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Highlanders Dress Tunic (Doublet) - which regiment?

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I recently purchased this tunic.  It seems to be WWI period from the construction.  It is a bit of a mystery, not quite matching any of the standard regimental patterns.  It has red cuffs, yellow collar with no collar badges.  There seem to never have been any as there are no holes in the fabric.  It is ranked for a Lieutenant.  The buttons seem to be the biggest clue.  They are all the same.  A wildcat on crown with the motto "Sans Peur" (without fear).  

This is the motto and emblem are from the Sutherland clan coat of arms.  

At first I thought it might be from the pre-1881 93rd Sutherland Highlanders.  The construction does not seem that early and I don't believe they wore these buttons.

A second possibility (and one that seems more likely) is the 5th (Caithness and Sutherland) Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders.  While they were part of the Seaforth Highlanders, the were allowed to wear the Sutherland Clan emblems on their uniforms.  (A unusual allowance?... Are there other examples of battalions in the British Army that did not wear (at least) a version of their parent units badge?)

Still I'm not certain.  I've not been able to find anything confirming the red cuffs or no collar badges.  I have seen pictures that show both buttons and cap badges with the "Sans Peur" Wildcat.  

Any help would be appreciated.






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This one looks like the uniform on the right of your first picture, yours perhaps a officers uniform ??

The First Sutherland Volunteers

The museum proudly displays an original Colour Sergeant's uniform of the First Sutherland Volunteers (circa 1882)

This uniform belonged to

Colour Sergeant William Allison Bethune

uniform.jpgWilliam Bethune was born in 1858 and lived all his life in the same house in Bonar Bridge. He and his wife Margaret MacLeod had 6 daughters and 3 sons. One of his sons died in childhood, another, Daniel, died in action in World War II and the third, Duncan, served in the Seaforths.

He spent his working life as a river pilot. Approaching ships would sound their horn while at sea near Portmahomack. Hearing it, Bethune would cycle from Bonar to Newton Point, join the ship and guide it through the shifting sands of the Dornoch Firth to Bonar Bridge wharf and back again.

He enlisted in the Bonar Bridge Company of the First Sutherland Volunteers as a young man and by 1881 had gained the rank of Sergeant. He was an excellent shot, and for many years competed at the National Rifle Association Meetings at Bisley in Surrey, reaching the final stage of the King's Prize in 1893. He was a regular competitor until 1920.

In 1910, he was discharged but re-enlisted in the 2nd Volunteer Battalion of the Seaforth Highlanders during World War I. He was finally discharged in 1919.

He died in 1944, aged 86.

Sutherland Highland Rifle Volunteers

Highland Volunteer Regiments were first raised during the Napoleonic War between Britain and France. They were disbanded at the end of that war in 1815. However the threat of French invasion in the late 1850s led to the re-formation of many volunteer forces.

The Sutherland Highland Rifle Volunteers was raised in 1859, and in 1864 it became the 1st (administrative) battalion, Sutherland Rifle Volunteers, based in Golspie; it consisted of 5 companies, based at Golspie, Dornoch, Brora, Rogart and Bonar Bridge. In 1867 the battalion adopted the Sutherland tartan kilt and belted plaid. The 5th Bonar Bridge Company was formed in 1868. These were part-time soldiers, not Regular Army units.

In 1881, the battalion was incorporated into the 5th Seaforth Highlanders, a Territorial Army unit based in Fort George. However it retained its distinctive name, tartan and cap badge, and its association with Sutherland. It fought in the Boer War along with the 2nd Seaforths and between 1908 and 1914 was known as the 5th (Sutherland and Caithness) Battalion of the Seaforth Highlanders.

In 1914, the 1/5th (Sutherland and Caithness) Battalion was mobilised and moved to France in May 1915 as part of the 51st Highland Division, where it fought in some of the fiercest battles of the 1914-18 war after which it was disbanded.


Pre WW 1 Seaforth Highlanders Officers Doublet

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The one on the right is a 1894 scarlet serge patrol jacket (2 pocket) to a Lieutenant in the Gordon Highlanders.  I'll post a better picture later.  The one on the left is Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.

Edited by ralstona
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Macron1 - your post got me searching.  I think you are right.  The tunic you posted is an Other Ranks tunic for the First Sutherland Volunteers held by the Historklinks Museum in Dornoch, Sutherland, Scotland.  The First Sutherland Volunteers became the 5th Seaforth Highlanders in 1881 or 1908.  

This picture I found shows uniforms of the First Sutherland Volunteers.  The uniform on the right looks a match for the one at the museum and the third from the right seems to match mine.  Red cuffs and seemingly no collar badges.  


Edited by ralstona
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  • 2 weeks later...

I've had a wonderful back and forth with the curator at the HistoryLinks museum in Dornoch, Sutherland.  They have confirmed that this is an officer's tunic from the 5th Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders (formerly 1st Sutherland Rifle Volunteers).  It seems to be a scarce item.

I am still looking for a photo of a officer of the 5th SH in full dress.  The museum did not have one which included feather bonnet, doublet, dirk, fly plaid, sash, cross-belt, basket-hilt sword, kilt and sporran.  

I'm curious if anyone has seen one.  The closest I've come is the drawing above from Scottish Volunteer Force 1859-1908.

I'd be particularly interested to know what he battalions plaid brooch looked like.

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