The King's Own Scottish Borderers was raised in Edinburgh, on the 18th of March, 1689.
What became the King's Own Scottish Borderers Regiment was created in Edinburgh by David Leslie, the 3rd Earl of Leven, on the 18th of March, 1689. The Regiment was formed as a crisis measure for the defence of Edinburgh against the Jacobites and was popular, with non-Jacobites, Hanoverians that is, from the start. Indeed, it was reported that the first 800 men were recruited ‘by beat of drum’ within the space of two hours, with men flocking to join the Regiment in order to safeguard their city. Not so much a crisis measure as a panic reaction, you might say. The lowlanders in Edinburgh had been regaled with tales of bloodthirsty, heretical Highlanders, who atebairns for breakfast and drank the blood of their victims.
The Regiment’s first action was against the Jacobites, who were then led by the man they called 'Bonnie Dundee', but whom others referred to as 'Bluidy Clavers' as a result of his government sponsored persecution of Covenanters in the south and west. Claverhouse led the Jacobites at the Battle of Killiecrankie, in July, 1689, and although the 'rebels' forced the Government army to retreat, Leven's new Regiment seemingly acquitted itself well. If it hadn't, you wouldn’t be reading it here. The evidence lies in part in the fact that the Regiment was subsequently allowed to recruit by beat of drum at any time again within the City of Edinburgh, but with the added privilege of not having to get prior permission from the Lord Provost.
Throughout its history, even to the present day, the King's Own Scottish Borderers – affectionately known as the 'Kosbies' – has, in its various guises, taken part in almost every conflict in which the British Army has been involved. In the 1690s, it fought a hard and bloody campaign in Ireland, followed by five years in the Low Countries, fighting the French. Who didn't fight the French! In fact, the Regiment was awarded its first Battle Honour at the siege of Namur, in France, in 1695. It also fought at the Battles of Sheriffmuir (1715) and Culloden (1746) in successive Jacobite rebellions, being the only Scottish Regiment to have fought for the Government in all three decisive engagements of the Jacobite wars. There was no decisive engagement during the 1709 rising.
At the Battle of Fontenoy, in 1745, during the Jacobites march to Derby, it was known as Sempill’s Regiment and performed heroically, losing nearly one third of its men in that one encounter. By 1751, it had become the 25th Regiment of Foot, and in 1759, won yet another Honour at the Battle of Minden. In that battle, the 25th, together with five other infantry regiments, marched in line against 10,000 French cavalry and succeeded in breaking the centre. The 'Kosbies' were still in Minden in 1974, but the only fighting going on then was in the Red Shield Club.
The Regiment’s third Honour was won at the Battle of Egmont-op-Zee, in 1799 and, in 1801, it went to Egypt and was granted the right to bear the emblem of the Sphinx on the Colours for its part in the capture of Alexandria.
The Regiment was allocated a Depot at York, in 1873, and in 1881, it was proposed that the 25th Foot be re-designated ‘The York Regiment (King’s Own Borderers)’. Parliament was successfully lobbied and, in July 1881, ‘The King’s Own Borderers’ moved to a new depot at Berwick-upon-Tweed Barracks, thus avoiding the ignominy of gaining an entirely English name. Finally, in 1887, the nonsense was put to bed at last as the national origins of the Regiment were fully recognised and it acquired its proper title of ‘The King’s Own Scottish Borderers’.
It is impossible within the space of a wee blog such as this, to give a complete history of the Regiment, or to list in full its Battle Honours. Dwell on this, if you will – 66 were gained in the First World War alone. During the Second World War, the 'Kosbies' were evacuated from Dunkirk, however, the Regiment returned to France on D-Day, via ‘Queen’ Beach and the 7th Battalion was significantly involved as part of the glider-borne 1st Airborne Division, which was flown into Arnhem (a Bridge too Far for some), in 1944.
The 1st Battalion, KOSB, with many National Service men amongst its numbers, was in Korea, in 1951, fighting against the Chinese and North Korean armies. One of its six VCs was won during a battle in that campaign, at Kowang-San. The highest British military honour for gallantry was won by Pte. William Speakman, on the 5th of November, 1951. Acting on his own initiative, and although his Company was vastly outnumbered, Pte. Speakman led a party of six men in a series of grenade charges against the enemy, driving them from his position and enabling the rest of his Company to withdraw in relative safety. Intelligence reports indicated that, during that entire engagement, the Chinese lost 1000 men, whilst the 1st Battalion’s casualty roll read: 31 killed, 90 wounded and 20 taken Prisoner.
Another of the Regiment's VCs was the legendary 'Piper of Loos', 15851 Piper Daniel Laidlaw, V.C., Fr.C. de G., 7th KOSB, Loos. At the outset of the battle, the battalion was confronted by poison gas and heavy artillery fire, yet Laidlaw inspired the assault from the trenches, playing the Regimental March and Charge. The entry in issue 29371 of the London Gazette, published on the 16th of November, 1915, records Laidlaw's gallantry as follows: For most conspicuous bravery prior to an assault on German trenches near Loos and Hill 70 on 25th September, 1915. During the worst of the bombardment, when the attack was about to commence, Piper Laidlaw, seeing that his company was somewhat shaken from the effects of gas, with absolute coolness and disregard of danger mounted the parapet, marched up and down and played his company out of the trench. The effect of his splendid example was immediate, and the company dashed out to the assault. Piper Laidlaw continued playing his pipes till he was wounded.
The Regiment’s other four VCs are: Lieutenant G.H.B Coulson, V.C., D.S.O., 1st KOSB, South Africa; CSM J. Skinner, V.C., D.C.M., France, 1917; CQMS W. Grimbaldeston, V.C., Fr. C. de G., 1st KOSB, Ypres; and Sgt. L. Mcguffie, V.C., 5th KOSB, France, 1918.
In 2006, under changes delivered by the Future Infantry Structure, the Regiment became part of the Royal Regiment of Scotland.