Military of Scotland

The Thin Red Line of 1854, by Robert Gibb

Historically, Scotland has a long military tradition that predates the Act of Union with England. Its armed forces now form part of those of the United Kingdom and are known as the British Armed Forces.


History prior to the Union

Royal Scots Navy

The Scottish Red Ensign, flown by ships of the Royal Scots Navy
A model of the Great Michael in the Royal Museum

The first recorded Scottish Naval force was created around AD 1000 by King Kenneth III to combat Viking invasions. Initially it consisted of Longships, some captured from the Vikings.[citation needed] After the signing of the Treaty of Perth, the navy fell into perpetual neglect, only becoming properly re-established in the wake of the Scottish Wars of Independence. The Navy steadily increased in size and strength through the reigns of the Stewart Monarchs, from King James I to that of King James IV, who established the Royal Scots Navy which consisted of a fleet of thirty-eight vessels, including the carrack Great Michael. In the middle of the sixteenth century, however, the Royal Scots Navy entered into a rapid decline, effectively disappearing by 1560.

After this date, Scottish sea power relied heavily on privateers issued with letters of marque, and on private squadrons of warships paid for by trading towns and noblemen. From 1603, the Union of the Crowns also meant that the English Royal Navy could be used to defend Scottish interests. The Royal Scots Navy was nonetheless revived in 1626, but it remained small, and consisted of just one frigate and two sloops when it merged with the English Royal Navy in 1707.

Scottish armies

Before the Wars of the Three Kingdoms in 1644, there was no standing army in the Kingdom of Scotland. Prior to that, troops were raised by the King when required, a development of the feudal concept of fief (in which a lord was obligated to raise a certain quota of knights, men at arms and yeomanry, under greater control of the King). Gallowglass mercenary clan soldiers also formed a significant part of Scottish Armies at the time. After the Wars of Scottish Independence, the Auld Alliance between Scotland and France played a large part in the country's military activities, especially during the Hundred Years' War. In 1650, part of the New Model Army invaded Scotland to fight Scottish Covenanters at the start of the Third English Civil War. The Covenanters, who had been allied to the English Parliament in the First English Civil War, had crowned Charles II as King of Scots. Despite being outnumbered, Oliver Cromwell led the Army to crushing victories over Charles's Scottish army commanded by David Leslie at the battles of Dunbar and Inverkeithing. Following the Scottish invasion of England led by Charles II, the New Model Army and local militia forces soundly defeated the Royalists at the Battle of Worcester, the last pitched battle of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. During the Interregnum, Scotland was kept under the military occupation of an English army under George Monck. They were kept busy throughout the 1650s by minor Royalist uprisings in the Scottish Highlands and by endemic lawlessness by bandits known as mosstroopers. Following Cromwell's death, the Restoration of Charles II saw the New Model Army kept as a standing force, and the King raised further regiments loyal to the Crown. On January 26, 1661 Charles II issued a Royal Warrant that created the genesis of what would become the British Army, although the Scottish and English Armies would remain two separate organisations until the unification of England and Scotland in 1707. At the time of the Union, the standing army of the Kingdom of Scotland consisted of seven units of Infantry, two of horse and one troop of Horse guards. The Crown still officially controls the use of the army. However the Claim of Right Act 1689 stated that: "that the raising or keeping a standing army within the kingdom in time of peace, unless it be with consent of Parliament, is against law...". Successive British governments were able to circumvent the intent of the Bill of Rights through annual continuation notices, and the technical legality of the British Army, in times of peace, still rests on these annual notices. A large standing army had come into existence by the time of the Napoleonic Wars; the British government of the day continues to command the British Armed Forces and both declares and wages wars.

Wars and battles


Part of the British Armed Forces

After the Act of Union in 1707, the Scottish Army and Navy merged with those of England. The new British Army incorporated existing Scottish regiments, such as the Scots Guards, The Royal Scots 1st of Foot, King's Own Scottish Borderers 25th of Foot, The Cameronians 26th of Foot, Scots Greys and the Royal Scots Fusiliers 21st of Foot. The three vessels of the small Royal Scottish Navy were transferred to the Royal Navy. The new Armed Forces were controlled by the War Office and Admiralty from London. During this period, Scottish soldiers and sailors were instrumental in supporting the expansion of the British Empire and became involved in many international conflicts, including the latter stages of the War of the Spanish Succession, the Seven Years' War, the American Wars of Independence, Napoleonic Wars, the Crimean War, Boer War, the two World Wars, the Korean War, the Malayan Emergency, the Falklands War and most recently the two Gulf Wars.

Napoleonic Wars

Scots had a notable influence in naval warfare during this period. Prominent sailors of the era included:

  • Admiral Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald, was one of the most daring and successful captains of the Napoleonic Wars, leading the French to nickname him "le loup de mer" ("the sea wolf"). After being dismissed from the Royal Navy, he served in the rebel navies of Chile, Brazil and Greece during their wars of independence, before being reinstated as an admiral in the Royal Navy. His life and exploits were one of the inspirations for the twentieth-century novelists C. S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower and Patrick O'Brian's Jack Aubrey.

Victorian & Colonial Warfare

First World War

Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig led the British Army on the Western Front from 1915, and oversaw some of the largest and bloodiest episodes of the war. Battles included the Somme(1916) Ypres (1917) Cambrai (1917) Amiens (1918) and Arras (1918) Due to the kilts worn by the Scottish soldiers on the World War I battlefront, their German enemies called them the "ladies from hell".[1] Haig founded the Earl Haig Poppy Fund, for ex-servicemen in the aftermath. From 1914 to 1918

Second World War

The Cold War & The End of Empire

Defence establishments in Scotland


In the wake of the Jacobite risings, several fortresses were built throughout the Highlands in the 18th century by General Wade in order to pacify the region, including Fort George, Fort Augustus and Fort William. The Ordnance Survey was also commissioned to map the region. Later, due to their topography and perceived remoteness, parts of Scotland have housed many sensitive defence establishments, some controversial. During World War II, Allied and British Commandos trained at Achnacarry in the Highlands and the island of Gruinard was used for an exercise in biological warfare. Regular British Army Garrisons currently operational in Scotland are: Fort George near Inverness; Redford Barracks and Dreghorn Barracks in Edinburgh; and Glencorse Barracks at Penicuik.

Royal Naval

Between 1960 and 1991, the Holy Loch was a base for the US Navy's fleet of Polaris-armed George Washington class ballistic missile submarines. Today, HM Naval Base Clyde, 25 miles (40 km) west of Glasgow, is the base for the four Trident-armed Vanguard class ballistic missile submarines which are armed with approximately 200 Trident nuclear warheads.[2] Since the decommissioning of free-falling bombs in 1998, the Trident SLBM system is the UK's only nuclear deterrent. HMS Caledonia at Rosyth in Fife is the support base for navy operations in Scotland and also serves as the Naval Regional Office (NRO Scotland and Northern Ireland). The Royal Navy’s LR5 and Submarine Rescue Service is based in Renfrew, near Glasgow. The Royal Navy's submarine nuclear reactor development establishment, is located at Dounreay, which was also the site of the UK's fast breeder nuclear reactor programme. HMS Gannet is a search and rescue station based at Prestwick Airport in Ayrshire and operates three Sea King Mk.5 helicopters as part of 771 Naval Air Squadron of the Fleet Air Arm. RM Condor at Arbroath, Angus is home to 45 Commando, Royal Marines, part of 3 Commando Brigade. Also, the Fleet Protection Group Royal Marines is based at HMNB Clyde.

Since 1999, the Scottish Government has had devolved responsibility over fisheries protection duties in Scotland's Exclusive Economic Zone, carried out by the Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency, which consists of a fleet of four Offshore Patrol Vessels and two Cessna 406 maritime patrol aircraft.[3]

Royal Air Force

Two frontline Royal Air Force stations are also located in Scotland. These are RAF Lossiemouth, the RAF's primary airfield base for the Panavia Tornado GR4 strike aircraft and RAF Leuchars, the most northerly air defence fighter base in the United Kingdom and home to one squadron of Eurofighter Typhoon. Two Sea King HAR3A helicopters, stationed at RAF Lossiemouth, operate in the Search and Rescue role.

The "Scottish Air Traffic Control Centre (Military)" is located at RAF Prestwick, in Ayrshire, which is also home to a "Distress and Diversion Cell" specifically tasked to assist both military and civil aircraft encountering emergency situations.[4]

Military Training Areas

The only open air live depleted uranium weapons test range in the British Isles is located near Dundrennan.[5] As a result, over 7000 radioactive munitions lie on the seabed of the Solway Firth.[6] This has led to many environmental concerns.[7] In 2007, the MoD land holdings in Scotland (owned, leased or with legal rights) was 1,153 km² representing 31.5% of the MoD's British estate.[8] Prominent Training Areas include Garelochhead, Cape Wrath, Barry Buddon and Castlelaw in the Pentland Hills.


Defence contractors and related companies employ around 30,000 people in Scotland and form an important part of the economy. The principal companies operating in the country include: BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, Raytheon, Thales and Babcock.

Royal Navy bases in Scotland

Former Royal Navy bases in Scotland

Former Royal Naval Air Stations in Scotland

Royal Air Force bases in Scotland

Former Royal Air Force stations in Scotland

  • RAF Alness
  • RAF Annan
  • RAF Banff
  • RAF Bishopbriggs
  • RAF Black Isle
  • RAF Bowmore
  • RAF Brackla
  • RAF Buttergask
  • RAF Castle Kennedy
  • RAF Castletown
  • RAF Charterhall
  • RAF Connel
  • RAF Dalcross
  • RAF Dallachy
  • RAF Dornoch
  • RAF Drem
  • RAF Dumfries
  • RAF Dundonald
  • RAF Dunino
  • RAF Dyce
  • RAF East Fortune
  • RAF Edzell
  • RAF Elgin
  • RAF Errol
  • RAF Perth
  • RAF Peterhead
  • RAF Portellon
  • RAF Renfrew
  • RAF Saxa Vord
  • RAF Skatsa
  • RAF Skeabrae
  • RAF Skitten
  • RAF Stornoway
  • RAF Stravithie
  • RAF Sullom Voe
  • RAF Sumburgh
  • RAF Tealing
  • RAF Tiree
  • RAF Turnberry
  • RAF Turnhouse
  • RAF Twatt
  • RAF West Freugh
  • RAF Whitefield
  • RAF Wick
  • RAF Wigtown
  • RAF Winterseugh
  • RAF Woodhaven

Scottish Units in the British Army

Previously within the British Army, the Scottish Infantry previously comprised a number of 'county regiments', each recruiting from a local area. In 2006, the remaining regiments, known collectively as the Scottish Division, were amalgamated to form the Royal Regiment of Scotland. The amalgamation was vigorously opposed by veterans and supporters of the old regiments. Scottish soldiers also serve in all Combat Support Arms and Services (RA, RE, Signals, Intelligence, AAC, RLC, AGC, REME and AMS), Special Forces, the Household Cavalry and the Parachute Regiment of the British Army, with the following current Formations and Units having specific Scottish connections:

  • 2nd Division
  • 51 (Scottish) Brigade
  • 52 Infantry Brigade

Former Scottish Units in the British Army

Regular British Army Units currently based in Scotland

Scottish units that are not part of the British Army

Scottish regiments in other countries


List of active regiments in the Canadian Forces:

Sub units of the Canadian Forces:

    • B Company – The Lorne Scots c. 1936
    • C Company – The Lorne Scots c. 1866

Defunct Scottish regiments, many merged to former larger regiments:


Inactive regiments of the French Army:

South Africa

There are three regiments in the South African Defence Force with Scottish roots:

New Zealand

  • New Zealand Scots Regiment (1st NZ Scottish Regiment and 1st Armoured Car Regiment) was raised in 1939 and renamed 1990 as New Zealand Scottish and disbanded amongst other units:

See also


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ House of Commons Written Answers, Hansard, 14 Jul 1998 : Column: 171
  3. ^ Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency
  4. ^ CAP 410 Manual of Flight Information Services Part A> Civil Aviaition Authority. Retrieved 02 November 2007.
  5. ^ BBC Scotland News Online "DU shell test-firing resumes", BBC Scotland News, 2001-02-21. Retrieved on 2006-09-13. (in English)
  6. ^ Parliament of the United Kingdom - Debates 7 February 2001 Depleted Uranium (Shelling)
  7. ^ Mackay, N and Wilson, A.. "MOD "lied" over depleted Uranium". Sunday Herald Pluto Press in association with Scottish CND. London. 
  8. ^ UK Defence Statistics, 2005 [2].

External links

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