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History of the Victorian Scottish Regiment

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MELBOURNE, c 1913.  

Portrait of Corporal J. T. H. Aram of the 52nd Australian Infantry Battalion (Victorian Scottish Regiment) in Scots uniform of Busbee, kilt, sporran. (donor: J. Mcgarvin).

Hat badge of the Victorian Scottish>>
1940-09, Victoria. Victorian Scottish Battalion marching past its pipe band at Rye.
Click to enlarge
  • The History of the Victorian Scottish Regiment and the 5th Infantry battalion was written and published as
  • "Esprit De Corps".

Early Days

Based on a history document prepared for centenary celebrations

Victorian Military Forces General Order No. 70, dated 3rd September, 1898 read:

Victorian Scottish Regiment of Volunteers

The Administrator of the Government in Council has been pleased by order dated 29th day of August 1898 to approve the formation of a corps of volunteers to be designated the Victorian Scottish Regiment. (signed) W. McCulloch, Minister of Defence, Defence Department, Melbourne.   29 August, 1898

Following the publication of this authority, the Regiment was formed at Albert Park by a group of Scottish gentlemen of whom members were Sir John McIntyre, Sir Malcolm McEachren, Colonel Otter, Richard Linton, W.B. Jarvie and W.J. McKirdie. Colonel Otter became the first commanding officer and, after a short term was succeeded by Sir Malcolm McEachren. A parade ground was made available at Victoria Barracks and here the majority of parades were held. 

At that time volunteers were issued with rifles, bayonets, haversacks and water-bottles only and were expected to provide their own uniforms. Because of this the Regiment paraded in plain clothes until towards the end of 1899 when 100 uniforms became available. The cost for officers was approximately 100 for full dress and the men, 8 (equal to around $6,000 and $700 or more now). 


The latter dress consisted of white helmet with red and white hackle, khaki jacket, kilt, sporran, hose tops, Glengarry and trews. They then wore the Victorian Scottish Regiment tartan, a tartan especially adapted for the regiment - basically a Gordon tartan with the yellow stripes replaced by red stripes.) 

In 1900 the Band was formed, the purchase of instruments being made possible by Sir Malcolm McEachren. The strength of the regiment increased and, when a review took place at Flemington on the opening of Commonwealth Parliament by the Duke of York (afterwards King George V), five companies paraded. Each company was over sixty strong, and the Regiment, now wearing red tunics and led by its two bands, (pipe and brass), made a fine showing. 


Changes of System  

The Volunteer System was abolished in favour of militia in 1902 and then, in 1911 as a result of some years of investigation, the Commonwealth Government introduced a system of Universal Training. 


This required service by all able-bodied men between certain ages and voluntary enlistment was confined to officers and senior non-commissioned officers. 


The Militia units formed the nucleus of the new Defence Force. National dress was abolished and the Victorian Scottish Regiment became the 52nd Battalion under Colonel D.S. Wanliss, who was later Chief Justice of New Guinea. 


The 1914-18 War

On the outbreak of the Great War, members of the 51st and 52nd Battalions combined to form the 5th Battalion A.I.F., under Colonel Wantiss. Many of the old militia men rejoined and an unsuccessful effort was made to form a kilted unit. In the formation of the Battalion provision was made for a Public Schools Company. This was immensely popular, but unfortunately it was given much of the dangerous work on Gallipoli and many excellent potential officers were lost. 

The Battalion left Melbourne in October 1914 and after training in Egypt, took part in the landing at ANZAC, forming part of the force which attacked Cape Helles. It remained on the Peninsula until the evacuation. It returned to Egypt in December and shortly after, a portion of the Battalion was taken to form 57 Battalion. The newly reinforced 5th completed its training and in March it was sent to France where it took part in many battles. 


Main engagements were Somme 1916-18, Pozieres, Bullecourt, Ypres 1917, Menin Road, Polygon Wood, Broodseinde, Poelcapelle, Passchendaele, Lys, Hazebrouck, Amiens, Albert, Hindenburg Line and Epehy. The Battalion lost approximately 1,300 killed or died of wounds and won 329 decorations for gallantry. 

Period after the Great War

When compulsory training was again commenced in 1919, the 51st and 52nd Battalions were again formed at Port Melbourne and South Melbourne respectively, but almost at once the A.I.F. organisation was reinstated in order to maintain the Great War traditions and the two battalions were regrouped to form the 2nd/5th Infantry. A further re-grouping of units in 1921 resulted in portions of other units being added and the unit became the 5th Battalion. 

1925 saw the reintroduction of territorial titles and the 5th was granted the old title of Victorian Scottish Regiment. 

In November 1929, compulsory training was suspended and Militia training introduced. The territorial title came into proper use and the lion rampant badge, together the motto of the old Victorian Scottish Regiment, Nemo Me Impune Lacessit (No one hurts us with impunity) was adopted. 



Members of the Sergeant's Mess at Seymour 1931. Donor  Martina Macey, whose grandfather, Reginald G.G. Macey is in the photo, 4th from the left, sitting on the bench.

Immediately, permission to wear Highland uniform was sought, but owning to the need for economy, the kilt was not permitted. However, due to the efforts of the Scottish societies and friends of the Regiment, permission was eventually obtained and subscriptions, Regimental activities and individual payments by the men enabled the Regiment, on 6 May 1935 to again parade in Scottish dress for the first time since 1912.  

VSR Tug 'o War Champions, 1930 & 1931

Black ostrich feather bonnet mounted on a wire frame covered with black cotton. 

The bonnet has five black feather tails on the left side and a white vulture feather plume on the right side secured by a whitemetal badge of the Victorian Scottish Regiment mounted on a black silk cockade. 

The bonnet band is of black, red and white diced wool bound around the lower edge with black velvet. 

There is a black silk ribbon flash at the centre back of the band. The bonnet has a leather sweat band with two bands of black cotton above it that can be adjusted by drawstrings to improve the fit on the wearer's head.

Melbourne, Vic. 1 April 1940. Members of 5th Battalion Victorian Scottish Regiment on parade as they return from a three month training camp. (Negative by G. Silk)

1939 - 1945

During this period, the Victorian Scottish Regiment served in Western Australia and later in Darwin.

2nd/5th Inf Bn 2nd AIF. In 1939, soon after the outbreak of war, the Sixth Division was formed for overseas service. At that time, members of the VSR joined the 2nd/5th Battalion, which formed part of that division. 


Perth, WA. 1943-03-18. March through the City of Perth of 5th Australian Infantry Battalion (Victorian Scottish) and 300 members of the Australian Women's Army Service in connection with the opening of the Third Liberty Loan. The salute is being taken by Rear Admiral A.W. Christie, U.S. Navy (centre figure on dais). The Drum Major is Warrant-officer A. Gilchrist. Included in the pipers are Private D. McPhie (extreme left), Private K. Chalmers, Private H P Davidson (second from right, front rank), Private FO Anderson, Private F W Roberts, Corporal W Featherstone (right, front rank), Private G Lawson, and Private K L Cameron. Click to enlarge

The history of the 2/5 Bn tells of the endeavour, courage and sacrifice of some 2,000 men, who passed through its ranks during the Second World War. One of the most widely experienced infantry battalions of the 2nd AIF, it sailed from Australia in April 1940 and saw service in Libya, Greece, Crete, Syria, Ceylon and New Guinea. It's members won many decorations for bravery. 

1948 - 1960

June 1948 saw the regiment raised again, commanded by Lt Col G.R. James Warfe, DSO, MC, ED, with its regimental HQ at Hawthorne and depots at Dandenong, Kew, Armadale and Surrey Hills. It was during the 1948-1960 period that the regiment played a vital part in the training of many hundreds of National Servicemen. In 1960, the Regiment disbanded and its members absorbed into the newly formed Royal Victoria Regiment, forming initially two Scottish companies. The 5th Bn being the former Victorian Scottish Regiment and the 6th Bn being the Royal Melbourne Regiment.



Post 1960

The Regiment was raised again as a Scottish Unit in May 1965 as the 5th Bn The Royal Victoria Regiment (RVR). Early in the 1970s, the 5th Bn was briefly absorbed into 1st RVR, with only the Pipes and Drums to carry on the spirit of the Victorian Scottish Regiment. A further re-organisation resulted in 5th/6th Bn, RVR, with 5th and 6th Bn being recognised (also at that time 8/7 Bn RVR was formed in country Victoria.) 


B Company of 5/6RVR continues the tradition of the Victorian Scottish Regiment and has in the past been kilted. However, lack of government support and declining community interest has led to limited elements of the Unit appearing in kilts, again leaving the Pipes and Drums to carry on the traditions of the Victorian Scottish Regiment. With the formation of the RVR, all previous badges were replaced by the RVR hat badge. 

Pipes & Drums of 5th Battalion Royal Victoria Regiment, 1969


From time to time various members of the regiment parade in Gordon kilt and balmorals. For example, on ANZAC Day the RSM and Adjutant have been kilted. 

The band continues to perform in Gordon kilt and plaid, although the RVR hat badge, collar dogs and shoulder titles are worn. Associate members of the pipes and drums wear the VSR badge when competing in highland competitions. All Victoria Scottish Regiment uniform items, such as kilts, plaids, badges and other highland dress are supplied through tax free donations to the RVR Pipes and Drums Association Incorporated. 

Thus, the tradition continues - in the face of many obstacles - through the personal determination of the Pipes and Drums and the kind financial support of friends of the VSR. In other words, the only reason the band appears at all is due to financial donations and devotion of a great deal of time. Thank you especially to the committee members of the Association, who administer the fund raising and distribution.


UPDATE 21 March 2003 My name is **** ******. I previously served as a reservist with Bravo Company the 5th/6th Battalion of the Royal Victoria Regiment. I noticed that your information on the Victorian Scottish Regiment was slightly wrong. Bravo Company 5/6 RVR carry out the traditions of the Victorian Scottish Regiment. Each year on Anzac day they wear the traditional Kilts etc. of the Regiment. Also each year they have a Company dinner in which members dress in the traditional attire and even carry on the tradition of eating Haggis. I hope this information may help you out a bit with the history on your web page.

UPDATE 19 May 2003. Sadly, all the kilts that fit the soldiers have worn out or disappeared and no one wants to pay for new ones.  It appears that people have kept their kilts or returned old worn out ones.

B Coy has not been able to outfit their company in kilts for several years.  The current CO wants to outfit the company, but it would cost $50,000.  Any donations would be welcome.  In years gone by (about 40 years ago) the first few pay cheques a solder received were used to purchase his kilt.

2006 Update

"Early in 2006 5/6RVR took receipt of 100 new Gordon kilts and Glengarries.  For the first time in many years members of Bravo Company 5/6 RVR, CO, Padre and other regimental officers were outfitted on ANZAC Day march in the traditional VSR highland regalia."Perhaps MAJ Ian Toohill will be able to email you a photo for the website. (thanks Ian)

Lionel  Boxer CD

Pipes and Drums Officer5/6RVR


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