Royal Scots at Waterloo

Royal Scots Day

The Royal Scots (The Royal Regiment), once known as the Royal Regiment of Foot, was the oldest and most senior infantry regiment of the line of the British Army, having been raised in 1633 during the reign of King Charles I of Scotland. The Regiment existed continuously until 2006.

In 1661, the Regiment was summoned back from foreign service to Britain to bridge the gap between the disbandment of the New Model Army and the creation of a Regular Army, organised along the same lines as the British units in foreign service. The Regiment was thus the original model for all others.

The Regiment won its first Battle Honour at Tangier and later saw service under Malborough during the War of the Spanish Succession.  The Regiment, now with two battalions, saw the 1st Battalion in action during the 1743 Austrian War of Succession and the 2nd Battalion involved in the fight against the Young Pretender culminated in the Battle of Culloden, near Inverness, which was the last battle fought on British soil. In 1751 the army was numbered and thereafter the Regiment was officially designated the First or Royal Regiment of Foot.  The Napoleonic Wars saw the Regiment increase to four battalions and at the Battles of Quatre Bras and Waterloo, the 3rd Battalion suffered some 363 casualties out of a strength of 624.  The Crimean War was the next major campaign for the Regiment and Private Prosser won The Royal Scots first VC during the Siege of Sevastopol.

World War I saw the number of battalions increased to 35 of which 15 served as active front line units. More than 100,000 men passed through these battalions, of whom 11,213 were killed and over 40,000 wounded. Seventy-one Battle Honours and 6 VCs were awarded to the Regiment as well as innumerable individual medals.

At the start of World War II, the 1st Battalion embarked for France as part of the BEF. Forced into the retreat, which was to end at Dunkirk, they never made the road to freedom. The 2nd Battalion, based in Hong Kong, saw action when the Japanese attacked in December 1941 and after a heroic struggled they too ended up as PoWs.  A reconstituted 1st Battalion then served with distinction in Burma and Kohima with the 2nd Battalion serving in Italy and Palestine.  Other Royal Scots Battalions fought in Europe after D-Day and the Regiment was awarded 39 Battle Honours for WW2.

In 1983 the Regiment celebrated its 350th Anniversary and Her Majesty announced the appointment of her daughter, HRH The Princess Royal, to be Colonel-in-Chief.  In December 1990 the 1st Battalion deployed to Saudi Arabia as an Armoured Infantry battalion to take part in the Gulf War.

The Regiment is known by the nickname Pontius Pilate’s Bodyguard as a result of a 17th-century war of words with the French Regiment of Picardy. The French boasted that they had guarded Christ’s tomb prior to the Resurrection. The Royal Scots replied that they provided the guard to Pontius Pilate who, according to legend, was Scottish having been born at Fortingall. No basis for such claims has been offered.

On 28 March 2006, while the 1st Battalion were deployed on operations based at Basra in Iraq, and after 373 years of unbroken service the Regiment merged with the six surviving Regular and two Territorial Regiments of Scottish Infantry to form The Royal Regiment of Scotland.  The 1st Battalion was renamed The Royal Scots Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Scotland. On 1 August 2006 that Battalion further merged with The King’s Own Scottish Borderers Battalion to form The Royal Scots Borderers, 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland, abbreviated to 1 SCOTS.