1945-59 and Beyond

1945-59 and Beyond

In the post ww2 period the Highland Light Infantry, in common with most other regiments, saw reductions in numbers and amalgamations of battalions. 1st Bn HLI was sent from Germany to Palestine in 1945 to help with internal security as religious friction increased there. Conscription was still in place, although now referred to as “National Service”, and many men who had been called up and served during the war with the territorial battalions, now found themselves transferred to the 1st Battalion for further service in Palestine and Egypt.

In 1946 the 1st Bn HLI was moved to Egypt where they paraded at the Citadel in Cairo, to hand over to the Egyptian Army, and strike the Union flag in the fortress for the last time since they first raised it there in 1882, 64 years earlier.

HLI Band at The Citadel, Cairo, 1946

Later in the same year, the Battalion returned to Palestine where tensions had reached a critical stage in the run-up to the creation of the State of Israel. 1st Bn HLI was much involved in peace-keeping and suffered ten men killed and nearly seventy wounded. It was the last British unit to leave Jerusalem, in May 1948. Returning to Britain the Battalion went to Fort George to become the Training Battalion of the Highland Brigade.

Pte Charlie Bryan Support Company 1st Bn HLI, Jerusalem, Palestine 1947-48.
A youthful Pte John Doak HLI manning the same Bren gun position in Jerusalem, Palestine in 1946-47. (Photo courtesy of his son John Doak junior).

In late 1947, 2nd Bn HLI, which had been stationed in Greece, reduced to a cadre, returned to Scotland and was stationed in Glasgow prior to amalgamation with 1st Bn HLI. This occurred in Fort George, the remains of 2nd Bn HLI joining 1st Bn HLI and becoming 1st Bn HLI (71st and 74th).  After two years at Fort George, 1st Bn HLI reverted to being an operational battalion and moved to Colchester in 1950. The following year it moved to the Mediterranean area, serving in Tobruk, Cyprus and then the Suez Canal zone.

1st Bn HLI returned home in late 1954 and was stationed in Bulford. While in this station it was alerted to prepare for an emergency tour in Cyprus, eventually moving there in January 1956 on internal security duties against EOKA, the Greek Cypriot terrorist organisation.

HLI departing for Cyprus January 1956

The Battalion operated in NE Cyprus with its HQ at Dhavlos. During this deployment the 1st Bn HLI lost three soldiers to an insurgent bomb placed at a village well and activated electronically. Following a company football game beside the village of Lefkoniko, Privates Neely, Beattie and Doherty raced towards the well for water and the bomb was exploded killing Private Neely and Private Beattie. Private Doherty received mortal wounds from which he succumbed after his evacuation back to Cowglen Military Hospital in Glasgow.

Left to right Private Ben Doherty aged 18, Private Matt Neely aged 19 and Private John Beattie aged 19.

The last soldiers of the Highland Light Infantry to lose their lives on active service. Cyprus 1956.

In January 1957 the Battalion returned home and prepared to move to Germany, where it served in Luneberg.

In 1959 The Highland Light Infantry was amalgamated with the Royal Scots Fusiliers to form the Royal Highland Fusiliers. The regular 1st battalions of the two Regiments combined at Redford Barracks, Edinburgh to form the 1st Battalion of the new regiment (1 RHF). The Royal Highland Fusiliers saw service in Northern Ireland during the “Troubles”. They served in Germany as part of the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR), took part in the Gulf War in 1991, and had further deployments in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq.

As part of restructuring in the British Army, in 2006 the Royal Regiment of Scotland was created incorporating the remaining Scottish regiments into one regiment of 6 battalions. The Royal Highland Fusiliers becoming The Royal Highland Fusiliers, 2nd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland (2 SCOTS). They are currently based in Glencorse Barracks, Penicuik, Midlothian, having recently returned from deployment in Afghanistan.