Army reforms of 1881, the 72nd and the 78th of foot were merged to form the Seaforth Highlanders.

The Queens Own Cameron Highlanders 79th of Foot, were from Cameron lands, centered around Inverness. They were raised in 1793 by Alan Cameron of Erracht whose ancestor also fought for Prince Charlie. The Cameron’s were the only single battalion regiment in the British Army from 1881 until 1897. The tartan of this regiment (Cameron of Erracht) is unlike the other tartans of the British Army (expect for the Royal Stuart Tartan, which is worn as a mark of distinction by Pipers in some of the Regiments). The Cameron of Erracht is basically a Mac Donald Tartan with added over stripes.

In 1961 the Seaforth Highlanders and the Cameron Highlanders were unhappily merged to form The Queen’s Highlanders (Seaforth and Cameron) and in this instance the combination of the regimental tartans, along with other regimental distinctions were nicely combined.

In September 1994 the Highlanders Regiment was formed from the merger of The Queens Own Highlanders (Seaforth and Cameron) and the Gordon Highlanders.  

The Fifth Battalion RRS


 The Fifth Battalion will be known as The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders came about with the 1881 reorganization with the merger of the 91st of Foot the Argyll Highlanders and the 93rd of Foot, the Sutherland Highlanders, however at the beginning of the merger they were known as the Sutherland and Argyle Highlanders.

The Argyll Highlanders were formed in 1794 by Duncan Campbell of Lochnell and while most of the officers came from Argyll and Clan Campbell, many of the rank and file were from Edinburgh and Glasgow. It was originally the 98th of Foot but later renumbered to the 91st of Foot. In 1872 the regiment formed the Guard of Honor at the wedding of HRH Princess Louise to the Duke of Argyll’s, Son the Marquis of Lorn, and due to this now connection with the Royal Family, it received the title of 91st of Foot, (Princess Louise’s) Argyllshire Highlanders.

The Sutherland Highlanders were raised in 1799 as the 93rd of Foot from Sutherland, area in the North East of Scotland, and were once described as the most “Highland” Regiment, with no history of serious disciplinary problems.

Both regiments were amalgamated 1881 with the army reforms. The Cap and the Collar badges were designed by Princess Louise. The tartan is known as the government tartan, and has the exact same pattern as the Black Watch tartan, but it is in a lighter shade of colors.

The Tartans and Cap Badges

The new merger clearly shows that many of the regiments, which are now battalions, will probably keep their own traditions, etc. I think that it will all depend on how closely each battalion works with the other battalions.  While the 3rd Battalion- The Black Watch will maintain their Red Hackle without a Cap Badge, all of the regiments will loose their individual cap badges, and adopt a new Cap Badge. The tartan will be the government tartan, which is the Black Watch Tartan. Therefore the following tartans will no longer be seen with the new regiment:



Hunting Steward 

Royal Scots Regiment


Kings Own Scottish Borderers


Royal Highland Fusiliers

Dress Erskine

Pipers of the Royal Highland Fusiliers

Black Watch
(Gov. Patterns with added blue stripe)

The Royal Scots Fusiliers


The Cameronian Regiment

Cameron of Erracht

The Queens Own Cameron Highlanders and then worn by the Pipers of the Queens Own Highlanders


Gordon Highlanders


Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders

 I am not sure if the Pipers of the Regiment will wear the Royal Stuart Tartan, which was the Tartan, worn by the Pipers of The Royal Scots, The Kings Own Scottish Borderers, and The Black Watch, and the Pipers of the Queens Own Cameron Highlanders.

As some of the Battalions are Lowland in nature, while other Battalions are Highland in nature, it will be interesting to see what the Dress Uniform will be. The Lowland Battalions may wear Trews while the Highlanders may wear the Kilts, or there could be a combination acceptable for all of the battalions.

The various and distinctive cap and collar badges of the regiments will disappear and a new Cap and Collar Badge will take their place.  In the early 1960’s the Government tried to combine the Lowland and the Highland Regiments into brigades with all regiments in each brigade wearing either the Lowland or the Highland Brigade Badge. This arrangement did not work out quite well and after a couple of years the Regiments resorted to their own Cap Badges.

There are two Scottish Regiments that are not being affected by this re-organization, The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, (formerly the Royal Scot Grays) which is a armored regiment and therefore would not be in an Infantry Division.  The other Scottish Regiment is the Scots Guards, which is of course part of the Brigade of Guards. The Brigade of Guards consists of five regiments each representing a Country of the United Kingdom, and Ireland.

The Guards Regiments


The Scots Guard

The Grenadier Guards, The First Guards Regiment, an English Regiment, was formed in 1656 in the Netherlands, by Charles II when he was in exile. With the restoration of the Monarchy in 1685, The First Guards Regiment took precedence over all other British Army Infantry Regiments (despite their date of formation) as the senior foot regiment.

The Coldstream Guards were raised in 1650 as Monk’s Regiment and were part of Cromwell’s New Model Army. It derives its name from the Scottish town of Coldstream, near the Scottish Border, where it was then stationed. However with the restoration of the Monarch, in 1660 the regiment disbanded and immediately reformed as the Second Guards Regiment, The Coldstream Guards.

The Scots Guards were raised in 1639 by the Duke of Argyle, to support the Monarch, but they date their formation date in 1642 to support by Charles I. The regiment was disbanded for nine years in 1651, but it was reformed in 1660 upon the restoration of the Monarchy. Therefore, the Scots Guards, predate the first two regiments of Foot Guards, but were not (re) established as the Scots Guards, until 1651, and thus were preempted by the Grenadier and the Coldstream Guards, in seniority.

The Irish Guards were established in 1900, on the order of Queen Victoria to honor the bravery of the Irish regiments that were serving in the South African War. Therefore this regiment is fairly new in the British Army establishment, and became the Fourth Regiment of Foot Guards.

The Welsh Guards were established in 1915 after World War I broke out, and many of the initial recruits to this regiment came from the other Guards Regiments.

There are two Calvary Regiments in the Household Division, The Life Guards and The Blues and Royals. The Life Guards were formed in 1660 by Charles I upon his restoration to the Throne, but they formed originally from a group of Royalist Gentlemen who followed Charles into exile.

The Blues and Royals date from 1969 upon the amalgamation of The Royal Horse Guards (The Blues) and the Royal Dragoons ( The Royals). The Royal Horse Guards were raised by Cromwell in 1650 and it was not until 1821 that they became part of the Household Division.

The Royal Dragoons were formed in 1661 by Charles II to form part of a garrison in Tangier, which became a British possession upon his marriage to Katherine of Braganza.

There are distinctions in the Guards Uniforms. The Household Calvary is easily distinguished. The Life Guards have Red Tunics and the helmet has a white plume. The Blues and Royals have Blue Tunics and red plume in the helmet.

The Foot Guards have the following distinctions based upon seniority 

Guard Division

Plume on the Bearskin and Collar Badge

Button Grouped Sections

Garrison Cap Band


Small White on Left, Grenadier “flame bomb”




Large Red on Right, Order of St. George

In Twos





In Threes

Red White Green Dicing


St. Patrick’s Blue On Right Side, Order of St. Patrick

In Fours



Plum on Left, Upper half white, lower half green and white

In Fives

Horizontal Black and Green Bands

The Scots Guards and the Irish Guards do have Pipe Bands, and all of the Guards Regiments have their own Brass Bands. I was told by an old Scots Guard Piper, that the Defense Department had tried to combine all of the Guards Brass Bands into one band; however the Queen prevented them from doing this. Whether or not the Defense Department will be able try this again remains to be determined. However, in general, because these Regiments are not only Royal Regiments, they are also guards (to the Royal Family) and therefore seem to weather the demands of the Ministry of Defense to reduce costs.

The Scots Guards Pipers wear the Royal Stewart Tartan, however the Drummers wear the standard Guards Drummer’s uniform. The Irish Guards wear Kilts in the Saffron color which is a yellow brown color, without any pattern.

Another factor is the Pipe Music. Each of the Scottish Regiments as well as the Scots Guards  have a history of tunes that are particular to their regiment, as well as common and shared tunes There will be a great deal of pressure on the Pipe Major to retain the individual regiment tunes and incorporate them into the new regiment.

Scotland’s Calvary Regiment and Tank Regiment

The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards (Carabiniers and Greys) are the only Scottish Regular cavalry regiment. It was formed in 1971 with the merger of the Royal Scots Greys (2nd Dragoons) with the Carabineers (Prince of Wales Dragoon Guards). The Greys were originally formed in 1678 to fight the covenanters in the Lowlands. After World War II the regiment formed a Pipe Band.

The 4th Royal Tank Regiment was formed when the various Tank Regiments were first being raised after World War I. It represents the combination of the 4th and 7th Royal Tank Regiment, in 1959, however 1993 this regiment was merged with the 1 Royal Tank  

So one sees the customs of regiments with less time in service and history are easier to merge. Nevertheless, the 4th RTR used to wear a black Glengarry rather then the black beret, now days the 1RTR has a Bagpipe band.

 John G. Turnbull
Treasurer TCA
April 7, 2005

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