The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders
Colchester 1948 - 1949
All photographs are the property of RHQ Argylls and may not be reproduced or copied without permission from RHQ Argylls.
The Battalion remained at Tahag, Egypt for two months, but there were not many outside duties to perform and there was ample opportunity to train and prepare for the move to U.K. On 24th June an advance party, consisting of 4 officers and 37 other ranks, left for home. The Battalion left Tahag on 19th July 1948, and, after five days in a transit camp at Port Said, embarked in H.M.T. Samaria on the 25th. When the Battalion left Port Said its destination in the U.K. had not been divulged, and it was not until the voyage was well under way that a cable was received which announced Colchester as the destination and granted leave to all ranks on arrival. The ship berthed at Liverpool on 7th August and Lt.-General MacMillan, accompanied by Brigadier E. A. F. Macpherson, boarded it to greet the Battalion before it disembarked. Lt.-General MacMillan read out to all ranks a personal message of greeting from H.R.H. The Princess Elizabeth, Colonel-in-Chief, which said:
'I wish I could myself be present on your return home to give all ranks the warm welcome which you deserve. You have had to face both difficulties and dangers in Palestine, but I know that you have won golden opinions from all with whom you have been in contact, and I am very glad to think that you may now expect some leave and rest after the strenuous times through which you have lived.
'My best wishes to you all.
The Battalion returned from leave on 6th September and settled down in Sobraon Barracks, Colchester, where Lt.-Colonel E. A. F. Macpherson reassumed command. On 1st October it was placed on a special establishment and this entailed re-forming the support company which had only recently been disbanded. The period at Colchester opened with a change of Regimental Sergeant-Majors. R.S.M. P. MacPhillips, D.C.M., left the Battalion to take over the duties of R.S.M. of the Depot. He had a distinguished career in both regular Battalions but was unfortunate to be one of those captured in Crete in 1941. He was succeeded by R.S.M. S. J. Morrison, M.M. For the first time for nearly ten years the officers and sergeants were able to equip their messes with their own silver and furniture. These had all been placed in store early in 1939 when the Battalion moved to Palestine.
Photos of Amalgamation parade. Click on pictures to enlarge.
The first important event at Colchester took place on 30th October 1948, when a parade was held to mark the amalgamation of the 1st Battalion (91st Argyllshire Highlanders) and the 2nd Battalion (93rd Sutherland Highlanders) after 150 years of service as separate units. Under the conditions of modern warfare only one infantry battalion was allowed to remain, the other had to be disbanded or the two to amalgamate. In the case of the Regiment it was decided that the two Battalions should merge and that the 2nd Battalion should be placed in what was termed 'suspended animation', while its customs and traditions were preserved in the 1st Battalion. In the words of the Colonel of the Regiment, 'It was unthinkable that the tradition of the 93rd should be lost.' The Battalion was formed in four Guards drawn up in line facing the saluting base. Numbers 1 and 2 Guards represented the 1st Battalion, while numbers 3 and 4 Guards represented the 2nd Battalion. On the parade to mark this historic occasion were:
Lt.-Col. E. A. F. Macpherson, M.C., Commanding Officer
Maj. G. L. Neilson, Second-in-Command.
Capt. J. B. Gillies, Adjutant
R.S.M. S. J. Morrison, M.M.
No. 1 Guard No. 2 Guard No. 3 Guard No. 4 Guard
Maj. R. G. Findlay-Shirras Maj. C. P. Anderson Maj. A. C. S. Troup Capt. J. Macdonald
C.S.M. F. Young C.S.M. J. Carroll C.S.M. T. J. R. Collett C.S.M. R. Robertson, M.M.
1st Battalion 2nd Battalion
Lt. R. Wilson Lt. G. M. M. M. Howat, M.C.
Lt. P. M. Larg Lt. I. Scott-Hyde
C/Sgt. R. Smith C/Sgt. T. Cowan
Sgt. P. Gudgeon Sgt. L. Edwards
Sgt. J. Scholey, M.M. Sgt. D. Edmondson
Mr. A. G. O'Connor, A.R.C.M., Bandmaster
Pipes and Drums
Pipe-Major P. McGlinn, Drum-Major T. Robson
After inspecting the parade, Lt.-General G. H. A. MacMillan, C.B., C.B.E., D.S.O., M.C., addressed the Battalion. He explained the reason for the amalgamation and paid tribute to the fine histories of both Battalions. He emphasised that the traditions and customs of both should be preserved in the one. After the Colours had marched on and had been received with a Royal Salute, the Colours of each Battalion were trooped separately, finally taking up their positions together in the centre of the parade to signify the amalgamation. The Colonel of the Regiment then took the salute at the march past.
Prior to the commencement of the ceremony, Major-General R. D. Inskip, Colonel of the 6th Royal Battalion (Scinde) Frontier Force Rifles, presented to Lt.-Colonel Macpherson a silver statuette, depicting Havildar Tara Singh firing his machine-gun during the battle of Monte Cerere. Behind General Inskip stood a representative of the High Commissioner for Pakistan. Major-General Inskip read a message of greeting from His Majesty The King and messages of goodwill from Field-Marshal The Lord Birdwood, Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Frontier Forces Rifles, and the High Commissioner for Pakistan, praising the splendid spirit of comradeship and co-operation shown during the war, which spirit they hoped would continue through the years of peace. In accepting the trophy on behalf of the Regiment, Colonel Macpherson expressed the hope that the friendship begun in battle would continue through many years to come. The 1st Battalion had previously presented to 6/13 Royal Frontier Force Rifles an officer's full dress breastplate, mounted on a mahogany plinth, and bearing a silver plaque with an inscription stating that the breastplate had been pre-sented by all ranks in memory of the Battle of Monte Cerere.
The memory of the old 93rd has not been allowed to fade, for to-day the 1st Battalion cherishes its old traditions and customs with its own in the following way:
(a) Guard-mounting procedure of the 2nd Battalion is still continued in the 1st Battalion.
(b) The March Past, 'Highland Laddie', is played before 'The Campbells are Coming' on all ceremonial occasions in the 1st Battalion.
(c) The tassels of the hair sporran are set by other ranks in the same way as the men of the 2nd Battalion used to set them.
(d) The Regimental Flag and all signs used by the Battalion carry the figures 91 and 93.
(e) The 'Fall in' of the 2nd Battalion, 'The Piobaireachd of Dhomhnuill Duib', is played by the 1st Battalion for afternoon parades.
(f) The motto 'Sans Peur' is the war-cry of the 1st Battalion to-day.
On 16th December the Battalion, except for a small maintenance party, dispersed on thirty days' leave. Soon after its return it was honoured by visits from two very distinguished officers. On 20th January 1949 the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Field-Marshal Sir William Slim, K.C.B., C.B.E., D.S.O., M.C., inspected the Battalion on parade and took the salute at the march past. He afterwards saw the Support Company training. The C.I.G.S. dined with the officers the evening before the inspection. The following day the senior Colonel of the Highland Brigade, Field-Marshal Lord Wavell, came to visit the Battalion. He was accompanied by Lt.-General Sir Gordon MacMillan. Lord Wavell inspected the Battalion and took the salute at the march past. Later he spoke to all officers, warrant officers and sergeants and explained the Brigade Group system. The annual Service to commemorate the Raising of the Regiment was held on 13th February. The Rev. R. W. Burns officiated, and Lt.-General Sir Gordon MacMillan took the salute.
Early in March east winds of gale force and high spring tides caused the breakdown of the sea walls along a stretch of the East Coast. Operation 'Flood' was put into effect, and the Battalion was called out on the 8th to repair the sea wall along various stretches of the coast near Maldon in Essex. The operation lasted for four days. April was a month of uninterrupted field training at Stanford in Norfolk, broken only by four days' leave at Easter. The Battalion returned to Colchester on 27th April, and the following day was placed under orders to proceed overseas in an operational role. Its destination was not divulged at this stage. This news was not altogether unexpected for a Battalion on the special establishment, but it entailed another separation from the families after scarcely ten months at home. On 5th May the Battalion entrained for London to take part in a flag march through the city as part of a military display on Army Day.
Photos of Army Day Parade.
The following day the Battalion dispersed on fourteen days' leave, described as privilege leave, as the coming move was still graded 'Top Secret', but known to all to be their last leave before embarkation. On 9th May the destination of the Battalion was made known; it was Hong Kong, where on arrival it was to join 27 Independent Infantry Brigade Group. A small advance party, consisting of Major Reith, Lt. Larg and 4 other ranks, left the same day for Perham Down to join elements of 27 Brigade awaiting embarkation in H.M.T. Halladale. The main advance party of 39 other ranks commanded by Major H. H. M. Marston, M.C., left Colchester on 30th May to embark in H.M.T. Dilwara.
Prior to the announcement of the move to Hong Kong, Her Royal Highness The Princess Elizabeth had arranged to visit the Battalion at Colchester on 8th June, but as 9th June was given as the probable sailing date, the arrangements were altered and Her Royal Highness honoured the Battalion with a farewell visit on 3rd June. Unfortunately, the programme planned for the 8th had to be curtailed, as the Battalion heavy baggage had already been dispatched, together with advance parties, loading parties and baggage guards. The arrangements for the 8th had covered a whole day, whereas the visit on the 3rd was not timed to begin until the afternoon. This was the first visit of Her Royal Highness to the 1st Battalion since she became Colonel-in-Chief, and all ranks were determined to mark the occasion by a good parade. Unfortunately the day dawned with a leaden sky, which by noon had turned to rain, and as the day went on the weather got progressively worse. The Battalion was drawn up in line in four Guards with the 2nd Battalion stand of Colours in the centre between numbers 2 and 3 Guards. The 2nd Battalion stand was selected for this occasion as it was not accompanying the Battalion to Hong Kong. On Parade were:
Lt.-Col. E. A. F. Macpherson, M.C., Commanding Officer
Maj. G. L. Neilson, Second-in-Command
Maj. J. B. Gillies, Adjutant
Lt. J. D. Slim (King's Colour)
Lt. A. C. S. Boswell (Regimental Colour)
C/Sgt. R. Smith
Sgt. L. Edwards
Sgt. D. Edmondson
No. 1 Guard: Maj. A. I. Gordon-Ingram
No. 2 Guard: Capt. G. P. Wood, M.C.
No. 3 Guard: Maj. S. Bonella
No. 4 Guard: Maj. T. Slessor
R.S.M. S. J. Morrison, M.M., Regimental Sgt.-Major
Her Royal Highness arrived at 3.45 p.m. in heavy rain and was received by Lt.-General Sir Gordon MacMillan. After the Royal Salute Her Royal Highness inspected the Battalion, and, in spite of the rain, from which she was unprotected, stopped and spoke to many of those in the ranks. After the inspection Her Royal Highness returned to the saluting base and addressed the Battalion in these words:
' I have so much been looking forward to visiting the Battalion since its return from Palestine last August, and I am only sorry that, now I have at last found an opportunity to do so, it should be on the eve of your departure once again overseas. 'Yours has been an arduous role since the end of the war, and I am sure that after nearly three years in Palestine, where you won such merited praise for your steadiness and tact in a most difficult situation, most of you had hoped for a little peace at home. It was not to be so, because our country's needs and its honour require us to do everything possible to protect the interests of our fellow-subjects all over the world. ' I can imagine nothing that will give the people of Hong Kong greater confidence than the knowledge that the Argylls are to join their garrison. And though, personally, I am sorry you should not have stayed longer in the United Kingdom, as your Colonel-in-Chief I am proud to think that one of the finest Battalions in the Army was needed for Hong Kong and that therefore the Argylls were chosen. 'The old and Battalion, amalgamated with the 1st last October, has been to Hong Kong before, as long ago as 1930-32. I do not suppose there are many, if any, serving to-day who will thus be paying a second visit, but I have no doubt that your pipes, your kilts and your fine bearing will bring back old and pleasant memories to those with whom; you will be quartered. 'May God bless you all and protect you during your^ journey and your foreign service; and may it not be long before you are back with us again. My thoughts will be with you, and I look forward to receiving frequent accounts of your activities and of all that affects your welfare.'
Three cheers were then given for Her Royal Highness, after which the Battalion marched past. After the parade Her Royal Highness was photographed with the warrant officers and sergeants before proceeding to visit the married families, who were presented by Mrs. Macpherson. The Royal party then drove to the officers' mess, where the Colonel-in-Chief was photographed with the Colonel of the Regiment and the officers of the Battalion. The last event of the day was a Retreat programme by the pipes and drums, at which 'The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders' Welcome to H.R.H. The Princess Elizabeth' was played. This march was composed especially for the occasion by Pipe-Major McGlinn. Her Royal Highness left at 6 p.m., the route from the parade ground being lined with cheering members of the Battalion, anxious to show their appreciation of the visit of the Colonel-in-Chief. The Battalion, with little opportunity to rehearse, had put up a fine performance.
The arms drill, marching and general bearing of all ranks reached a high standard and was the subject of much favourable comment by the large number of spectators that attended. The Colonel of the Regiment and Major-General Chilton, the G.O.C. East Anglian District, both wrote to the Commanding Officer to congratulate all ranks, while on 6th June Lt.-General Sir Frederick Browning wrote in the following terms:
'I am desired by Her Royal Highness The Princess Elizabeth, Colonel-in-Chief, to say how pleased she was to be able to see your Battalion before they left for Hong Kong. 'Her Royal Highness desires me to say that she was much impressed by what she saw of the Battalion, and is certain that as soon as the young entry has been absorbed, the Battalion will attain a very high standard that will enhance the name of the Regiment in the Far East. 'Her Royal Highness has suffered no ill effects from the rather unfortunate conditions during her inspection, and, in fact, thoroughly enjoyed her afternoon with you.'
Immediately after the parade, Lt.-Colonel E. A. F. Macpherson, M.C., relinquished command of the Battalion on promotion to Brigadier and on appointment to West Africa. Lt.-Colonel G. L. Neilson assumed command with effect from 4th June 1949.
On 9th June the Battalion entrained for Southampton, where it embarked in the Empire Trooper. For two days the ship was delayed by engine trouble, but the Battalion was able to disembark daily for recreation in and around Southampton. On 10th June the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Field- Marshal Sir William Slim, visited the Battalion on board the ship. He inspected the accommodation and addressed the troops. On 12th June Empire Trooper sailed and the Battalion once again left the shores of Britain for the Far East, destined to achieve world-wide renown, and to add fresh glory to the name I of their Regiment.
Sources - History of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders 1st Battalion 1939 -1954
Thin Red Line Magazines
Hong Kong 1949 – 1950
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Updated: 29 January 2015