Wednesday, November 12, 2014

British 71st Regiment- Highland Light Infantry

The history of the 71st regiment of Foot, as is often the case for British units, is somewhat convoluted.  The first unit to carry that number was formed in 1758, and participated in coastal raids on Cherbourg and Belleisle during the Seven Years War. At the conclusion of the war in 1863, it was converted into an invalid regiment before being disbanded in 1768.

The 71st (Highland) regiment of Foot was raised once again in 1775, with the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War. Mustered in Inverness and Stirling, it was unofficially known as "Fraser's Highlanders". The regiment arrived in New York in 1776, and fought in many battles, including Brooklyn (1776), Brandywine (177), Savannah (1778),  Camden (1780), Cowpens (1781, where much of the regiment was captured), Guilford Courthouse (1781), and Yorktown (1781). The two battalions of the regiment were disbanded in 1783 and 1786. At that point, the 78th Foot regiment, MacLeod's Highlanders, which had been serving in the East Indies, was renumbered as the 71st Foot, and renamed the 71st (Highland) Regiment.

The new 71st Regiment remained in India at first, seeing action at Pondicherry (1793) and later Ceylon (1795). It returned to Scotland in 1802, and underwent a number of name changes. It was sent to the Cape of Good Hope in 1806 and saw minor action there. Later in 1806 it was part of the expedition to Buenos Aires. Although the city was captured, the inhabitants later rose up against the occupying force, and the 71st was among several units taken prisoner. With Napoleon's invasion of Spain in 1808, the prisoners were released and returned to Great Britain.  After reorganization, the 71st formed part of the expeditionary force sent to Portugal later that year, where it fought at Rolica and Vimiero. The 71st was part of Sir John Moore's troops involved in the campaign in Spain, and the subsequent retreat and embarkation at Corunna. The regiment was then reorganized and retrained as a Light Infantry regiment, becoming the 71st (Glasgow Highland Light Infantry) in  March 1809, later (1811) changed to just "Highland Light Infantry". It formed part of the Walcheren expedition later in 1809. The 71st returned to the Peninsula in 1810, fighting at Fuentes de Onoro (1810), Almaraz (1812), Vittoria (1813, where it suffered very heavy losses), The Pyrenees (1813). The 71st fought again at Waterloo (1815), where it suffered heavy losses. It fought in the Crimean War before being amalgamated with the 74th Regiment in 1881.

The 71st Foot - Highland Light Infantry.As a unit with buff facings, its belts and pants should also be buff, as seen here. The unit way have worn trews (tartan pants) at the Cape of Good Hope in 1806, but it doesn't appear they wore them for the rest of the Napoleonic wars (but did once again starting circa 1846, the change approved by none other than the Duke of Wellington)).The unit was allowed pipers in full highland dress, however. (GMB flag, again the purloined King's Color of a different regiment).

As a Light Infantry regiment, all the men had shoulder wings, short green plumes on their shakos, and white metal "hunting horn" badges.ADD 11/16/14: As was pointed out to me,  the officer should wear his (crimson) sash diagonally over his shoulder, Highland style. 

The blue color of the shakos shown here is supposedly the highland bonnet (with its diced border) pulled over the shako (or some other internal blocking/support - sources vary); the green plume should perhaps then instead be a green pom pom in the top center of the shako, but we'll have to make due with them as depicted here. 

An illustrious and uniquely uniformed unit. As usual, these are Old Glory 28mm figures. I an quite pleased with how these came out!

The wearing of trews (tartan trousers), eventually using the MacKenzie pattern, was eventually restored to the regiment after our era. It is seen here at the time of  its amalgamation with the 74th Regiment in 1881. It continued to wear them through World War 1 and beyond. The kilt was later restored when it was involved in yet another amalgamation in 1959 when it became part of the new Royal Highland Fusiliers.  

Now for a bit of Connecticut Lowlands!(Berkshire hills). Less than a mile from my home is this hilltop farm, with views towards our neighboring town to the East, Roxbury, CT. 

Town Line Farm Road, between Bridgewater and Roxbury. There are still a few working dairy farms in the area; 50 years ago there were dozens of them (and the cows outnumbered the people). Many of the farmers of that generation have been my patients. Farming is dangerous work!

Looking back towards Bridgewater at some more farmland (cornfield to the left).

A converted farm house on Town Line Farm Road; this one hosts an annual Halloween weekend Pumpkin Catapult contest, which is quite fun to watch. 

Some modern day re-enactors wearing the uniform of the 71st HLI. Plenty of  possible choices for pants for this unit  - buff, grey, white, or trews!


  1. Very nice - those reenactors look good too

  2. Lovely looking Highland Light Infantry figures/unit Pete! the re-en-actors look cool too.. I also like your Connecticut Lowlands photos..nice!

    1. Thanks, Phil. The Highland Light Infantry were in fact gradually recruited more from the Lowlands when their Depot became Glasgow as part of the complicated trtnsitions outlined above!

  3. Fantastic history of the 71st, Peter! I am reading about the AWI Battle of Brandywine where the 71st was present. Do you know why the 71st fielded two battalions when other British regiment typically fielded only one?

    Nice brushwork on the OG figures and an interesting tidbit regarding pulling the blue bonnet over the shako.

    71st re-enactors and more beautiful New England fall scenery all wrapped into one post, terrific!

    1. Thanks, John!

      From the Re-enactor's website (link under the pic:

      "The 71st started out as the 73rd Regiment in December 1777, being raised by Lord McCleod and were known as McCleod’s Highlanders. In September 1778 Lord McCleod was authorised to raise a second battalion under the command of his brother the Honourable George Mackenzie, this battalion was later disbanded on 3rd October 1783. The Regiment was renumbered 71st on 1st January 1786.

      During the period 1777 to 1807 the 71st saw quite a bit of action. From 1780 the 1st Battalion served in India until 1797 with the East India Company’s army, fighting Hyder Ali Khan the Nabob of Mysore and Tippoo Saib, taking part in over 14 major engagements and numerous other skirmishes including the attack on Ceylon in 1795.

      The 2nd Battalion meanwhile embarked for Gibraltar on 27th November 1779. They acted as marines during the naval battle of Cape St Vincent and finally landed at Gibraltar in 1780 and leaving in 1783 after taking part in the siege."

  4. A great post for a famous unit, very nice job!

  5. Good job on this unit; no British army is complete without the Highlanders.

    I have all of the British infantry I need for Waterloo, but am painting British cavalry at the moment. Once you have the army for Waterloo, you will also have enough for Vittoria.

    1. Thanks, Mike. A good point re: Vittoria. I still have plenty more British, etc to go, especially the cavalry. As it looks like Joe will not attend Historicon, I might see if he would be interested in running a joint game at Elliscon or some of the other options closer to home.

  6. One of my all-time favourite regiments, mainly because they stubbornly held on to as many of their distinctively Scottish uniform characteristics as they could.

    Lovely work Peter.

    1. Thanks, Lawrence, and they certainly did fight to keep them, didn't they?