"HORSE GUARDS, WAR OFFICE, S. W.,
"5th April 1881.
"Sir,—With reference to your letter of the 30th January last, I have the honour, by desire of the Field-Marshal Commanding-in-Chief; to acquaint you that, as the regiment under your command is to have a separate existence under the new linking, it is presumed that the regiment will now retain its
‘‘I have, etc.,
(Signed) "R. BLUNDELL, A.A.G."
The depôt was to be at Inverness, but as the barracks there were not completed till 1886 it was temporarily located at Fort George. The establishment was fixed at 26 officers, 2 warrant officers, 48 serjeants, 23 drummers, and 800 rank and file; and the Highland Light Infantry Militia was added as the 2d Battalion, while the number 79th was dropped, and the designation became The Queen’s Own
Cameron Highlanders. In consequence of the other army changes, the Honorary Colonel, General Sir John Douglas, was placed upon the retired list, as was also Lieutenant-Colonel Gumming, who had held command for only three years and nine months.
The latter, who received the honorary rank of Colonel, published the following Regimental Order on the occasion:-
"It having been notified to Lieutenant-Colonel Cumming that he is to be placed on the retired list under the provisions
of the Royal Warrant of 25th June 1881, he wishes to express his deep regret at leaving the regiment in which he has served for 35 years. He also desires to thank the officers, noncommissioned officers, and men for the very cordial support he has invariably received from them during the period for which he has commanded the Corps, and he now wishes them farewell, confident that they will continue to maintain the high character for which the regiment has so long and so justly been
Colonel Cumming was succeeded by Lieutenant-Colonel Leith, under whose command the battalion was, on the 17th and 18th of November, inspected by Major - General Adams, who expressed himself thoroughly satisfied with its efficiency; and a letter was subsequently received expressing the complete satisfaction of the Field-Marshal Commanding-in-Chief with the inspecting officer’s report.
Where matters in Egypt came to a crisis in July 1882, the
Quartermaster-General telegraphed to Lord Napier of Magdala, Governor of Gibraltar, inquiring whether regimental transport could be furnished to the Cameron Highlanders if they should be required to embark, and as the answer was in the affirmative, every one set to work at once to prepare for active service. On the 14th of July the regiment was ordered to hold itself in readiness to embark, and from this time every telegram was eagerly scanned and discussed, and an intense feeling of
excitement and enthusiasm pervaded the regiment. Bitter indeed was the regret when an order was issued that all men under 20 years of age were to be left behind, and though application after application was made to have this altered, the only modification permitted was in the case of drummers. On the 30th Lord Napier received a telegram that H.M.S. "Orontes" would reach Gibraltar about the 4th of August for the purpose of conveying the battalion to Alexandria; on the 6th the baggage
horses and mules were put on board; and on the 7th the final parade and inspection before starting took place in presence of Lord Napier at the New Mole. After the inspection Lord Napier addressed the regiment in the following terms:-
"Colonel Leith and The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders,—You are about to leave Gibraltar for active service, after having been quartered here for more than three years. Perhaps we take a special interest in you from having seen your young
striplings grow up into fine men during the time you have been here. You have a very noble list of campaigns on your colours, commencing with Holland, then Egypt, the country to which you are again going; and there are few parts of the world where your colours have not been borne, and on every occasion they have gained honour, and I am sure it will be the same now if you have the opportunity.
"Your conduct during the long time you have been here has been most satisfactory; your
steadiness and regularity in barracks and elsewhere has been remarkable. This is the foundation of a good regiment, and these qualities, combined in the fine men I see in your ranks, make me confident that the Cameron Highlanders can go any where and do anything. I shall have the pleasure and honour of reporting to Her Majesty that the Cameron Highlanders embarked in the best order, and not a single man absent. I now bid you farewell, wishing you every success, being sure that you will on all
occasions do your duty, and that, if the opportunity should occur, you will cover yourselves with glory."
The strength of the battalion was 25 officers, 48 non-commissioned officers, and 599 drummers, pipers, and rank and file—a total of 672. The companies marched down to the quay as steadily as on an ordinary parade. The last farewells were said, and amidst a burst of cheering, and to the strains of "Auld Lang Syne" played by the bands on shore, followed by the
"79th’s Farewell to Gibraltar" from the pipes on board, the "Orontes" started.
Alexandria was reached on the 14th, but the disembarkation was delayed for five days, the intervening time being occupied in an inspection by Lieutenant-General Sir John Ayde, K.C.B., Chief of the Staff, and in staining with tea the white belts, spats, and helmets, so that these might not show conspicuously against the desert sand. On landing, the regiment was conveyed by train to
Ramleh, where, next morning, it was hurriedly called to arms in expectation of an attack, but its services were not required. On the 20th and 22d it took part in reconnaissances along the railway, but though the enemy was engaged there were no casualties.
On the 29th it was announced that the Highland Brigade, of which the 79th formed part, was to proceed to Ismailia to form a portion of the force which Sir Garnet Wolseley was collecting there; and accordingly, on the 30th, all
arrangements having been completed and the camp struck, the regiment marched to Alexandria and embarked on the steam-transport "Lusitania," on board of which were also Lieutenant-General Sir E. B. Hamley and his staff. Anchor was dropped in Lake Temsah on the 1st of September, but though fatigue parties were daily sent on shore, no orders for landing were given until the 8th of the month, by which time the effective strength of the battalion had been, by the arrival of a draft from
England, made up to 27 officers, 54 non-commissioned officers, and 750 rank and file. The disembarkation took place on the 9th, the valises and all baggage being sent on by train with the tents. Two days’ rations were taken in carts, and each man carried his blanket in place of his greatcoat, his mess-tin, and 70 rounds of ammunition. The desert march to El Magfa was, though short, very severe, and many of the men had to fall out; but all were present before the march was resumed next
morning. So great was the thirst on reaching the camp-mg-ground, that a picket had to be posted at the fires where the cooks were preparing tea, in order to prevent the kettles from being emptied before the tea was put in. After such fatigue and the over powering heat and tainted air encountered during the following two days, the short rest at Kassassin before the advance on Telel-Kebir was very welcome. There was meanwhile a suppressed eagerness for the coming struggle, as the old 79th was
going into battle for the first time since the Indian Mutiny, and, inasmuch as Arabi’s strongly intrenched position was to be stormed, there was no doubt that the loss would be considerable.
The following preparatory Brigade Order was issued on the 12th:-
"Commanding officers are to be very particular about the fitness of water-carts, which will be filled and follow in rear of the battalions; and to make sure, by the personal inspection of company officers at 5 P.M.
to-day, that every man has his water-bottle full, if possible with cold tea.
"Commanding officers, through officers commanding companies, must impress upon their men the absolute necessity of carrying and husbanding rations, which will be issued to them to-day, as, until the period for which these rations are issued expires, nothing more can be obtained from the commissariat.
"As many spare water-bottles as possible will be sent to the brigade from headquarters, so
that a certain number of each company will carry two water-bottles; to-night the men will carry 100 rounds of ammunition in their pouches, but no blankets. Officers commanding must arrange regimentally as to the best mode of carrying this extra ammunition.
"In each corps the mode must be uniform.
"In the event of a night march taking place, the utmost attention must be paid to perfect silence in the ranks ; the slightest sound when near the enemy might cause the
miscarriage of the best-planned enterprise.
"Reserve ammunition of each battalion will follow it into action, and the most careful arrangements must be made by officers commanding for the bringing up of ammunition from the mules to companies engaged.
‘‘The stretchers assigned to each regiment must follow it in charge of the medical officer, who is responsible for the best arrangements which circumstances will permit of being made for the care of the
"The Major-General will see commanding officers at headquarters at 3 P.M."
After the return of Lieutenant-Colonel Leith to camp, the following Regimental Orders were issued:-
"Camp to be struck at 5.45 P.M. Tents, blankets, greatcoats, valises, and band instruments to be piled alongside the railway, and left in charge of a guard.
"The regiment to fall in at 6.30 P.M. Each man to carry 100 rounds of ammunition.
of Tel-el-Kebir is to be attacked with the bayonet; no one is to load, not a shot is to be fired until over the intrenchments."
The position assigned to the Cameron Highlanders was the left centre of the Highland Brigade, with the 75th and 42nd to the right, and the 74th to the left, and the right of the A company had the honour of being the flank of direction for the brigade—Lieutenant R. Macleod, the right guide, being directed by Lieutenant Rawson, R.N., who was guided by
the stars. After a short halt at Nine-gun Hill, the advance was resumed at 1 A.M., and then began that weird night-march over the desert, long to be remembered by the army and by the country—the monotonous tramp, the sombre lines, and the dimly discerned sea of sand faintly lighted by the stars, all combining to form an impressive sight, the memory of which will never be forgotten by those who took part in the operation. Just as dawn was breaking, two shots were fired from the left
front, one of which killed a private, and in a few seconds these shots were followed by others, the bugles of the Egyptians rang out, shells screamed overhead, and a living stream of fire poured from the enemy’s trenches. Bayonets were silently fixed, and the 79th moved steadily on in an unbroken line, not a shot being fired in reply. On the "advance" being sounded by Drummer John Allom, Lieutenant - Colonel Leith galloped to the front, waving his sword and calling, "Come
on the 79th;" and then, breaking into double time to the shrill music of the pipes, the men cheering as they ran, the regiment charged the line of intrenchments. Private Donald Cameron was the first to gain the top of the trench, but fell dead at once, shot through the head; but through the now full trench, mounting on each other’s shoulders and scrambling up, the front line gained the fiery top. Lieutenant Malcolm at once sprang down among some gunners, and, though wounded,
succeeded in making good his position. Men fell fast, as flash after flash continued along the line, until the bayonets had done their work, and the inside of the rampart was full of dead and dying. The Egyptians retreated straight to the rear, turning from time to time and kneeling to fire, the front line following them up in a confused mass— Pipe-Major Grant playing "The March of the Cameron Men" lustily. The second line, which had now surmounted the works, became mixed with
the first; and before any effort to reform the regiment could be suecessful, it was evident that a heavy cross-fire from shelter trenches on each side must be silenced. Advancing therefore to the left in skirmishing order, a portion of the battalion, under Lieutenants Urquhart, Grant, and Cavaye, speedily cleared the trench on that side, and drove the enemy along it and through a small camp to the trench in the rear. Major Chalmers, with Lieutenants D. F. Davidson and Ewart, at the same time
led a small body of men against, and speedily captured, a two-gun redoubt in front; and Colour-Sergeants Newall, Young, and M’Laren, and Corporal Syme, advanced against another on the left, killed the gunners in it, drove across the Canal some Egyptian cavalry who were preparing to charge, and turned a captured Krupp gun against the retreating foe.
The remainder of the regiment, under Lieutenant-Colonel Leith, with Lieutenants Campbell, Mackenzie, C. Davidson, and Scott-Elliot,
pushed on, along with the 42nd and 75th, to the trench in front, and after clearing this of the enemy, arrived at the crest of the hill overlooking the camp and railway station. The latter part of the progress of the British force was more a prolonged rush than anything else. "Without any great regard," says Lieutenant-General Hamley, "to the order of the ranks, or awaiting the coming up of troops constantly left behind, the advance was pushed at a great pace along the last
line held by the enemy. . . . So rapid was the advance, that on reaching the last work there were not above two hundred men and officers in the front line; the colonel of the 79th was one of them, but I do not remember whether the rest were all of that regiment, or partly of the 75th; Sir Archibald Alison was also among them on foot."
From the rising ground thus gained, a terrible scene of confusion was visible. The Egyptians were leaving the camp by hundreds, some running across
the desert, some along the railway, and some in their excitement jumping into the canal. A train full of fugitives had just started, and, in spite of the artillery which had by this time arrived on the hill in rear of the lines, it got safely away. The Highland Brigade, with portions of the 46th and 60th Regiments which had now come up, speedily cleared the camp of all the remaining Egyptians. The battle was won, and Arabi’s great force was melting away in the distance never to gather
After Major-General Alison had been greeted with a hearty cheer as he passed, Lieutenant-Colonel Leith ordered that the men should occupy some of the Egyptian tents and rest in their shade, while Sergeant-Major Campbell and a body of volunteers, shaking off the fatigue of their recent exertions, nobly set off at once to give such assistance as they could to the wounded; and it need hardly be said how acceptable their services were to Surgeon-Major Will, who, in spite of a severe
attack of illness, from which he had been suffering ever since the regiment left Ramleh, was diligently devoting all his energies to caring for those that had been injured, and trying to alleviate their sufferings. The regiment lost 13 men killed in action, and had 3 officers (2 dangerously) and 44 non-commissioned officers and men wounded, of whom 4 afterwards died from their wounds. The following officers, non-commissioned officers and men, were reported to Major-General Sir A. Alison as
having specially distinguished themselves:- Captain and Adjutant Baynes, Lieutenants Malcolm and Macdougal, Surgeon-Major Will, Sergeant-Major Campbell, Colour-Sergeants Newall, Young, M’Laren, Gunn, and M’Neil, Sergeant- Piper Grant, Sergeant - Drummer Sanderson, Sergeants Souter and Donald Gunn, Corporal Syme, and Privates Taylor, Chalmers, and Sheehan; while Lieutenant Colonel Leith, Major M’Causland, Captain Hunt, Sergeant-Major Campbell, and all the above-mentioned
non-commissioned officers and privates were subsequently mentioned in Sir Garnet Wolseley’s despatch.
The day after the battle, the Cameron Highlanders advanced to Zagazig, whence they were, after a day’s rest, sent on to Benha, where a large building within the enclosure of the palace was occupied as quarters. The baggage had all been left behind, and the only bedding was green sugar-canes strewn over the stone floor. At Cairo, which was reached on the evening of the 16th,
the only accommodation available was some unoccupied rooms in the citadel, and as the stone floors had not been cleaned since the Egyptian troops marched out, the dirt and smell were beyond description. There, nevertheless, the men had to remain till the 21st, when camp was formed at Gezireh, close to the 74th Highlanders. The brigade was again completed on the 23d by the arrival of the Black Watch from Belbeis, and on the 10th of October the army ceased to be an army in the field.
the 21st, Major-General Sir Archibald Alison handed over the command of the brigade to Major-General Graham, V.C., and at a parade in "fighting dress," delivered the following address:-
"Officers and men of the Highland Brigade,—The exigencies of the service require that I should this day lay down the command which three short months ago I took up with so much pride. I cannot quit the brigade without returning my best and most sincere thanks to the officers
commanding battalions for the warm and uniform support which I have ever received from them, and which has made my command to me a period of constant pleasure. I have to thank the officers for the admirable way in which they have always discharged their duties. I have to thank the non-commissioned officers and men for their excellent conduct in quarters, and their brilliant gallantry in the field.
"It was the dream of my youth to command a Highland Brigade! It has been granted to
me in my old age to lead one in battle. This brigade has been singularly fortunate in having had assigned to it so important a part in what must ever be considered one of the most brilliant victories which have been won by our arms in modern times.
"There is one thing that I want to impress upon you. and that is,—it was not the fiery valour of your man over the entrenehments of Tel-el-Kebir, but the disciplined, restraint of the long night march over the desert preceding it
which I admired the most. That was one of the most severe tests of discipline which could be exacted from men, and by you it was nobly borne. When in the early dawn we looked down from the summit of the ridge upon the camp of Arabi lying defenceless at our feet, and upon Isis army dissolving before us, the first thought that came into my mind was, that had my old chief Sir Colin Campbell risen from his grave, he would have been proud of you. He would have thought that you had well maintained
the reputation of the Highland regiments, amid the honour of the Scottish name; he would have deemed you the worthy successors of that now historic brigade which he led up the green slope of Alma.
"I cannot do better than wish that you may afford to that distinguished officer, Major-General Graham, to whom I have this day handed over the brigade, the same satisfaction that you have given to me. And now, to every commanding officer, to every officer, to every non-commissioned
officer, and to every man of the Highland Brigade, I wish God speed."’
On the 29th the regiment moved back to the citadel, of which Lieutenant-Colonel J. M. Leith became commandant. For services during the campaign, Lieutenant-Colonel Leith was made a C.B., and received the 3d class of the Medjidieh; Major M’Causland was promoted to a Brevet Lieutenant Colonelcy, and received the 4th class of the Osmanlie; Captain Hunt became a Brevet-Major, and received the 4th class
of the Medjidieh and Lieutenant Blackburn received the 5th class of the Medjidieh; while for their gallant services at Tel-el-Kebir, Colour-Sergeant Young and Sergeant Donald Gunn received distinguished-conduct medals, and Sergeant Souter was promoted to a Lieutenancy in the Black Watch.
On the 21st of February 1883, the regiment paraded at 11.30 A.M. for the presentation of the war medals by Lady Alison, who was accompanied by Major-General Graham. Whilst the regiment was waiting,
drawn up in line at Olsen order, Field-Marshal the Right Honourable Lord Napier of Magdala, who was travelling in Egypt, came up, and was received with a Field-Marshal’s salute. It did the regiment good to see him again, and the inclination to raise a hearty cheer for the fine old soldier who had so much endeared himself to every one whilst at Gibraltar, and whose name will never be forgotten by the 79th Cameron Highlanders, was repressed with difficulty. Previous to the distribution,
General Graham addressed the regiment, complimenting it on its past career, and regretting the absence of Sir Archibald Alison, who, he said, having been with it in action, would have spoken more accurately of the exemplary services it had rendered during the recent campaign, and especially as to the gallant storming of Telel-Kebir. He concluded by saying, "You men who have survived that gallant charge, and who are about to receive your medals, must not forget those intrepid comrades
whose lives were sacrificed, and especially would I mention Private Donald Cameron, who was first into the trenches, and died shot through the head."
Colonel Leith replied, thanking General Graham for the kind manner in which he had referred to the regiment, and expressing a hope that it would in the future maintain the high reputation which it had hitherto enjoyed. The medals were then distributed, Lady Mison pinning them on the breasts of those who had specially distinguished
themselves. The bronze stars granted by H.H. the Khedive were presented to the regiment on the 2d of June in Abdin Square.
In the month of June 1883, the establishment of the regiment was reduced to home strength, and as the order was to take effect from the 1st of April, it was at the time 69 above the proper number, and all recruiting was in consequence unfortunately stopped. In July cholera, which bad been raging for some time in Egypt, in most of the towns north of Cairo, seized
the troops at the capital, those who were sick in hospital being the first attacked, and in most cases the first to succumb. Four men of the 79th died on the 24th of July, and on the following day the regiment moved into camp on the Moktam heights, about a mile from the citadel, leaving G company in charge of the barracks. The change from the foul atmosphere of the citadel to the fresh air outside resulted in an almost complete cessation of the epidemic, and whilst the regiment was under
canvas there were only two cases, of which one, that, unfortunately, of the gallant Pipe-Major Grant, terminated fatally. Others, however, occurred in the detachment left behind, and the total number who died during the outbreak was ten. The regiment returned to the citadel on the 1st of September.
On the 14th of November the members of the regiment were present in spirit at the ceremony (see the account of the 92nd) of placing the old colours of many of the Scottish regiments in St
Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh. One of the stands was that carried by the 79th from 1828 to 1854. The flags, presented at Montreal on the 18th of June (the anniversary of Waterloo), had, when retired immediately before the departure of the regiment for the Crimea, passed into the possession of Lieutenant-Colonel the Hon. Lauderdale Maule, by whose relative, the Right Honourable the Earl of Dalhousie, K.T., they were now gifted to the committee charged with the St Giles’ arrangements.
In the procession from Edinburgh Castle to the Cathedral they were carried by Lieutenants Hacket-Thompson and Urmston (93rd), and escorted by Colour-Sergeants Smith and Templeman from the depot at Fort George.
The disastrous effects of the reduced establishment were felt in January 1884, when, though recruiting for the regiment was again open, recruits came in very slowly, and on the departure of the expedition to Suakim under Major-General Sir Gerald Graham, V.C., K.C.B., in February,
the regiment was so numerically weak (49 under home establishment), that it could not form part of the force. Three officers, however, and a number of men who volunteered, were fortunate enough to take part in the operations, Captain Baynes, Assistant Military Secretary to Sir Gerald Graham, carried home the despatches, in which he was mentioned, and received a brevet majority and the addition of two clasps to his medal; Lieutenant Scott, Aid-de-Camp to General Graham, was mentioned in
despatches, and received the two clasps; while Lieutenant C. Davidson, who was doing duty with the 1st Battalion of the Gordon Highlanders, received the two clasps. During General Graham’s absence, Lieutenant-Colonel Leith was in command of the 2nd Brigade at Cairo.
On the 1st of April the establishment was again raised to the satisfactory strength of 809 of all ranks; but thereafter, except the movements of companies to various points on detachment duty, nothing of importance
occurred till the 9th of September, when Lord Wolseley arrived in Egypt to assume command of the force intended to proceed up the Nile to the relief of Major-General Gordon, who, early in the year, accompanied by Colonel Stewart, had undertaken to relieve the Egyptian garrisons in the Soudan, and to restore order about Khartoum, but whose situation had, in consequence of the rapid spread of the Mahdist rebellion, become exceedingly critical. On the 19th of September, Lord Wolseley inspected
the regiment, expressing himself highly pleased with the fine appearance of the men; and on the 18th of November —-the interval being necessary on account of the extensive commissariat arrangements required along the river—the Cameron Highlanders left Cairo by rail for Assiout, and were thence conveyed on barges and steamers to Assouan, which was reached on the 30th of the month. Here orders were given to proceed to Korosko, and on the 1st of December the battalion disembarked,
and, after proceeding by rail to Shelal at the head of the First Cataract, was conveyed to its destination in barges towed by steamers and in diabehas.
Korosko, the name given to a few mud huts lying midway between Assouan and Wady Haifa, was important as commanding the northern end of the desert route to Abu Rained (270 miles in length, and avoiding all the most difficult cataracts of the Nile), which is distant only 10 days by camel from Khartoum. This route the regiment hoped to
open up, and so take an active part in the subsequent operations. These hopes were, however, doomed to disappointment, for on the 28th of January Lieutenant-Colonel Leith, who was in command of the station, received from Lord Wolseley the sad news of the fall of Khartoum and the death of General Gordon. The river and desert columns were ordered to retire on Korti, and the Arab levies were disbanded, so that all chance of active service seemed over, when a telegram arrived from Sir Evelyn
Wood, V. C., intimating that the Cameron Highlanders would spend the summer at Korosko, and that, with a view to comfort and health, huts for the men should at once be erected—an order which seemed to point to an intention on the part of Lord Wolseley to keep the army in summer quarters in the Soudan, and to advance again on Khartoum in the autumn.
On the 29th of February the battalion lost the valuable services of Major Baynes, who had acted as adjutant for over four years, and
who now left the regiment to take up duty on the staff of General Sir Gerald Graham; and on the 31st of March a still greater loss was suffered through the departure of Lieutenant-Colonel Leith, who had received the appointment of Assistant Quartermaster-General at Suakim. As Colonel Leith’s period of command had nearly expired, this appointment necessitated his saying farewell to the Cameron Highlanders, of whom he took leave in the following Regimental Order:-
Leith, having been ordered to proceed to Suakim, bide farewell, with great regret, to the 79th Cameron Highlanders, in which he has served for thirty-one years, and which he has had the honour to command for nearly five years. Never could a Commanding Officer have a prouder command, or one more easy to exercise, owing to the cordial and efficient support he has always received from the officers; to the zeal and ability shown by the warrant officers, staff-sergeants, and non-commissioned
officers in maintaining the discipline and high reputation of the regiment which it always has and always will enjoy; and to the general good conduct and soldier-like qualities of the men, whether in the field or quarters."
Colonel Leith was succeeded by Lieutenant Colonel St Leger, and Major Baynes as adjutant by Lieutenant Ewart.
The progress of the hutting operations was personally inspected by Lord Wolseley on the 7th of April, and by the middle of May accommodation was
ready for eight companies. Just at this time a few cases of small-pox occurred, but the prompt measures taken to prevent the spread of the disease were successful, and the outbreak was stopped. On the 11th of May, Major Money left on appointment as Assistant Military Secretary to Major-General Sir F. Stephenson, K.C.B., commanding in Lower Egypt.
It had now been decided to withdraw the Nile and Suakim expeditions, and fresh dispositions being thus necessary, the Cameron Highlanders
became part of the Frontier Field Force under Major-General Grenfell, intended to hold the Soudan frontier. For this purpose the 79th retained its position at Korosko; the West Kent Regiment was stationed at Wady Haifa, and the Yorkshire Regiment and 20th Hussars at Assouan. Colonel Leach, V.C., R.E., who had been appointed to the command of the garrison at Korosko, arrived on the 16th of July, and on the following day inspected the regiment, and complimented all ranks on having maintained
such a smart and soldier-like appearance under suck disadvantageous circumstances. Under the new commander the hutting arrangements were quickly finished, and the camp put in a complete state of defence, every one having worked hard and cheerfully notwithstanding the great heat and the trying climate.
No long period of rest was, however, permitted, for on the 5th of October orders were received that the regiment was to be held in readiness to proceed to Wady Halfa, as a large Arab
force was advancing against that station and Akasheh; and when Lieutenant-General Stephenson came, on the 10th, to make his inspection, all was ready for the start. The relieving (the Yorkshire) regiment having arrived on the 13th, the Cameron Highlanders embarked, and were conveyed up the Nile by steamers and barges, Wady Halfa being reached on the 17th. Here orders were received that the right half-battalion and headquarters should remain under canvas, while the left half-battalion, under
Lieutenant-Colonel Everett (who had been promoted from a majority for services in the Soudan), was to occupy advanced posts at Kosheh and Akasheh. Lieutenant-Colonel Everett, with two companies, remained at the latter place, while the former position—a small brick fort 113 miles south of Wady Haifa and 26 miles from Akasheh—was held by two companies under Major Chalmers. In the end of October a reinforcement of 50 men for each post was received from the right half-battalion, and
on the 9th of November the D company, under Major Annesley, was sent to Sarras, 37 miles south of Wady Haifa, to protect the railway to Akasheh while 12 men, under Sergeant A. Mackenzie, occupied a block-house at Mograt Wells. Meanwhile, as the Arab advance had become more threatening, the whole of the left half-battalion had been concentrated at Kosheh on the 7th, and on the 19th the whole of the right half-battalion moved to Akasheh, and thence to an old ruined Arab fort at Mograkeh, which
was now put in a state of defence so as to keep open the line of communication between Akasheh and Kosheh. As it was known that the Soudanese were approaching rapidly, every one worked cheerfully and hard at the defences at both stations. The old towers at Mograkeh were quickly loopholed, the walls cut down and banquettes constructed, and a zareba of mimosa formed at the most exposed points; while at Kosheh trees were felled, the ground levelled, and a zareba constructed on the west bank of
The right half-battalion, having been relieved by the 3d battalion of the Egyptian army, advanced to Kosheh, where, on the hills above Amara, the enemy had been seen in great force on the 28th, and where the garrison now consisted of the Cameron Highlanders, a troop of the 20th Hussars, a troop of mounted infantry, a detachment of the Royal Artillery, and a detachment of Egyptian soldiers, while H.M.S. "Lotus" and "Shaban" patrolled the river. Between the
29th of November and the 4th of December the cavalry and mounted infantry were out skirmishing, and efforts were made to induce the enemy to attack, while on two occasions the "Lotus" hotly engaged the opposing forces along both banks. On the 5th of December the Arabs advanced on both sides of the river, occupying the sand-hills on the west, and the village, palm-grove, and "black rock" on the east, about 700 .yards from the Fort, on which, as well as on the zareba, they
kept up an almost ceaseless musketry fire from this time till the end of December.
As soon as it became evident that the enemy did not mean to attack in earnest, but to harass and annoy the garrison as much as possible, traverses, covered ways, magazine trenches, and other internal defences were constructed for the protection of the men, and the force was divided into three watches, so that a third of the number was always ready to repel any attack and to return the Arab fire; while,
on the 9th, detachments of the Cameron Highlanders and Egyptians, under Major Annesley, cleared the palm-grove and houses on the east bank of the Nile, and set fire to the village; and again, on the 16th, two companies of the Highlanders, under Lieutenant-Colonel Everett, made a demonstration against the village and black rock, the latter position being cleared. The enemy’s shell-fire from the west bank was about this time particularly destructive, a number of officers and men being
killed or severely wounded. The loss of Lieutenant W. G. Cameron, who died of wounds, was much felt, the commanding officer saying, in the regimental order announcing his death, that the regiment had "lost a most promising and gallant young officer, whose zeal and readiness to perform any duty, however difficult or dangerous, will long be remembered by all who served with him."
On the 28th the enemy again showed in great strength on the hills near Giniss, as if meditating an
attack, but the arrival of Lieutenant-General Sir F. Stephenson at Mograkeh on the 29th, with 4000 British and Egyptian troops, put an end to all the Arab hopes; and the investment of Kosheh, which had lasted for thirty-one days, was at an end. On the following day the dervish force was attacked and routed, the Cameron Highlanders and Egyptians carrying the village of Kosheh at the point of the bayonet, and afterwards occupying and burning the village of Giniss, where they bivouacked for the
night. Next morning two companies, under Captain Hacket-Thompson, dislodged some dervishes, who were still holding out in a fortified house near Kosheh — an operation accomplished without loss—and then the battle of Giniss was over. The victory was complete, all the enemy’s standards and ammunition and five guns falling into the hands of the British and Egyptians. The loss of the Cameron Highlanders was 8 privates wounded, and during the siege one officer and 5
non-commissioned officers and men were killed or died of wounds, and 2 officers and 16 noncommissioned officers and men were wounded. For their services Colonel St Leger and Lieutenant-Colonel Everett received the Distinguished Service Order.
With Giniss active work came to an end, and as all ranks had suffered from the severe strain of the siege, the regiment was, on the 6th of January 1886, sent to Wady Halfa to recruit. During the spring it proceeded to Cairo, where it remained as
part of the army of occupation till the 11th of March 1887, when it embarked on H.M.S. "Tamar" for home—Plymouth being reached on the 25th, and quarters taken up at Devonport Barracks. The day before the departure from Cairo it was announced in the Egyptian Gazette that H.H. the Khedive, desirous of recognising the distinguished conduct of the Cameron Highlanders at the battle of Giniss, where they had fought in line with the 9th battalion of the Egyptian Army, had been
pleased to confer the 3d class of the Imperial Order of the Medjidieh on Lieutenant-Colonel Everett, the 4th class of the same order on Captain Napier, and the 5th class on Lieutenant Ewart; while he had also ordered, as a further mark of his favour, that the Master of Ceremonies should be in attendance at the Cairo railway terminus at the departure of the regiment, to wish it farewell and bon voyage on behalf of His Highness.
The gratification of reaching home after such glorious
services was at first somewhat marred by rumours that the regiment was to be deprived of its historic position and dress, and converted into a 3d battalion of the Scots Guards, but the intention has happily been abandoned. An application has been made to the War Office for permission to send a recruiting detachment of an officer and 20 men to North Uist and the other western isles of Inverness-shire, for the purpose of trying to increase the number of Highlanders in the ranks, and form the
nucleus of a second battalion.
Lieut.-Colonel Clephane, who for many years was connected with the Cameron Highlanders, has been good enough to furnish us with a number of anecdotes illustrative of the inner life of the regiment in his time. Some of these we have already given in the text, and we propose to conclude our narrative with one or two others, regretting that space does not permit our
making use of all the material Colonel Clephane has put into our hands.
It may probably be affirmed, as a rule, that there exists in the regiments of the British army an amount of harmony and cordial reciprocation of interest in individual concerns, which cannot be looked for in other professional bodies. From the nature of the circumstances under which soldiers spend the best years of their lives, thrown almost entirely together, sometimes exclusively so, and moving, as fate and the
War Office may determine, from one point to another of Her Majesty’s dominions on their country’s concerns, it naturally arises that an amount of familiar knowledge of each other’s characteristics is arrived at which in the world at large is rarely attainable. We should state that the period of the following reminiscences is comprehended between the year 1835 and the suppression of the Indian mutiny.
In the 79th Highlanders the harmony that existed among the officers,
and the completeness of the chain of fellow-feeling which bound together all ranks from highest to lowest, was very remarkable. It used to be said among the officers themselves that, no matter how often petty bickerings might arise in the fraternity, anything like a serious quarrel was impossible; and this from the very reason that it was a fraternity, in the best and fullest sense of the word.
And now a temptation arises to notice one or two of those individual members of the regiment
whose demeanour and eccentricities of expression furnished a daily supply of amusement :—There was a non-commissioned officer, occupying the position of drill-sergeant about five-and-thirty or forty years ago, whose contributions in this way were much appreciated. " I think I see him now," writes Colonel Clephane, "sternly surveying with one grey eye, the other being firmly closed for the time being, some unlucky batch of recruits which had unfavourably attracted his
attention his smooth-shaven lip and chin, a brown curl brought forward over each cheek-bone, and the whole surmounted by the high white-banded sergeant’s forage cap of that day set at the regulation military angle over the right ear. He was a Waterloo man, and must have been verging on middle age at the time of which I write, but there was no sign of any falling off in the attributes of youth, if we except the slight rotundity beneath the waistbelt." No one could be more
punctiliously respectful to his superior officers than the sergeant, but when he had young gentlemen newly joined under his charge at recruit drill, he would display an assumption of authority as occasion offered which was sometimes ludicrous enough. On one of these occasions, when a squad of recruits, comprising two newly-fledged ensigns, was at drill in the barrack square, the sound of voices (a heinous offence as we all know) was heard in the ranks. The sergeant stopped opposite the
offending squad. There was "silence deep as death"— "Ah—m-—m!" said he, clearing his throat after a well-known fashion of his, and tapping the ground with the end of his cane—" Ah—m—m! if I hear any man talkin’ in the ranks, I’ll put him in the guard ‘ouse" (here he looked with stern significance at each of the officers in turn)—’’ I don’t care who he is I" Having thus, as he
thought, impressed all present with a due sense of the respect due to his great place, he gave a parting "Ah—m—m!" tapped the ground once or twice more, keeping his eye firmly fixed to the last on the more suspected of the two ensigns, and moved stiffly off to the next batch of recruits. No one ever dreamed of being offended with old "Squid," as he was called, after his pronunciation of the word squad, and those who had, as he expressed it, "passed through
his hands" would never consider themselves as unduly unbending in holding serious or mirthful colloquy with their veteran preceptor. Thus, on another occasion of considerably later date than the above, some slight practical joking had been going on at the officers’ mess, a practice which would have been dangerous but for the real cordiality which existed among its members, and a group of these conversed gleefully on the subject next morning after the dismissal of parade. The
peculiar form assumed by their jocularity had been that of placing half a newspaper or so upon the boot of a slumbering comrade, and setting it on fire, as a gentle hint that slumber at the mess-table was objectionable. One officer was inclined to deprecate the practice. " If he had not awoke at once," said he, "he might have found it no joke." "Ah—m—m !" uttered the well-known voice close behind the group, where the sergeant, now dépôt
sergeant-major, had, unnoticed, been a listener to the colloquy, " I always grease the paper." This was literally throwing a new light on the subject, and was the worthy man’s method of testifying contempt for all undue squeamishness on occasions of broken etiquette.
One or two subordinates in the same department were not without their own distinguishing characteristics. Colonel Clephane writes—’’I remember one of our drill corporals, whose crude ideas
of humour were not un amusing when all were in the vein, which we generalls were in those days. He was quite a young man, and his sallies came, as it were, in spite of himself, and with a certain grimness of delivery which was meant to obviate any tendency therein to relaxation of discipline. I can relate a slight episode connected with this personage, showing how the memory of small things lingers in the hearts of such men in a way we would little expect from the multifarious nature of their
occupations, and the constant change to them of scenes and features. A young officer was being drilled by a lance-corporal after the usual recruit fashion, and being a tall slip of a youth he was placed on the flank of his squad. They were being marched to a flank in what was called Indian or single file, the said officer being in front as right hand man. When the word ‘halt’ was given by the instructor from a great distance off—a favourite plan of his, as testing the power
of his word of command—the officer did not hear it, and, while the rest of the squad came to a stand still, he went marching on. He was aroused from a partial reverie by the sound of the well-known broad accent close at his ear, ‘ Hae ye far to gang the nichtl’ and, wheeling about in some discomfiture, had to rejoin the squad amid the unconcealed mirth of its members. Well, nearly thirty years afterwards, when probably not one of them, officer, corporal, or recruits,
continued to wear the uniform of the regiment, the former, in passing through one of the streets of Edinburgh, came upon his old instructor in the uniform of a conducting sergeant (one whose duty it was to accompany recruits from their place of enlistment to the head-quarters of their regiments). There was an immediate cordial recognition, and, after a few inquiries and reminiscences on both sides, the quondam officer said jestingly, "You must acknowledge I was the best recruit you had
in those days." The sergeant hesitated, smiled grimly, and then replied, "Yes, you were a good enough recruit; but you were a bad richt hand man!"
The sequel of the poor sergeant’s career furnishes an apt illustration of the cordiality of feeling wherewith his officer is almost invariably regarded by the fairly dealt with and courteously treated British soldier. A few years subsequent to the period of the above episode, Colonel Clephane received a visit at his
house, quite unexpectedly, from his old instructor. The latter had been forced by this time, through failure of health, to retire from the active duties of his profession, and it was, indeed, evident at once, from his haggard lineaments and the irrepressible wearing cough, which from time to time shook his frame, that he had "received the route’ for a better world. He had no request to make, craved no assistance, and could with difficulty be persuaded to accept some refreshment.
The conversation flowed in the usual channel of reminiscences, in the course of which the officer learned that matters which he had imagined quite private, at least to his own circle, were no secret to the rank and file. The sergeant also adverted to an offer which had been made to him, on his retirement from the 79th, of an appointment in the police force. "A policeman" said he, describing his interview with the patron who proposed the scheme "for Godsake, afore ye mak a
policeman o’ sue, just tie a stane round my neck and fling me into the sea " After some time, he got up to retire, and was followed to the door by his quondam pupil, who, himself almost a cripple, was much affected by the still more distressing infirmity of his old comrade. The officer, after shaking hands, expressed a hope, by way of saying something cheering at parting, that he should yet see the veteran restored to comparative health. The latter made no reply, but after taking a
step on his way, turned round, and said, in a tone which the other has not forgotten, "I’ve seen you once again any way ;" and so they parted, never to meet again in this world.
These are small matters, but they furnish traits of a class, the free expenditure of whose blood has made Great Britain what she is.
There is in all regiments a class which, very far remote as it is from the possession of the higher, or, at all events, the more dignified range of
attributes, yet, as a curious study, is not undeserving of a few notes. It is pretty well known that each officer of a regiment has attached to his special service a man selected from the ranks, and in most cases from the company to which he himself belongs. Now, it is not to be supposed that the captain of a company will sanction the employment in this way of his smartest men, nor, indeed, would the commanding officer be likely to ratify the appointment if he did; still, I have seen smart
young fellows occasionally filling the position of officer’s servant, though they rarely continued long in it, but reverted, as a rule, sooner or later, to their places in the ranks, under the influence of a soldier’s proper ambition, which pointed to the acquisition of at least a non-commission officer’s stripes not to speak of the difference between Her Majesty’s livery and that of any intermediate master, however much in his own person deserving of respect. The
young ensign, however, in joining will rarely find himself accommodated with a servant of this class. He will have presented to him, in that capacity, some steady (we had almost said "sober," but that we should have been compelled forthwith to retract), grave, and experienced old stager, much, probably, the worse of wear from the lapse of time and from subsidiary influences, and serving out his time for a pension (I speak of lays when such things were), after such fashion as
military regulations and an indulgent captain permitted. This sort of man was generally held available for the newly joined ensign, upon much the same principle as that which places the new dragoon recruit on the back of some stiff-jointed steed of super natural sagacity and vast experience of a recruit’s weak points in the way of security of seat, which last, however, he only puts to use when he sees a way of doing so with benefit to his position, unaccompanied with danger to his hide
; in other words, while regarding with much indifference the feelings of the shaky individual who bestrides him, he has a salutary dread of the observant rough-rider. A soldier servant of the above class will devote himself to making what he can, within the limits of strict integrity, out of a juvenile master but woe betide the adventurous wight whom he detects poaching on his preserve ! On the whole, therefore, the ensign is not badly off for the veteran is, after all, really honest, and
money to almost any amount may be trusted to his supervision; as for tobacco and spirits, he looks upon them, I am afraid, as contraband of war, a fair and legitimate forfeit if left within the scope of his privateering ingenuity.
Many years ago, while the 79th Highlanders formed the garrison of Edinburgh Castle, Her Majesty the Queen, who had very lately ascended the throne of Great Britain, paid a visit to the metropolis of her Scottish dominions, and a guard of honour from the above
regiment was despatched down to Holyrood to keep watch and ward over the royal person. It was late in the season, or early, I forget which, Colonel Clephane writes, and when the shades of evening closed round, the officers of the guard were sensible, in their large, gloomy chamber, of a chilly feeling which the regulated allowance of coals failed to counteract. In other words, the fuel ran short, and they were cold, so it was resolved to despatch one of their servants, a type of the class
just alluded to, for a fresh supply. Half-a-crown was handed to fun for this purpose—a sum which represented the value of more than a couple of hundredweights in those days,—.and Donald was instructed to procure a scuttlefull, and bring back the change. Time went on, the few embers in the old grate waxed dimmer and dimmer, and no Donald made his appearance. At last, when the temper of the expectant officers had reached boiling point, increasing in an inverse ratio to their bodily
caloric, the door opened, and Donald gravely entered the apartment. The chamber was vast and the light was dim, and the uncertain gait of the approaching domestic was at first unnoticed. Calmly disregarding a howl of indignant remonstrance on the score of his dilatory proceedings, the latter silently approached the end of the room where the two officers were cowering over the dying embers. It was now seen that he carried in one hand a piece of coal, or some substance like it, about the size
of a sixpounder shot. "Where have you been, confound you! and why have you not brought the coals I" roared his master. Donald halted, steadied himself, and glanced solemnly, first at the "thing" which he carefully bore in his palm, then at the speaker’s angry lineaments, and in strangely husky accents thus delivered himself:-
"Not another—hic—bit of coal in Edinburgh; coalsh—hic—--’sh very dear just now, Mr Johnstone!"
The delinquent’s master was nearly beside himself with fury when he saw how the matter stood, but he could not for the life of him help, after a moment or two, joining in the merriment which shook the very frame of his comrade. Donald, in the meantime, stood regarding both with an air of tipsy gravity, and was apparently quite bewildered when ordered to retire with a view to being placed in durance vile. This incident naturally ended the connection between him and his aggrieved master.
It is but fair to state that the hero of the above little anecdote, though I have called him "Donald," was a Lowlander.