The King's Own Scottish Borderers Association

1689 - 19th Century

1689 – A Regiment in 2 hours - Killiecrankie
Raised in Edinburgh on 18th March 1689 by David Leslie, 3rd Earl of Leven – it was reported that 800 men were recruited within the space of 2 hours - the Regiment first saw action at the Battle of Killiecrankie on July 27th of that year. Although the Jacobite rebels forced the Government army to retreat, Leven’s new Regiment acquitted itself well, and was granted the privilege of recruiting by beat of drum within the City of Edinburgh without the prior permission of the Lord Provost.

In 1691 the Regiment fought a hard and bloody campaign in Ireland, taking part in the assault on Ballymore (7th June), the siege of Athlone, the Battle of Aughrim (12th July), and the sieges of Galway and Limerick. This was followed by 5 years (1692-97) in the Low Countries fighting the French. At the siege of Namur on 27th July 1695, in the course of an assault on the outer defences of the town, 20 officers and 500 men were killed by an exploding mine. The survivors rallied and pressed on with the attack, driving the French back to the main defences. For this action the Regiment was awarded its first Battle Honour.

The 18th Century – Rebellion at Home – Service Abroad
Renewed Jacobite activity in the eighteenth century culminated in the Battles of Sheriffmuir (13th November 1715) and Culloden (16th April 1746). The Regiment took part in both battles - the only Scottish Regiment to have fought for the Government in all three decisive engagements of the Jacobite wars. For most of the century, however, the Regiment was stationed abroad. It was in Gibraltar from 1726-36, and the West Indies between1740 and 1743, returning to Flanders – and its old enemy the French -in 1744.  At the Battle of Fontenoy on 11th May 1745, Sempill’s Regiment (as it was then titled) formed part of a hollow square of infantry that turned back repeated French cavalry charges until the order to retreat was given. Nearly one third of the Regiment was lost in this encounter.

In 1751 the Regiment became the 25th Regiment of Foot. Another Battle Honour was won at Minden on the 1st August 1759 when, with 5 other infantry regiments, the 25th marched in line against 10,000 French cavalry and succeeded in breaking the French centre. On the return of the Regiment from the war in Germany, the Regimental Colours - which had been carried into battle at Minden, Warburg, Klosterkampen, Fellinghausen and Wilhelmstahl - were retired and were buried with military honours at St. Nicholas Church, Newcastle upon Tyne (31st May 1763).

A lengthy period of service in Minorca (1768-80) was followed in 1782 by an expedition to Gibraltar, which was under attack by Spain. In the same year the Regiment was retitled ‘The 25th (Sussex) Regiment of Foot’. It was thought that the addition of an English county name would stimulate recruiting!

At the outbreak of the French Revolutionary War the 25th was in Plymouth, and between 1793 and 1797 supplied marine parties for service aboard warships in the Mediterranean, the English Channel and the North Sea. The Grenadier and Light Companies were both present at Admiral Howe’s great victory on the ‘Glorious First of June’, 1794. A second Battalion was formed in 1795 to reinforce the first, which had been sent to Grenada to quell a revolt of the slave population there. En route to the West Indies, 2/25’s ship was captured by a French corvette. The men were taken aboard the French vessel and placed in irons, but managed to overpower their captors and turn the ship back towards Grenada.

The 19th Century – Napoleon – Policing the Empire

On the 2nd October 1799 the 25th won a third Honour at the Battle of Egmont-op-Zee, fighting in the forefront of Sir John Moore’s Brigade on the sand hills of Holland. In 1801 the Regiment went to Egypt with Sir Ralph Abercrombie’s expedition, and was granted the right to bear the emblem of the Sphinx on the Colours for its part in the capture of Alexandria. During the Napoleonic War the 1st Battalion returned to the West Indies. In joint operations with the Navy, Martinique was taken in 1809, and Guadeloupe in 1811. During this campaign the Battalion lost more men through disease than through enemy action.

Throughout the rest of the 19th century the 25th (King’s Own Borderers) Regiment of Foot – King George III had conferred the Royal title in 1805 – was engaged in operations in various parts of the Empire: West Indies (1837-39), Ireland (1837-39), South Africa (1840-42), India (1842-55), Gibraltar (1858-63), Malta (1863-64), Canada (1865-66), Ireland (1872-75) India (1875-81), Afghanistan (1878-80), and Burma, with the Chin Lushai Expedition (1889-90). A second Battalion was again raised in 1859, and saw service in Ceylon (1863-68), India (1869-75), Sudan, with the Suakim Field Force (1888), and India (1890-1903), earning new Battle Honours at the Siege of Chitral (1895) and with the Tirah Expedition against the Afridis (1897).

In 1873 the Regiment was allocated a Depot at York, and in 1881, when territorial titles and regimental districts were introduced, it was proposed that the 25th Foot should be re-designated ‘The York Regiment (King’s Own Borderers)’. Parliament was successfully lobbied, and on 29th July 1881 ‘The King’s Own Borderers’ moved to a new Depot at Berwick-upon-Tweed Barracks. The national origins of the Regiment were further recognised in 1887 when it acquired its present title ‘The King’s Own Scottish Borderers’.

From 1900 to 1902 the 1st Battalion was in South Africa, fighting in the Orange Free State (Paardeberg) and the Transvaal. They were joined by the 3rd (Militia) Battalion, whose job was to guard lines of communication, and Service Companies from the Volunteer Battalions.

Return to History main page

Go to 20th Century History page