Primarily extracted from "Records and Badges of the British Army, 1900
by Henry M Chichester and Geroge Burges-Short and supplemented with further information.
Since the practice of distinguishing regiments by numerical titles became customary 135 years ago, three distinct corps have in succession occupied the position of the Ninetieth Regiment of the British Line. The first of these was the 90th (or Colonel Morgan's) Irish Light Infantry, of 1759-63. This corps was raised in Ireland, and the papers of the day speak in glowing terms of its fine appearance when first brought over to England. It was employed at the famous siege of Belle Isle on 7 June 1761. Protected by a fleet under Admiral Keppel, 8,000 British troops (General Hodgeson) landed under enemy fire and after difficulty forced the surrender of the garrison of Palais, the main town. British casualties were 700, many more than the French.) It was was also much distinguished in June 1762 when British troops and naval units (Earl of Albemarle and Admiral Pococke) laid siege to Havana. They took Moro Castle, key to the defence, by storm and after two months captured the city. It was disbanded in England at the peace of 1763.
A second 90th regiment was raised in England during the American War of Independence, the rendezvous being at Wakefield, in Yorkshire. This regiment served for a time in the West Indies, and was disbanded at the peace of 1783.
The third 90th was the regiment raised in 1794 as the " Perthshire Volunteers," and formed into a Light Infantry corps. This later became the second battalion of the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles, and at the time when so re-named enjoyed the distinction of being the oldest existing Light Infantry regiment in the British Army. (see note at end of page) It was raised by Mr. Thomas Graham, Laird of Balgowan, afterwards the veteran Lord Lynedoch, who on his return from the siege of Toulon, whither he had gone as a volunteer, obtained permission to raise a regiment; this request was conceded with some reluctance, as the King had a dislike to giving military commands to persons with no previous army training. Mr. Graham's commission was dated 10th February, 1794, and on 13th May following the regiment numbered 7 officers and 746 non-commissioned officers and men, whereof 95 were Scottish Highlanders, 430 Scottish Lowlanders, 165 English, and 56 Irish.
At the instance of Lord Moira, afterwards Marquis of Hastings, who had much experience in America, the battalion was ordered to be equipped and trained as a "light infantry" corps. The uniform consisted of a red "wing jacket" faced with buff, over a red waistcoat; the officers wore buff tights and Hessians, the men light grey cloth pantaloons, whence the corps was dubbed the "Perthshire Grey-Breeks." The head-gear was a leathern helmet of dragoon pattern, with black bearskin crest and brass-bound peak, and a tall green hackle feather at the side. Subsequent changes effaced the old name and some of the distinctive attributes of the corps, but its early associations were symbolised in the well-known crest of the Grahams-the Mullet or Spur Rowel, misnamed a Star-with the appropriate light infantry accompaniment of a Bugle-Horn with Strings, which later appeared on the shako and waist-plates of the several battalions of the Scottish Rifles.
Soon after its formation the Perthshire Volunteers raised a second battalion, which, in the arbitrary fashion of the day, was ere long drafted bodily into the Marines. As the 90th Light Infantry, the original battalion served in the Queberon Expedition and at the occupation of Isle Dieu in 1795, and afterwards went to Gibraltar. In 1798 it was at the capture of Minorca, and was for some months in that island. Colonel Graham was on special service in Sicily, and the lieutenant-colonel, Rowland Hill, afterwards the celebrated Lord Hill, was also away, so the command devolved on Major Kenneth Mackenzie, a veteran of the American War.
Quiberon Expedition: Peasants in the department of Vendee remained Royalist and first rose against the revolutionary National Convention in 1793. A British fleet, June 27, 1795, landed 3,600 French émigrés on the Quiberon Peninsula, Brittany, where they joined thousands of other Royalists. But they had no positive leadership, and the Revolutionary army sent to the region destroyed the Vendee "army" in a series of engagements. About 700 rebels were identified as émigrés and summarily executed; 1,800 escaped again to England.
The late General Stewart of Garth recorded that Sir John Moore, who at the time held a command in Minorca, was a regular observer of the 90th drills on the glacis of Fort St. Phillipa, and took therefrom the simple and practical system of light manoeuvres, which he afterwards introduced at Shorncliffe, and which was employed throughout the Peninsular campaigns.
Under Colonel Rowland Hill the regiment served with much distinction in Egypt, particularly signalising itself on 13th March, 1801, near the tower of Mandora, during the advance of Sir Ralph Abercromby's force from Aboukir towards Alexandria, upon which occasion the 90th formed the advance of the first, and the 92nd of the second line of the army. It may be noted that in writing of the affair to Brigadier Graham at Malta, Colonel Rowland Hill specially mentions that on coming into action he "halted the regiment with the bugle-born."
Aboukir: Sir Ralph Abercromby disembarked 5,000 British troops under heavy fire from the defending French, under General Friant. The British lost 1,100, dead and wounded, and the French only 500, but the French were driven from their positions. Abercromby died of wounds.
The regiment was in the actions before Alexandria ; with Brevet Colonel Spencer at Rosetta; in the advance on Cairo; and afterwards in the return march to and the siege of Alexandria. On the evacuation of Egypt it proceeded to Malta and thence returned home.
In common with all other corps taking part in the Egyptian Campaign, the 90th received permission to bear the badge of the Sphinx over EGYPT, within two laurel branches, upon its colours and appointments; but in the case of the 90th, this badge was at first displayed in all four corners of both the "King's" and the "Regimental" colours, the badge in the first corner of the latter being placed on the Union canton. From Mr. Ross's splendid work on Old Scottish Regimental Colours it appears that a like arrangement was at one time adopted with the "Regimental" colour of at least one of the battalions of the 92nd Possibly the arrangement may have been intended to convey some allusion to the action at Mandora, which since has been inscribed on the colours of these two corps alone.
1803 - Fort George, Scotland
On the renewal of the war in 1804, the 90th, then in Ireland, raised a second battalion from men enrolled in Scotland under the Defence Acts. This battalion remained at home during its whole period of service most of the time in Ireland-and was disbanded in 1817.
1806-1809 - St. Vincent
1809 - Martinique
1810 - Guadaloupe, Dominica
1812-1814 - St. Vincent
1814 - Grenada, Couteau-du-Lac, Kingston (Canada)
1815 - St. Cloud - France
The first battalion embarked for the West Indies in 1805, and spent some years at Antigua; after which it was engaged at the capture of Martinique in 1809, and of Guadaloupe in 1810. In 1814 the battalion was removed from the West Indies to Canada, and was sent up to Montreal, but after the declaration of Peace with the United States was brought down to Quebec, to embark for Europe. It landed at Ostend in August, 1815, and thence marched to join the Duke of Wellington's army at Paris. It returned home from France in January, 1816.
Martinique: Having been restored to France at the Peace of Amines, Martinique was again taken by a British force under Admiral Cochrane and General Beckwith after a stout defence by Admiral Villaret de Joyeuse.
From 1820 to 1830 the regiment (the second battalion, as stated above, having been disbanded) was stationed in Malta and the Ionian Islands, after which it returned home, and in 1835 embarked for Ceylon, where it remained till 1846, and appears to have suffered severely from the climate. It was engaged in quelling disturbances in the Kandyan provinces during its stay in the island. The regiment embarked for home by divisions in 1846, one of which reached the Cape in safety, at a juncture when the colony was sorely in want of troops, owing to the outbreak of a Kaffir War. The companies were landed and sent to the eastern frontier, where they were employed during the war of 1846-7. Three other companies, embarked in the Haria Somes transport, were caught in a terrible hurricane in the neighbourhood of Mauritius, whither the vessel bad to run in a sinking state. These companies were encamped for some time near Fort George, at the entrance to the harbour of Port Louis, and afterwards joined the rest of the regiment at tile Cape, but they had no sooner embarked on H.M.S. Thunderbolt than the vessel was wrecked off Cape Recife. The troops were saved, and, embarking in another vessel, proceeded to England.
Six years later the Russian War had commenced, and the 90th - in which, by the way, Field-Marshal Viscount Wolseley was then serving as a subaltern-embarked for the East. It landed at Balaklava on 5th December, 1854, and bore a distinguished part throughout the siege of Sevastopol, including the attack on the Quarries, and the assault of 8th September, 1855. It returned from the Crimea in July, 1856.
In the spring of 1857 it embarked for China, but was met in the Straits of Sunda by tidings of the Mutiny, which changed its destination to Bengal. It landed at Berhampore on 2nd August, 1857. The regiment served with Sir Colin Campbell at the relief of Lucknow; with Outram in the defence of the Alumbagh, and at the siege and capture of Lucknow; and throughout the subsequent operations in Oude. After the Mutiny was over, the 90th remained long in India, serving in the Bengal and Madras Presidencies until 1869, when it returned home.
1876 - Dublin
1877 - Limerick
The regiment proceeded to the Cape in 1878, and was employed oil the eastern frontier during the Kaffir War of that year; after which it formed part of the force under the command of Sir Evelyn Wood, sent overland from King William's Town to Natal, which was engaged in the Zulu War of 1879. It fought at Kambula and Ulundi. Kambula: The Zulu chief, Cetawayo, launched three impi (fighting divisions) against Colonel Wood's lager, defended by 2,000 British troops and native auxiliaries. Repulsed, the Zulus were pursued for seven miles. The defeat practically broke Cetawayo's power. The British lost 81. Ulundi was the base of Cetawayo, the Zulu chief, who had 20,000 warriors. He was attacked by 5,000 British led by Wolseley and Chelmsford and, in a fierce fight, lost 1,500 warriors. The defeat broke his tribe. Cetawayo himself was captured the following month. British casualties, 15 killed, 78 wounded.
It subsequently proceeded from Natal to India, and in 1881 it became, under the Territorial re-organization of the Army in that year, the 2nd Battalion The Cameronians. It continued to serve in India until 1895, when it returned home.
Note: As some confusion of ideas prevails on this point, an explanatory note may not be superfluous. During the Seven Years' war several "light" corps were included amongst the numbered Line regiments. Of these the 85th (Royal Volunteers) Light Infantry and the 90th (Irish) Light Infantry were specially designated as "Light Infantry." After distinguished, although brief careers, both were disbanded at the peace of 1763. During the American war and before, light companies were added to most Line regiments, but there were no light infantry regiments in the Line. Light companies were added to the Foot Guards in 1704, when four were organised in the 1st Guards, and two in each of the other regiments. The Perthshire Volunteers were trained as a light infantry regiment as soon as raised, and for some years were the only corps of the kind in the British Line. Next followed the addition of a Jager battalion to the 60th, then an ordinary foot regiment, in 1797; the formation of the Rifle Brigade as an experimental corps in 1800; the, training