Origins – 71st and 74th

Origins – 71st and 74th

The 74th (Highland) Regiment of Foot at the Battle of Assaye 1803

71st (Highland) Regiment of Foot

First Formation

The 71st Regiment of Foot was first formed in 1758 from the 2nd Battalion, 32nd Regiment of Foot. Soon after formation the 71st Foot was part of a raid on the French coast at Cherbourg during the Seven Years War. After taking the fort and destroying the docks the regiment reboarded and returned to England before it took part in a similar raid on Belleisle in 1761. In 1763 the 71st became a Regiment of Invalids before disbanding in 1768.

Fraser Highlanders

Fraser’s Highlanders were formed from independent Highland companies in 1757 before becoming the 78th (Highland) Regiment of Foot in 1758. Later on that year the Fraser’s Highlanders were shipped to Nova Scotia from where they took part in the French and Indian War . They fought at the Battles of Louisburg (1758), Quebec (1759) and Sainte Foy (1760). In 1763 the 78th disbanded at Quebec where most of its men transferred to the Royal Highland Emigrants . In 1775 Fraser’s Highlanders were raised again in Inverness, Stirling and Glasgow as the 71st (Highland) Regiment of Foot (Fraser’s Highlanders), two battalions were raised. In 1776 both battalions of the 71st Highlanders sailed to New York and took part in the American War of Independence. The 2nd Battalion was captured in Boston in 1776 and reformed in Scotland in 1778 before returning to America. Both battalions fought throughout the war, though the 2nd Battalion was captured a second time at Yorktown in 1781. The 2nd Battalion was disbanded in 1783 and the 1st Battalion disbanded in 1786. The 71st Regiment of Foot (Fraser’s Highlanders) was one of the more important regiments in the American Revolution, serving in both the Northern and Southern Campaigns, and participating in these major battles: Brooklyn (1776), Brandywine (1777), Savannah (1778), Briar Creek (1779), Siege of Savannah (1779), Siege of Charleston (1780), Camden (1780), Guilford Courthouse (1781), and Yorktown (1781). Discharged 1783.

MacLeod Highlanders

John Mackenzie, Lord MacLeod by George Romney

The MacLeod’s Highlanders were raised from an independent Highland company by John Mckenzie, Lord Macleod, son of the Earl of Cromarty, in 1777 as the 73rd (Highland) Regiment of Foot (MacLeod’s Highlanders) . Lord MacLeod was the first commander of the regiment. A 2nd Battalion was raised in 1778. Between 1778 and 1786 the 1st/73rd Highlanders saw service in Gambia in West Africa and in the Mysore War in India . In 1783 they absorbed personnel from the disbanded 2nd Battalion. In 1786 the regiment was redesignated as the 71st (Highland) Regiment of Foot (MacLeod’s Highlanders). In 1780 the 2nd/73rd Highlanders were sent to Gibraltar where they took part in the siege of the fortress before disbanding in 1786.

71st Highlanders

After redesignation the 71st Highlanders carried on fighting in India where they fought in the Battle of Pondicherry in 1793 and at Ceylon in 1795. In 1798 after a number of years on active service the effective troops left in the regiment were transferred to the 74th Regiment of Foot and the remainder returned to Scotland by 1802. A 2nd Battalion was formed in 1804. Over the next few years the regiment changed its name a number of times before becoming the 71st (Glasgow Highland Light Infantry) in 1809 and finally 71st (Highland) Regiment of Foot (Light Infantry) . In order to become Light Infantry the regiment changed the way it trained, marched and fought.

1st Battalion (71st)

Soldier of the 71st – by JD Shakespeare

The 1st Battalion left Britain for the Cape of Good Hope in 1806 where they were involved in minor actions. In June 1806 they were shipped to South America where they were involved in the disastrous expedition against Buenos Aires by Sir Home Popham. The city was actually captured but later the inhabitants rose against the small British force and took them prisoner. The 1st/71st was one of the battalions captured. Two battalion flags or Regimental Colours were also captured. On the 21st. of April 1808 the regiment received new colours instead of those they had surrendered at Buenos Aires. The colours were presented by General Floyd, a veteran officer.
71st Highlanders in 1856. After reforming the battalion they sailed in 1808 for Portugal where they took part in General Moore’s advance into Spain and disastrous retreat out of Spain which ended with Moore’s victory at Corunna.

Upon leaving Spain the battalion was sent in 1809 on the Walcheren Campaign. In 1810 the battalion was back in Iberia. They fought all the way through the Peninsular War and were at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 as part of the 3rd Brigade in Maj.General Sir Henry Clinton’s 2nd Division. The 1st/71st lost 16 officers and 171 men killed and wounded at Waterloo.

The 71st Highland Light Infantry firing the last shot of the Battle of Waterloo at 7pm on 18th June 1815 with a captured French cannon. by Richard Simkin

2nd Battalion (71st)

The 2nd Battalion was raised in 1804 and spent the whole of the Napoleonic War based in Scotland supplying men to the 1st Battalion. The 2nd/71st was disbanded in 1815.

19th Century

After Waterloo the usual tours of duty around the British Empire followed, serving in Canada, Bermuda, the West Indies and Corfu before the Crimean War broke out in 1854. The 71st Highlanders were at the Siege of Sevastopol from September 1854 and the Kerch Expedition to Eastern Crimea from May to June 1855.

The 71st were sent to India in 1858 where they helped suppress the Sepoy Rebellion in Central India. By 1863 the regiment was based on the North West Frontier where they fought in the Battle of Ambela.


The 71st Highlanders moved back to Britain in 1865 where they were when the Childers Reforms were carried out in 1881. They were united with the 74th (Highland) Regiment of Foot to form the 1st Battalion, Highland Light Infantry.

The 74th (Highland) Regiment of Foot

The 74th was raised in 1787 by Archibald Campbell, their first colonel, and were known as Campbell’s Highlanders.

They first saw action in India during the Mysore campaign of 1789, fighting at Bangalore and Seringapatam.

Sir David Baird discovering the body of Tipu Sultan after storming Seringapatam. by David Wilkie

Later, under Wellesley they saw action in the Mahratta War of 1802, fighting at Assaye in 1803.

Lord Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington.

Returning to Europe they served again under Wellington in the Peninsular campaign, and later, during the colonial period, in the Kaffir War and in the Sepoy Rebellion.

In 1845 they became the 74th (Highland) Regiment.

In 1852 the regiment was involved in the Birkenhead disaster; under their commander, Lt.Col Seaton and with men of the 73rd regiment, followed what became known as the “Birkenhead” Drill, enabling women and children on board to be saved.

The Wreck of the Birkenhead by Thomas Hemy

In 1881 as part of the Childers Reforms the 74th amalgamated with the 71st (Highland) Regiment of Foot to become the 2nd battalion, Highland Light Infantry.