What are these notes about?
These notes are designed to tell you some more about us to help you make your mind up whether or not you want to join.
Please read them, think about them and decide for yourself what you want to do. We are on hand at any stage to give you any additional advice you need.
Meanwhile, before you get stuck into the reading, you might like to watch our Video
Thank you for taking an interest in the Gordon Highlanders.
Who are we?
The Gordon Highlanders 1914-1918 is an organisation of civilian re-enactors which exists to re-create as accurately as possible the life of the soldiers of the Gordon Highlanders during the Great War 1914-18.
All members of the Regiment wear the exact uniform and equipment of the period and carry the Short Magazine Lee Enfield rifle (S.M.L.E.).
We aim to achieve the highest standards in Great War re-enactment. We are a relatively new unit, so if you join us now, you have a chance to play a part in moulding the Regiment and helping us set the standards for later recruits to follow.
While several Great War re-enactment societies in the U.K. represent Highland soldiers as a side-line, we are the only society in the country dedicated full-time to representing the Highland soldier of the Great War
The Regiment we represent
“the finest regiment that ever was” Winston Churchill
The Gordon Highlanders were formed shortly after the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars, when in 1794 the 4th Duke of Gordon raised the 100th Highland Regiment. The number was changed to the 92nd in 1798. The Regiment first saw action the following year in the Helder campaign. Then in 1800-1801, it was involved in the Egyptian expedition, as a result of which the Regiment was granted the entitlement to wear the Sphinx badge, with the inscription “Egypt”. This was worn with pride until 1872 when it was replaced by a badge featuring a stag’s head and the motto “Bydand”, based on the crest of the Marquis of Huntly.
Above:The Gordons and the Greys at Waterloo
The 92nd served throughout the Napoleonic Wars, notably in the Peninsula and at Quatre Bras and Waterloo in 1815. There followed a long period of relative peace, or of campaigns in which the Gordons missed the major actions, until they served with great distinction in Afghanistan in 1879-80.
In 1881, the 92nd was amalgamated with the 75th Regiment, and the combined unit took the title of the Gordon Highlanders. The Regiment served in a series of colonial engagements in late Victorian times, notably on the North-West Frontier and in the Boer War. The most famous episode in the Regiment’s history took place on the North-West Frontier in 1897, when the Gordons stormed the heights of Dargai, an action in which Piper George Findlater famously won the Victoria Cross.
The Regiment served with distinction through both world wars. In the Great War, 20 battalions were raised at various times and the Gordons fought in most major engagements on the Western Front and also in Italy. In the Second World War the Regiment served in the battle of France, at Singapore, in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, Normandy, North-West Europe and Burma. After the war it was involved in counter-insurgency operations, most notably in Malaya and Northern Ireland, while playing its part in NATO’s defensive shield.
In 1994, in its two hundredth year, the Regiment was amalgamated with the Queen’s Own Highlanders to form The Highlanders, and in 2006 The Highlanders themselves became the 4th Battalion within the newly formed super-regiment, the Royal Regiment of Scotland.
We are proud to represent this famous regiment. We take on a heavy responsibility in the process. You will be encouraged to take an interest in the history of the Regiment and to honour its fine traditions.
What do we do?
We take part as required in the full range of re-enactment and living history activities; individual talks and displays, educational activities, living history encampments, arena displays, and full scale battle re-enactments.
We do not concentrate on a single battalion of the Gordons, but aim to be able to represent all battalions, Regular, Territorial and Service, as required.
We do not operate as a business, but from time to time may undertake engagements primarily designed to supplement unit funds.
We expect to take part in about six core events each year (including events in Scotland), when we look to attendance from as many members as possible, although the opportunity will exist, through co-operation with other units, to participate in more.
We actively seek opportunities to co-operate with other units, especially in depicting the life of the Highland soldier.
These events give us the opportunity to meet many other re-enactors, of the same or other periods, from both home and abroad.
Why do we do it?
All our members share an interest in the Great War, a pride in our military heritage, and a pride in wearing the uniform of the Gordon Highlanders.
We enjoy the experience of recreating the soldier’s life during an epic period of our history, and of learning through experience about his life, whether through, for example, the weight of the kit, the fatigue of a long march, or the recreation of a trench or the tactics of the time.
In many respects the Great War was unique in its impact. A visit to a vast cemetery like Tynecot is an unforgettable experience. We respect the sacrifice made by the soldiers of the Great War and, perhaps more than re-enactors of other periods, we feel an emotional bond with the soldiers we represent.
We also enjoy engaging with the public about a war which still captures the imagination, which still inspires conflicting but passionately held views, and which still speaks to the young through their history lessons and to all through the experience of their fathers or grand-fathers
At the end of the day there is the satisfaction of having pleased, informed and entertained the public with a job well done.
At the same time, re-enactment is a very social hobby. There is a great feeling of comradeship and the opportunity to meet fellow re-enactors and interested members of the public, ideally in the mess tent over a few beers.
In the final analysis, of course, we do it because we enjoy it.
Who can join?
Membership of the Gordon Highlanders is open to all suitable recruits who are prepared to make the commitment. At present, about half our members either live in Scotland or have a Scottish connection, but this is not essential; just enthusiasm for the Regiment and sufficient pride to wear the kilt!
A military background is not essential, as long as you are prepared to accept a certain discipline when “on duty”.
You will also be expected to look the part. Beards were not worn, but moustaches were commonplace. The soldiers of the Great War were generally young, fit and appropriately built. Age is not a huge problem, within reason, if you are reasonably fit, the uniform having a remarkable levelling effect. But if you are overweight, you will need to trim some off to play the role of a soldier. If you are positively rotund, we would need to find an alternative role for you, “back at the base”. Our credibility depends on looking the part. If this is a problem for you, with the best will in the world, you may need to think again.
Women will be welcome to join the unit in any role (nurses etc., local civilians) compatible with a tented encampment behind the lines
Young adults may join as soldiers (or nurses etc) as long as they are sufficiently grown to appear as young (possibly even under-age) soldiers.
Younger children may join as local (i.e. French or Belgian) civilians, as long as they are accompanied by their parents
Cross-dressing is not permitted
What commitment is expected?
We expect to arrange about 6 core events each year when we look to maximum attendance. Of course, attendance at all these events is not obligatory, but we are looking for recruits who are prepared to make a strong personal commitment to the unit.
The most important thing is that when you do turn up, you are expected to maintain a high standard of turnout and to conduct yourself at all times when on duty in a manner which reflects credit on both the professionalism of the unit and its behaviour towards the public. Courtesy and respect towards your colleagues and the public are expected at all times.
There is a fair financial commitment involved. Be warned that a rifle alone will cost about £250, the uniform and equipment still more. This of course can be acquired gradually over time, and we do hold a limited amount of spare kit (including kilts) which we can issue to new recruits to help them get involved with the unit while they build up their own personal uniform. We can advise on how to get hold of each individual item of equipment.
If you obtain a firing rifle, you will also need to obtain a firearms licence. The use of firearms is strictly controlled in this country. We fully support the law.
What will happen to me when I join?
The first step is attestation, when we will take your details and you will swear an oath, in our case, to uphold the aims and standards of the unit, and the principles on which it is run. Click here for Principles. On joining, you will be given basic instruction about your uniform and rifle, and taught the rudiments of drill. There will be a lot more to learn, but this will be handled gradually, generally in the context of preparing for events. It may be that some “recruits” bring with them valuable experience which they can share with us. None of us ever really stop learning. We will encourage members to take an active interest in the history of the Regiment and in the Great War more generally.
It is our intention, however, that, from the first time you attend for duty, you will be fully involved in the mainstream activities of the unit, including public displays, as far as is compatible with safety. While “off duty”, out of the public eye, we are simply members of the same team, without distinction of rank. While “on duty”, in the public eye, however, you will be expected to act out the role of soldiers. This means being prepared to accept military discipline and accept orders from officers and NCOs without complaint or answering back. This is all part of successful re-enactment. Nothing looks less convincing to the public than re-enactors who clearly have no idea of military values, when we are trying to re-create the appearance of a properly disciplined military unit. We can address any genuine gripes at the end of the day quietly out of the public eye.
What uniform do I wear?
As a member of the Gordon Highlanders, you will be privileged not only to wear the khaki uniform of the British Army, but also the kilt, hose and head-dress of the Highland regiments and more specifically the famous Gordons tartan, based on government pattern with a yellow stripe.
The Highland uniform evolved during the Great War, so to reduce initial expenditure, we will ask you first to concentrate on obtaining the uniform and kit for the period 1916 onwards, as we believe that the periods of the Somme and Passchendaele respond best to the public perception of the war. Click here for a description of the Uniform and here for a detailed Kit-list.
It is a privilege to wear this uniform. You should wear it with pride. You should always wear it correctly, and you should never forget that in doing so, you undertake to respect and live up to the traditions of the Regiment we represent.
What should I do next?
If you have further questions, or if you have now decided to join, click here to Contact us.
If you still want to find out more, you will be welcome to join us for a day or part of a day to get the flavour. Check first with us where and when we are next meeting. You are welcome to visit us, speak to members of the Regiment, watch what we do, and, assuming we have spare kit for you, join in as far as possible.
We want you to be certain in your decision. We hope that you will decide to join. Be assured that you will find a warm welcome in the Gordon Highlanders.