Patriotic Capetonians of Scottish ancestry raised the Cape Town Highlanders in 1885. Their services were accepted on April 24 - celebrated ever since as the regimental birthday.
The CTH's first active service was during the Bechuanaland Campaign in the far Northern Cape in 1896. Three years later, in 1899, it was mobilised for the Second Anglo-Boer War. Detachments served on patrol duties, while some officers and men manned "A" Company of Kitchener's Horse and took part in the relief of Kimberley and various other battles of the latter stage of the war.
During World War I the CTH served against the Germans in South West Africa, then combined forces with the Transvaal Scottish to form a service battalion called the 4th South African Infantry (South African Scottish) for Brigadier Tim Lukin's immortal 1st S A Brigade, which fought in the Senussi Campaign in North Africa and then went on to France, where it won undying fame at Delville Wood and many other battles between 1916 and 1918. Although the CTH mobilised in September 1939 on the outbreak of World War II it did not serve in the Abyssinian Campaign of 1940-1941. In mid-1941 it went briefly to Egypt to escort thousands of Italian prisoners of ear to internment in South Africa, then returned in late June to join the newly arrived 1st South African Division in the Western Desert.
It fought in all of the major battles in the Western Desert Campaign, all the way through to El Alamein; it is one of only three regiments in the world (all of them South African) to have not only the usual two Alamein battle honours "Alamein Defence" and "El Alamein" but a third, "Alamein Box", resulting from a separate action during the initial defence which played a significant role in halting Rommels advance on the exhausted and thinned-out Eighth Army.
In 1943 the CTH temporarily "married up" with South Africas senior Scottish unit, the First City Regiment, to form the First City/Cape Town Highlanders, which fought from Monte Cassino to the Alps, culminating in the heroic capture at bayonet-point of the strategic peak of Monte Sole. This broke the back of German resistance in Italy.
After a long period of peace-time service the CTH was mobilised for operations in January 1976 for Operation Savannah, the first incursion into Angola near the start of the 23-year-long "border war" in South West Africa (later Namibia). In subsequent years the CTH was mobilised several times for operational and training service; the last was in October 1988 near the end of hostilities, when a battle-group under Lieutenant-Colonel A M Marriner was deployed.
In April 1994 the CTH was mobilised again on a very historic occasion, to ensure that the peace was kept during the general election later that month. The battalion headquarters and three full rifle companies, every man a volunteer, donned their Balmoral bonnets and headed north.
When the first all-race provincial parliament was sworn in at Johannesburg, the guard of honour included the CTH in their beloved Ratel infantry fighting vehicles once again demonstrating their traditional loyalty to the government of the day.
Since then the CTH has gone back to its peace-time routine of parades and training, such as periodical field exercises at the Army Battle School Not that peace-time training always means peaceful training.
2005/6 saw our first external deployment under the UN Flag in the DRC and in 2007 a rifle company under 9 SAI deployed into Barundi.
With the abolition of conscription, the Cape Town Highlanders is once more what it always was - a fully volunteer regiment. Today, every Highlander wears the "orange-red" shoulder-flash which represents volunteer service.
Many of the men who served in the Cape Town Highlanders over the past century have obviously been of Scottish ancestry. However, people of other origins have always been welcome, provided they accept the CTH's customs and are willing to do their bit. In 1955 the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Denzil Loveland, was asked about this. His reply was: "Once they put on the kilt, they are all damn fine Highlanders".
The Gordon regimental tartan from the Clan Gordon
Since its early days the CTH has worn the tartan adopted by The Gordon Highlanders when that regiment was raised in 1792. It was always the only other regiment in the world to wear the particular tartan, which is a regimental and not a clan tartan.
The CTH has two mottos. The first, in Latin, is borne by various Scottish regiments: "Nemo Me Impune Lacessit" (No Man Challenges me with Impunity) - or, in the idiomatic use age, "no-one mucks about with the Highlanders". The second, in Doric (a Scottish dialect), was unique to the Gordon Highlanders and the CTH: "Bydand" (Steadfast). The motto has fallen into disuse on the Gordons' amalgamation, but in the CTH it is still worn as it has been for more than a century: On a shield bearing a stag's head which is worn on the ceremonial sporran by the corporals and below.
The CTH's quick march is "Cock o' The North" (Hear the Regimental March). This was also the march of The Gordon Highlanders and commemorates the Marquess of Huntly, son of the Duke of Gordon, a famous fighting man whose nickname was the "Cock o' The North".
The CTH has a long connection with the British Royal Family. The Duke of Connaught and Strathearn became its first Colonel-in-Chief in 1912 and remained in this post until his death in 1942. The Duke's heir died of wounds before taking up the post, and for five years the CTH had no Colonel-in-Chief. During the 1947 Royal Visit, however, the CTH not only mounted guard on the Royal Family's residence but also marched in a grand review to mark the 21st birthday of the Princess Royal, now Queen Elizabeth II.
HM Queen Elizabeth (now the Queen Mother) agreed to become Colonel-in-Chief, the regiment being renamed as " the Queen's Own Cape Town Highlanders". With the advent of the Republic in 1961 the CTH reluctantly but voluntarily relinquished its cherished title to symbolise its traditional philosophy of loyalty to the government of the day, although the Queen Mother's portrait was retained in a position of honour in the Officers and Sergeants Messes, and Commanding Officers have always visited her when in Britain.
During the brief Royal Visit in 1995, Cape Town Highlanders provided a guard of honour and its Drums and Pipes for a ceremony at which HM Queen Elizabeth II laid a wreath on the Commonwealth war graves memorial at Woltemade Cemetery, Cape Town.
In 2000 a contingent of CTH attended the Queen Mother's 100th birthday and paraded the Colour on Horse Guards Parade.
Then in 2002 we sent a contingent of Officers, NCO's and men to participate in Ops Tay-bridge, the funeral of the Queen mother.
The CTH's name has varied in different stages in its history:
|* The Cape Town Highlanders||1885-1906|
|* Duke of Connaught and Strathearn's Own Cape Town Highlanders||1906-1921|
|* 6th Infantry (Duke of Connaught and Strathearn's Own Cape Town Highlanders||1921-1925|
|* Duke of Connaught and Strathearn's Own Cape Town Highlanders||1925-1947|
|* The Queen's Own Cape Town Highlanders||1947-1961|
|* The Cape Town Highlanders||1961-Present|
The CTH's Regimental Headquarters is located at Castle Barracks, Cape Town, a cluster of historic military buildings next to the Castle.
Unlike many other regiments, the CTH has no real nickname. It has never needed one! But during World War I the Germans were so respectful of the kilted Scottish soldiers who fought against them in France that they called them "The Ladies from Hell".
The uniform of the CTH has changed a great deal since it was founded - only our pipers and drummers now wear the original uniform - but many of its elements are still worn, including the diced Glengarry and the kilt of Gordon regimental tartan.
The Cape Town Highlanders has always been a regiment of line infantry - the traditional "Queen of Battles" - and in 1978 it was among a group of handpicked South African regiments to be turned into Mechanised infantry, the elite of the ground forces.
From The Ranks
Every commander of the CTH has served in the ranks; the classic example is Corporal Sam Sumner. Decorated with the Military Medal while serving with the SA Scottish at Delville Wood in 1916, Sumner then became an officer - and won the Military Cross as well! By the time he retired from the CTH in 1942, halfway through World War II, he was a lieutenant colonel... and the Commanding Officer there have been 25.
Including the present incumbent, WOI J. Koen JCD, the CTH has had just 18 RSM's in since 1885, and as Rudyard Kipling once said, "The backbone of the Army is the non-commissioned man".
Decorations For Gallantry
Seven serving Cape Town Highlanders wear awards for bravery. Two - Major Robin Douglas and Lance-Sergeant Gareth Rutherford - won the Honoris Crux for gallantry in action; and in 1995 the then RSM and four others were decorated with the Army Cross for bravery while fighting an enormous bush-fire at the Combat Training College.
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