The Kings Own Scottish Borderers
notes by Mike Ashmore

The Kings Own Scottish Borderers were the local Infantry Regiment in Dumfries and Galloway until the Regiment was amalgamated with the Royal Scots in 2007.

The Regiment was raised in Edinburgh in 1689 by the Earl of Leven to defend the city from the Jacobite forces of King James II & VII. They took part in the Battle of Killiecrankie, and were responsible for the death of Bonnie Dundee, the Jacobite Commander, thus bringing to an end James’ attempt to save his throne. The Regiment was at Culloden in 1746 as part of the Hanovarian Army. Thereafter it took its place in the British Army as the 25th Regiment of Foot.

At the outbreak of war in August 1914 the Regiment comprised two Regular Battalions, a third Battalion providing a reserve, and two Territorial Battalions.

The 1st Battalion was stationed in Lucknow. It was warned for service in Europe on 11th September. 24 officers and 898 men embarked at Bombay on 29th October for Britain. On 17th March the battalion again embarked, this time for Alexandria, to take part in the Gallipoli campaign, landing there on 25th April 1915.

The 2nd Battalion was stationed in Dublin at the outbreak of war. It was ordered to mobilise at 6 pm on 4th August. 700 reservists travelled from Berwick to Dublin, and the whole battalion including horses, wagons, equipment, rations, clothing and ammunition sailed for France arriving Le Havre 15th August. Thereafter it travelled by train to the Front. It marched towards Mons on 21st August where it was almost immediately in action, just 17 days since being mobilised in Dublin. Thereafter the battalion remained in France until the Armistice, taking part in the major battles of the Western Front. 

The 3rd battalion remained in the UK and provided the reserve.

The Territorial Army had been created in 1907 under the Haldane reforms. The KOSB provided two Territorial Battalions. The 4th was based in the Eastern Borders and the 5th was based in and recruited from Dumfriesshire & Galloway. The Regiment raised three battalions for the “New Armies”, the 6th, 7th and 8th.

On 4th August the 5th Battalion mobilised. The men from Gatehouse who were already enlisted travelled to Castle Douglas to meet up with their comrades and the whole battalion took up its Home Defence role which was to protect the Forth Bridge. At the outbreak of war men had joined the Army in huge numbers, so the Battalion became fully up to strength.  In the autumn the battalion volunteered for foreign service.  After a winter of intensive training the battalion embarked at Liverpool on 20th May 1915 en route for Gallipoli. They disembarked on 6th June as part of the 52nd (Lowland) Division. For the next six months it took part in all the major battles on the peninsular, enduring the appalling conditions ; heat, flies, lack of water and under constant shellfire, until the Allies evacuated from Gallipoli in December 1915. By then just 6 officers and 150 men remained of the original one thousand who had set out six months earlier. The Stewartry Roll of honour reports :

“besides those killed and wounded in action, many had fallen victim to disease, though the splendid physique of our men enabled them to resist disease better than most. The original battalion was as fine a body of men as one could wish to see, most of them drawn from the villages and small towns of the Border counties - big men. Well developed with plenty of staying power. There was a tremendous call made in Gallipoli on their courage and endurance, but they never failed. The people of the Borders may be proud of what their boys did in a trial that tested every man to the uttermost. They gained the highest praise for their heroism in action, their steadfastness in danger, and their resource in difficulties.”

The Battalion moved to Egypt and in 1917 formed part of General Allenby’s Egyptian Expeditionary Force which fought its way through Palestine and Syria. It took part in the battles for Gaza in March and April 1917, and then again in November.  In the Spring of 1918, as part of the 52nd Lowland Division the battalion moved to France where it took part in the operations which led to the final defeat of Germany. Following the Armistice the battalion was selected to be part of the Army of occupation, so did not return to Scotland until October 1919.

The 6th, 7th and 8th battalions were raised as part of the “New Army”. All three served on the Western Front taking part in the major battles; Loos in May 1915, the Somme in July 1916, Arras in April 1917, and 3rd Ypres in November. They endured the desperate fighting of the German Spring offensives and the final advance into Belgium culminating in the Armistice on 11th November.

In the course of The Great War, The Kings Own Scottish Borderers gained 77 new battle honours and many gallantry awards, including four Victoria Crosses. However this was at a cost of 6859 officers and men killed, and thousands more who were mentally and physically scarred.