The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) was a rifle regiment of the British Army, the only regiment of rifles amongst the Scottish regiments of infantry. It was formed in 1881 under the Childers Reforms by the amalgamation of the 26th Cameronian Regiment and the 90th Perthshire Light Infantry. In 1968, when reductions were required, the regiment chose to be disbanded rather than amalgamated with another regiment, one of only two infantry regiments in the British Army to do so, with the other being the York and Lancaster Regiment. It can trace its roots to that of the Cameronians, later the 26th of Foot, who were raised in 1689. The 1881 amalgamation coincided with the Cameronian’s selection to become the new Scottish Rifles.
After the amalgamation, the 1st Battalion preferred to be known as “The Cameronians” while the 2nd preferred to be known as “The Scottish Rifles”. The 2nd Battalion saw action at the Battle of Spion Kop in January 1900 during the Second Boer War.
Two Militia battalions were formed from the former 2nd Royal Lanark Militia. The 3rd battalion was embodied in May 1900 for service during the Second Boer War. More than 600 men embarked for South Africa in April 1901, and returned in June 1902, following the end of hostilities. The 4th battalion had been embodied already in December 1899, also for service in the same war, and 600 officers and men embarked for South Africa in late February 1900.
In 1908, the Volunteers and Militia were reorganised nationally, with the former becoming the Territorial Force and the latter the Special Reserve; the regiment now had two Reserve and four Territorial battalions.
The 1st Battalion landed at Le Havre as part of the 19th Brigade, which was an independent command at that time, in August 1914 for service on the Western Front. The battalion famously refused to play football or otherwise fraternise with the enemy on Christmas Day 1914. The 2nd Battalion landed in France as part of the 23rd Brigade in the 8th Division in November 1914 for service on the Western Front.
The 1/5th Battalion landed at Le Havre as part of the 19th Brigade in the 6th Division in November 1915 for service on the Western Front. The 1/6th Battalion landed at Le Havre as part of the 23rd Brigade in the 8th Division in March 1915 for service on the Western Front. The 1/7th Battalion and the 1/8th Battalion landed in Gallipoli as part of the 156th Brigade in the 52nd (Lowland) Division in June 1915; after evacuation from Gallipoli in January 1916 the battalions moved to Egypt and then landed at Marseille in April 1918 for service on the Western Front.
The 9th (Service) Battalion landed at Boulogne-sur-Mer as part of the 27th Brigade in the 9th (Scottish) Division in May 1915 for service on the Western Front. The 10th (Service) Battalion landed at Boulogne-sur-Mer as part of the 46th Brigade in the 15th (Scottish) Division in July 1915 for service on the Western Front. The 11th (Service) Battalion landed at Boulogne-sur-Mer as part of the 77th Brigade in the 26th Division in September 1915 for service on the Western Front but sailed for Salonika in November 1915.
The 1st Battalion was deployed to Ireland in 1919 during the Irish War of Independence and then went to India in 1931 while the 2nd Battalion was deployed to Mesopotamia in 1919 and then went to India in 1922.
The 1st Battalion, which had been in India at the start of the war and was initially commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Galloway, was deployed to Burma as part of the 1st Burma Brigade in the 39th Indian Division in 1942 and saw action in the Burma Campaign.
A Bren gun team from the 2nd Battalion, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), 5th Division, take up a position high up in the mountains, Italy, 21 November 1943.
The 2nd Battalion, initially commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Douglas Graham, was deployed to France as part of the 13th Infantry Brigade in the 5th Division within the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in September 1939 and, after taking part in the Dunkirk evacuation in June 1940, saw action in the Allied invasion of Sicily in July 1943 and the Allied invasion of Italy in September 1943 and, after fighting in the Italian Campaign, serving in both the Moro River and Anzio campaigns until July 1944, took part in the North West Europe Campaign in early 1945, ending in May.
Infantrymen of the 6th Battalion, Cameronians passing Sherman tanks near Havert in Germany, 18 January 1945.
The 6th and 7th Battalions, both Territorial Army battalions, were deployed to France as part of the 156th Infantry Brigade in the 52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division to provide cover for the withdrawal of troops of the British Expeditionary Force; after the Normandy landings in June 1944, the battalion took part in the North West Europe Campaign in late 1944 and in 1945.
The 9th Battalion took part in the Normandy landings as part of the 46th (Highland) Infantry Brigade in the 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division in June 1944 and saw action in the North West Europe Campaign in late 1944 and in 1945.
In 1948, along with every other infantry regiment of the British Army, the Cameronians regiment was reduced to a single regular battalion. The 1st Battalion which had been repeatedly decimated in the Burma campaign was placed in suspended animation and the 2nd Battalion was renamed the 1st. It was deployed to Malaya in 1950 during the Malayan Emergency. Under the reforms of the army in the 1967 Defence White Paper, which saw several regiments amalgamated, the Cameronians chose to disband rather than amalgamate with another in the Lowland Brigade.
The 1st Battalion, The Cameronians was disbanded on 14 May 1968 at Douglas Castle, near Douglas, South Lanarkshire in the presence of the Duke of Hamilton, the Earl of Angus. Its recruiting area in Lanarkshire and Dumfries and Galloway was taken over by the King’s Own Scottish Borderers and the Regimental Headquarters finally closed down in 1987.