14 October 2014

Highland Light Infantry 1881-1914 - 1st & 2nd Battalions


The Highland Light Infantry was formed on the 1st July 1881; the 1st Battalion from the 71st (Highland) Regiment of Foot (Light Infantry), and the 2nd Battalion from the 74th (Highlanders) Regiment of Foot.  

There are over 39,000 Highland Light Infantry service and pension records (for this regiment - and its antecedents) in various War Office series held at the National Archives. Clicking on the link will take you to the results on Findmypast but you will need a subscription or Pay-Per-View credits to actually view the records. Some of these records can also be viewed on-line on Ancestry although Findmypast has by far the most comprehensive service record collection.


Use the regimental numbers and dates on which these were issued, below, to determine parameters for when your own Highland Light Infantry ancestor would have joined up. Note though that these numbers are only for regular enlistments. Special Reserve and Territorial Force battalions operated completely separate regimental number sequences.
Along with The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) the newly formed Highland Light Infantry was established as the county regiment for Lanarkshire and started numbering from 1 in 1881.
370 joined on 7th October 1881
673 joined on 6th April 1882
1032 joined on 8th February 1883
1701 joined on 12th January 1884
2127 joined on 8th October 1885
2235 joined on 17th February 1886
2652 joined on 27th January 1887
2920 joined on 29th February 1888
3225 joined on 25th February 1889
3506 joined on 24th February1890
4023 joined on 15th April 1891
4698 joined on 11th October 1892
4790 joined on 31st January 1893
5170 joined on 17th January 1894
5867 joined on 17th August 1895
6157 joined on 18th November 1896
6447 joined on 17th April 1897
6629 joined on 28th April 1898
6823 joined on 23rd February 1899
7254 joined on 20th June 1900
The Highland Light Infantry raised three volunteer service companies during the South African War.  The Queen’s South Africa Medal roll at the National Archives lists 1st VSC men separately and also notes all officers and the VSCs to which each was attached.  Further pages then list all volunteers (including the 1st VSC men again), who joined the three HLI VSCs during the South African War.  What follows, is my best estimate of who belonged where.
Numbers 8150 through to 8279 are all 1st VSC men. There is then a gap in VSC numbering until 8292. Some numbers within the range 8292 to 8361 were issued to 1st VSC men, the remainder to 2nd VSC men. Numbers within the range 8362 to 8424 all appear to be 2nd VSC men.  All 1st VSC numbers, and probably the 2nd VSC numbers as well, date to early 1900.
After 8424 there is a break until 8800.  Consecutive numbers 8800 to 8860 were all 3rd VSC men and would appear to date to January 1902.
On 17th February 1900, the 1st VSC set sail for South Africa aboard SS Gascon.  It comprised Captain D S Morton, Lieutenant J R Leisk, Lieutenant J Shearer and 113 men.
7562 joined on 3rd April 1901
7811 joined on 24th January 1902
8480 joined on 6th February 1903
9203 joined on 9th February 1904
10027 joined on 27th December 1905
10167 joined on 22nd May 1906
10357 joined on 12th January 1907
11115 joined on 10th November 1908
11390 joined on 19th August 1909
11527 joined on 13th April 1910
11695 joined on 9th May 1911
11900 joined on 27th February 1912
12057 joined on 13th January 1913
12369 joined on 10th August 1914
The First World War

When Britain went to war in August 1914, men joining the new service battalions were issued with numbers from the same series that been used by the regiment’s two regular battalions. The majority of men joining the 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th Battalions however, were issued with numbers from separate number series which had begun at 1 in October 1914.  Those men though, who had joined these battalions prior to October 1914 had been issued with numbers from the regular series.

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