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74th Regiment of Foot

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There was no, continuously serving, 74th Regiment of Foot. The number was used, at varying times, for units raised to meet a particular conflict.[1]


74th Regiment of Foot 1758 - 1764

A unit, raised as the 2nd Battalion of the 36th Foot in 1756, the 74th was separately regimented in 1758. It was disbanded in 1764. It saw service in the Seven Years War.

74th Regiment of Foot (Invalids) 1762 - 1768

The unit, originally numbered 117th Foot was raised as a regiment of invalids in March 1762. It became the 74th in 1763 and was disbanded in 1768.

74th Regiment of (Highland) Foot (Argylles) 1778 - 1784

In December 1777, John Campbell of Barbreck received letters of service from King George III to raise a regiment of infantry in the county of Argyll for service in the regular army for the civil war in the American colonies (later the Revolutionary War). Campbell had seen previous service in the colonies during the French and Indian Wars.

The first muster of the regiment was held in April 1778 at Glasgow and the unit numbered 74th Regiment of (Highland) Foot (Argylles). It was inspected, by the King, at Glasgow in May 1778 and sailed for Halifax, Nova Scotia, in August 1778.

In deployed to New York and saw service under Clinton in the Carolinas before returning to New York.

The Regiment deployed to England in early 1784, landing at Portsmouth, and marched home from there to Stirling, where it was disbanded on 24 May 1784.

74th (Highland) Regiment of Foot (Campbell's Highlanders) 1787 - 1881

The history of this Regiment is covered by Richard Cannon in the Historical Record of the Seventy-fourth Regiment, (Highlanders)

Continuing the association with the Campbells the 74th was raised in 1787 by Archibald Campbell for service in India. Its first action was during the Mysore campaign of 1789. It remained in India until 1803 redeploying to Ireland. It was known as "The Assaye Regiment".

From 1808 to 1814, it served under Wellesley, later Duke of Wellington, in the Peninsula Campaign, where they are know for the storming of the walls at the siege of Badajoz. It returned to Ireland in 1814 and although deployed to Belgium for the Waterloo campaign did not arrive in time.

From 1814 to 1818 it was on garrison duty in Ireland. The unit numbering system was changed in 1816 and the unit known as the 74th Regiment of Foot with "Highlanders" removed (not that the unit was ever particularly Highland and its recruiting base was Glasgow) but it lost the use of the kilt.

The unit deployed to North America, in 1818, and was based at New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland until 1828. It deployed to the West Indies, Bermuda, in 1829 and was in Ireland between 1830 to 1834.

In 1834 the unit deployed to Barbados. It remained in the West Indies, at various stations until 1841 when it deployed to Canada, Quebec and was stationed at Montreal.

In 1845 it left Canada and deployed to England. It 1845, after a petition to the King, the Regiment was again allowed to use "Highland" as part of its name and to be clothed accordingly. It was thus known as 74th (Highland) Regiment of Foot.

On the 22 August 1846 the Regiment finally arrived home in Scotland arriving at Dundee. After nearly 60 years of overseas operational service; they did it tough in those days.

In 1847 they returned to Ireland and were based at Dublin.

In 1850 they deployed to India to suppress various local uprisings which later became known as India's First War of Independence. As part of this deployment were regular transportation between India and Britain of unit reinforcements and wives and children.

Birkenhead Disaster February 1852

The Birkenhead was a ship used for the regular transportation of men and material to and from India. On 26 February 1852 she ran aground and started to sink on the Western Cape of South Africa. The Captain of the ship, Captain Salmond, took charge of the evacuation. Lieutenant Colonel Seton, commanding officer of the 74th Foot took charge of all military personnel and assigned men to pumps and boats. Unfortunately, due to damage, only three of the ships boats were serviceable and the two large boats were not among them.

As the ship ran further aground she broke in two and the Captain ordered "all those who can swim jump overboard, and make for the boats". Colonel Seton, however, recognising that rushing the lifeboats would risk swamping them and endangering the women and children, ordered all men to stand fast; only three men on board that ship ever made the attempt. Seton freed the cavalry horses and these driven into the sea in the hope that they might be able to swim ashore. Every man did not move, even as the ship broke up barely 20 minutes after striking the rock. Some of the soldiers would make it to tell the story but most drowned, died of exposure or were taken by sharks.

Rudyard Kipling was to coin this "The Birkenhead Drill"; women and children first and it subsequently became standard procedure in relation to the evacuation of sinking ships, both in fiction and in real life.

Childers Reforms

In 1881, as part of the Childers Reforms, the 74th (Highland) Regiment of Foot amalgamated with the 71st (Highland) Regiment of Foot and the 1st Royal Lanark Royal Militia. to become the Highland Light Infantry. The 74th becoming the 2nd Battalion.


  • The Regimental Records of the British Army; John Farmer; Highland Light Infantry
  • Historical Record of the Seventy-fourth Regiment, (Highlanders); Richard Cannon


  1. The Regimental Records of the British Army; John Farmer; Highland Light Infantry

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