The Childers Reforms of the British Army in 1881 resulted in the amalgamation of many infantry regiments, and the abandonment of the regimental numbering system. The 71st Highland Light Infantry, and the 74th Highland became the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the The Highland Light Infantry.
The 1st Battalion HLI were stationed in Britain from 1881 to 1895, then in Malta from 1895 to 1898. 1st HLI served in Crete during rioting in 1898 before returning to Britain in 1899.
The Boer War 1899-1902 saw 1st HLI take part in the battles of Belmont (1899), Modder River (1899) and Magersfontein (1899), and numerous other engagements. In 1903 1st HLI left South Africa for Egypt (1903-1904) then Sudan (1904-1905), then to India (1905-1914).
The 2nd Battalion saw action at the Battle of Tel El Kebir in September 1882 during the Anglo-Egyptian War: Lieutenant William Edwards was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions during the battle. The 2nd Battalion was stationed in Britain from 1883, but moved to India the following year.
1897-1898 2nd HLI were part of the Malakand Field Force during operations on the North West Frontier of India. 2nd HLI remained in India from 1884 to 1900, when they returned to the British Isles, where they remained until 1914.
In 1898, Captain (The Honourable) Alexander Hore-Ruthven of the 3rd (Militia) Battalion HLI, saw service in the Sudan with the Egyptian Army under the command of Kitchener. At Gedarif, on the 22nd of September, Captain Hore-Ruthven rescued a wounded Egyptian officer, carrying him safely back to the British squares under heavy fire and pursued by a large group of Dervishes. For this selfless action he was awarded the Victoria Cross.