1. Mons Graupius - 84 AD - The first recorded battle in Scottish history. Also the first recorded military disaster.

2. Falkirk - 1298 -William Wallace’s brief day in the sun is ended when he comes up against Edward, the Hammer of the Scots.


3. Faughart - 1318 - Robert the Bruce’s little brother Eddie makes a mess of things when he tries to become King of Ireland. Was he really killed by an assassin posing as a jester?

4. Verneuil - 1426 - Archibald, 4th Earl of Douglas, earns his nickname “The Loser” when he leads a Scottish army to disaster in France. Archie loses battles and body parts on a fairly regular basis during his military career.

5. Flodden - 1513 - King James IV gets too big for his boots and tries to invade England. The Scots’ attempt to emulate the success of Swiss and German pikemen in Europe ends in a major slaughter.

6. Kringen - 1612 - A force of Scottish mercenaries is ambushed and defeated by Norwegian farmers. The farmers celebrate by killing nearly all their Scots prisoners. A free preview of this chapter is available on this website - Book Extract

7. Dunbar - 1650 - Oliver Cromwell inflicts major defeat on Scottish army and then sends Scottish prisoners on death march. Thousands of Scottish prisoners die. Many of the survivors are sold into slavery or forced to fight for English interests.  

8. Namur - 1690 - A single explosion kills around 500 members of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers. Also takes in the British army’s defeat by Jacobites at Killiecrankie.

9. Culloden - 1746 - Argues that the ’45 really was an English versus Scottish affair.  

10. Fort Du Quesne - 1758 - Highland troops launch blundering and unauthorized attack on French-held fort on site of present-day Pittsburgh. The Indians hack the heads off Highlanders and stick them on stakes along with their bloodied kilts for the British to find.

11. Ticonderoga - 1758 - Black Watch launches ferocious attack on French-held fort in present-day New York State. It’s a disaster and over 300 are killed. Includes the story of an officer who was told by the ghost of a murdered relative that he would die at the battle. 

12. Boston Harbour - 1776 - Highland troops sail into Boston Harbour to as reinforcements for British Army during the American Revolution. What they don’t know is that British have evacuated Boston and it is now held by rebels. Scots captured.

13. Moore’s Creek - 1776 - Flora Macdonald and her family decide to fight for King George III against the American rebels. Force made up mainly of Highlanders is defeated by rebels at Moore’s Creek in South Carolina.

14. Polillur - 1780 - Superior Indian technology leads to defeat of Highland Light Infantry. Scots are forced to surrender after Indian rockets destroy their ammunition wagons. The survivors spend four years in captivity being held in horrendous conditions. Some are forcibly circumcised.

15. Cowpens - 1781 - Another story from the American Revolution. The first time a whole Highland regiment flees in the face of the enemy. The Highlanders are commanded by Banastre Tarleton, the bad guy in Mel Gibson’s “The Patriot”. They successfully ask never to be commanded by him again.



16. Buenos Aires - 1806 - The Highland Light Infantry is sent almost on its own to conquer Spanish South America. They capture Buenos Aires and fortune in Spanish treasure before being overwhelmed. This website now includes a short follow-up article about the regiment's time in captivity -  Jungle Jail

17. El Hamet - 1807 - Small British army, which includes the Seaforth Highlanders, is overrun in Egypt. Two of the captured Highlanders convert to Islam and enjoy very successful careers in Egypt.

18. New Orleans - 1815 - The 93rd Highlanders are mown down in droves after coming to an ill-advised halt right in front of the American guns at New Orleans. The Royal Scots Fusiliers are also involved.  

19. Waterloo - The Royal Scots Greys are almost wiped out when a successful charge goes too far and they are overwhelmed by a large force of French cavalry.

20. The Birkenhead - 1851 - The origin of phrase “Women and Children First” in sea disasters. Scots soldiers stand on the deck of troop ship as sinks under their feet rather than risk swamping the lifeboats with the women and children on board.

21. Ruiya - 1858 - Highland Brigade is launched into frontal attack on rebel fort during Indian Mutiny and suffers heavy casualties. Some of the other walls are so low a man could easily step over them.

22. Majuba Hill - 1881 - Overconfidence and bravado costs the Gordon Highlanders dear when they take on South African farmers. 

23. Magersfontein - 1899 - The pride of Scotland, the Highland Brigade, marches to disaster in the Boer War. 

24. Dublin - 1914 - The King’s Own Scottish Borderers open fire on a crowd in Dublin after failing to foil a Republican arms landing.

25. Bedford - 1914 - Soldiers of the 51st Highland Division recruited from remote communities in the Highlands and Islands suffer badly from diseases normally associated with childhood when they are sent to train in the Bedford area.

26. Gretna- 1915 - The 7th Battalion of the Royal Scots loses half its men in one of Britain’s worst train disasters.

27. Gully Ravine - 1915 - The 8th Scottish Rifles are almost wiped out in classic example of a botched First World War battle. Only half survive their first combat experience as they charge into Turkish machine guns at Gallipoli. The British commander is almost a caricature of how most people imagine a general of the time.  

28. St. Valery - 1940 - Young soldiers of the 51st Highland Division spend what should be the best years of their lives slaving in Poland after being captured by top German General Erwin Rommel.

29. Litani River - 1941 - French troops loyal to the Vichy government inflict heavy casualties on Scottish commando unit after an attempt to capture a bridge in present-day Lebanon goes badly wrong.

30. Hong Kong - 1941 - The Royal Scots put up poor defence against attacking Japanese and are dubbed by the rest of the British defenders of the colony “The Fleet of Foot”.

31. The Cossacks - 1945 - The 8th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders end the Second World War on a low note when they are ordered to forcibly repatriate thousands of Cossacks and their families back to Soviet Union where they face death or slavery.

32. Batang Kali - 1948 - The Scots Guards massacre around two dozen workers on a Malayan rubber plantation. Official version is that the workers were shot trying the escape.

33. Korea - 1950- The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders are bombed by US planes in the worst friendly-fire incident of the Korean War and only the Highlanders’ heroism saves the day.