Fact file: Cape Town Highlanders

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The unit is often teased for being the world’s only coastal Highland regiment – something of a contradiction in terms. The regiment was established as the Cape Town Highlanders, The Duke of Connaught and Strathearn’s Own on April 24, 1885 and wears Gordon tartan.

It saw action during the Langberg campaign of 1897 and was mobilised on October 16, 1899 for the Anglo South African War. They were only released from service seven month’s after that conflict’s end, on January 12, 1903, having served mostly as line of communications troops. Volunteers from the regiment formed A Squadron of Kitchener’s Horse in 1900.

From 1913 to 1932, the CTH was known as the 6th Infantry, Active Citizen Force. The unit served through World War One, first in the German South West Africa campaign and then on the Cape defences. It “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 SA 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,” a history on the regimental website notes1.

During the 1939-45 war, the unit provided troops to No 34 Armoured Car Company (later part of 9th Recce Battalion) and contributed a battalion to 2 SA Brigade in North Africa. “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 war 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 Rommel’s advance on the exhausted and thinned-out Eighth Army.”2

“In 1943 the CTH temporarily ‘married up’ with South Africa’s 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.”

In 2000 a contingent of the Cape Town Highlanders Regiment attended the Queen Mother’s 100th birthday and paraded the regiment’s Colour on Horse Guards Parade. With the death of the Queen Mother in 2002, the regiment sent a contingent to participate in her funeral procession. The regiment has sent a detachment with 7SAI Bn to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as part of a peace support mission

Current role: Mechanised infantry.

Current base: Cape Town

Battle honours:

  • Bechuanaland 1896/7

  • South Africa 1899-1902

  • South West Africa 1915

  • Alem Hamza

  • Best Post

  • Gazala

  • Alamein Defence

  • Alamein Box

  • El Alamein

  • Western Desert 1941-43

  • Monte Stanco

  • Po Valley

  • Chiusi

  • Gothic Line

  • Casino II

  • Monte Pezza

  • The Greve

  • Florence

  • Italy 1944-45

  • Sole/Caprara

The regiment also claims the following3:

  • Egypt 1916

  • Somme 1916

  • Delville Wood

  • Arras 19l7

  • Ypres 1917

  • Menin Road

  • Messines 1918

  • Hindenburg Line

  • Cambrai 1918

  • Pursuit to Mons

  • France and Flanders 1918

  • Le Transloy

  • Scarpe 1917

  • Kemmel

  • Lys

Motto: Bydand (Steadfast in Doric, a Scots dialect), Nemo Me Impune Lacessit (No Man Challenges me with Impunity)

2 Ditto.



3 “The CTH is still claiming 15 battle honours awarded for service in France and Flanders to the 4th SA Infantry (SA Scottish), a service battalion formed by itself and the Transvaal Scottish. The SA Scottish, like various other such units, was formed by the SA government because a clause in the Defence Act prohibited existing units from serving so far away from its borders. All the other Dominions except South Africa – Canada, Australia and New Zealand – had a similar problem and solved it the same way … and then made the service units’ battle honours transferable to their parent regiments. The 15 ‘missing’ battle honours include some of the most famous in South Africa’s military annals.” http://www.cthighlanders.co.za/cth/cthf1.htm