21 December 2012

Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders

The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders was formed on 1st July 1881 from the 79th (The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders) Regiment of Foot, and initially consisted of one battalion – the 1st Battalion.   

There are over 30,000 Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders 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 Cameron Highlanders 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.

The newly formed regiment was established as the county regiment for Inverness-shire and started numbering from 1 in 1881.

10 joined on 28th July 1881
179 joined on 7th January 1882
805 joined on 28th February 1883
850 joined on 2nd February 1884
1221 joined on 9th January 1885
1865 joined on 12th January 1886
2018 joined on 17th February 1887
2103 joined on 15th February 1888
2184 joined on 11th January 1889
2309 joined on 2nd January 1890
2425 joined on 10th January 1891
2923 joined on 27th January 1892
3466 joined on 9th January 1893
3567 joined on 4th January 1894
3662 joined on 8th January 1895
3750 joined on 4th January 1896

On the 31st March 1897 the regiment raised a second regular battalion – the 2nd Battalion – at Fort George.  It drew its numbers from the same series as the 1st Battalion.

3857 joined on 22nd January 1897
4303 joined on 6th January 1898
4704 joined on 16th January 1899
5128 joined on 16th January 1900

Numbers 6248 to 6317 were issued in 1900 to men joining the 1st Volunteer Service Company, Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders. The men embarked for South Africa aboard SS Gaul on the 14th April 1900.

5685 joined on 7th January 1901
6011 joined on 11th January 1902

6560 joined on 6th January 1903
6858 joined on 24th February 1904
7168 joined on 30th March 1905
7484 joined on 30th April 1906
7782 joined on 18th January 1907
8106 joined on 4th January 1908
8499 joined on 4th January 1909
8842 joined on 24th March 1910
9042 joined on 24th March 1911
9249 joined on 27th February 1912
9488 joined on 15th April 1913
9624 joined on 13th January 1914

The First World War

When Britain went to war in August 1914, men joining the new service battalions were at first issued with numbers from the same series that had, up until that point, been the sole preserve of the regiment’s two regular battalions.  The only difference between men enlisting for war-time service only and those enlisting as career soldiers, was that the numbers of the former were supposed to be prefixed with the letter S/.

However, at some point, a decision was taken to allocate a separate block of numbers to men who wished to join the army as career soldiers.  Numbers in the 150** and 151** range were set aside for this purpose and these numbers start appearing around mid November 1914. Numbers in the 151** range were certainly still being issued to men joining up for regular terms of enlistment in 1917.

Recruitment rates 1881-1911

Between 1st July 1881 and 10th January 1891, The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders recruited just 2,425 men, an average of 253 soldiers a year and the lowest recruitment rate of all the British infantry regiments that decade.  Remember though, that the regiment only consisted of one battalion up until 1897.

Recruiting into the regiment however, showed a marked upturn in the 1890s with 3260 additional men recruited up until the 7th January 1901.  The regiment was the forty-sixth most effective recruiter during this period.  The trend continued into the 1900s and by the 24th March 1911, the regiment had recruited 9,402 soldiers since July 1881.  From a yearly average recruitment rate of 326 in the 1890s, the figure rose slightly to 330 by March 1911.

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Anonymous said...

Hi I am researching my Great Granfather John Thomas Aitken who was in the Cameron Highlanders. His service number was 3567 Your page is fab. I found his number on your page and he joined the Queens own Cameron Highlanders in Jan 1894, but I noticed further up the page his Number is listed under the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons as joining March 1896.I have records of his clasps and medals from 1901 etc in africa and he is still with the camerons. Do you keep the info you found as I have searched ancestry and cannot find any service records from your links...looking forward to your reply Elaine

Paul Nixon said...

Hello Elaine

Ancestry has 26 pages for Thomas Alfred Aitken in WO 363. Here's the first page of his entry.


Anonymous said...


I am researching my great grandfather Henry King who was in the Cameron Highlanders from 1891. His number was 2709.

I'm wondering what the process would be as he was from Wiltshire and had been living in Ealing, quite a distance from Inverness. Also his records says that he "received a notice". Could I find out more about what that means?

Many thanks


Paul Nixon said...

If you have records, Anne, you're doing better than most. Notice to report to the regimental depot perhaps? Mobilisation, perhaps.

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