1945 - 1994: Tours Of Duty

1939 - 1945

WEST GERMANY, 1946 – 1994

Although Britain and the United States had been allied to the Soviet Union during the Second World War, friction between East and West set in after the end of the War. Tensions rose noticeably in 1961 when the border between powers was reinforced by a concrete wall in Berlin and a barbed wire fence along the entire length of the border between East and West Germany. For the people of East Germany movement to the West totally forbidden.

During the Cold War, West Germany was a frequent posting for The Gordon Highlanders. They took part in seven tours of duty and were one of the last British units to depart the city of Berlin in 1994 when the Cold War was ended.


When World War Two ended, the British Army found itself stuck in the middle of a growing conflict between Arabs and Jews in Palestine. In late 1945 as a response to full-scale riots in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and bomb attacks on the railway system, British troops from the 1st Infantry and 6th Airborne Divisions had to be deployed in assistance of the civil police. In November 1947 the United Nations recommended the partition of Palestine and the establishment of Arab and Jewish States. On 15 May 1948 Britain gave up her mandate. The British Army departed from Palestine leaving the Jews and the Arabs to fight it out in the war that followed.

BERLIN, 1949 -1950

At the end of the Second World War, the Allies took the decision to partition Germany. As the former capital was situated in the Eastern Sector, it too was divided.  In 1948 all roads, from western-occupied Germany into western-occupied Berlin were closed. The Western Powers responded by airlifting fuel and food to Berlin from Allied airbases in West Germany. On the same day that the first group of Gordons arrived in Berlin (12th May 1949), the Soviets lifted the blockade and reopened the roads, canals and railway routes into the western half of the city. The Allies continued the airlift until September, though, because they wanted to build up supplies in Berlin just in case the blockade was re-established.


Between 1951 and 1954, The Gordons fought an exhausting but effective war against Communist terrorists in the jungles of Malaya. In 1948, a Communist insurgency – led by the same Chinese groups trained by Britain during the war – broke out in Malaya against British colonial rule. In the first years of the ‘Emergency’, as the Malayan conflict became known, the mostly Chinese terrorist groups had several victories and killed hundreds of civilians and members of the security forces. The actions of these terrorists created opposition from groups within the Malayan population who had aided British forces against the Communists. Britain encouraged this local support by promising an independent Malaya.

CYPRUS, 1955 – 1956

Whilst elements in the Greek majority population wanted union with Greece, this was opposed by the substantial Turkish minority. The Gordons found themselves in the middle. The Regiment was based at Xeros and the Troodos mountains and their two main objectives were to improve security and to obtain information. Road and coastal patrols were carried out and house-to house searches were often carried out on a large scale from mid-1955 into 1956.  After peace talks deteriorated during 1956 there were further demonstrations, riots, explosions and attacks on individuals, claiming The Regiment’s first fatality. The Battalion continued to carry out large scale operations and searches as well as routine patrols until returning to the United Kingdom in December. The State of Emergency continued for another three years. In August 1960 Cyprus eventually gained independence from the United Kingdom.

KENYA, 1962

The Gordons were based at Gilgil Garrison in the Kenya Rift Valley, sixty miles North West of the capital Nairobi. They were part of 24th Infantry Brigade East Africa Command and were tasked with overseeing the transition to Independence in the Colonies and Protectorates of East and South Africa. While posted there, The Regiment carried out routine garrison duties and acted as both a Reserve Force and as a Fire Brigade. Despite being drafted in to control any potential insurrections and restore order, no problems arose during their posting.

ZANZIBAR, 1961 – 1963

After arriving in Kenya in December 1961, a company- strength unit of Gordon Highlanders was sent to Zanzibar to help the local police provide internal security. All three rifle companies of the Battalion rotated through the territory. The Gordons remained in Zanzibar until just after independence from Britain was gained in December 1963. After the Gordons left, Zanzibar became a short-lived constitutional monarchy, then a semi-autonomous Republic.


In early June 1963, reports emerged which threatened trouble in Swaziland. Political activists within the territory, who were calling for faster constitutional reform, had opted to strike in order to promote their wishes. The Swaziland Police were opposed to the strike, but were too weak to regain control once rule of law had collapsed in the territory. Without a resident military unit of its own a strong military presence was needed. A Battalion from the Gordon Highlanders was chosen, along with a Battalion Battle Group to relocate to the region. The Gordons carried out numerous search and cordon exercises across the Territory until normality returned to the region in 1963 and The Regiment departed.

SINGAPORE, 1974 – 1975

The Gordons found a changing political scene in Singapore when they arrived for their tour of duty as the British Army were in the process of withdrawing its troops from the island. The Regiment served as part of 28 Infantry Brigade. They had no official operational role due to the mutual mistrust of the governments of Singapore and Malaysia. Training was comprehensive and covered a wide range of military skills, concentrating on jungle warfare. The Gordons returned home to Scotland in November and December 1975, leaving a small rear party to hand over Nee Soon Barracks to the Singapore Armed Forces.


In 1980, the United Nations adopted a special resolution recognising the independence of Belize as a self-governing state. This was opposed by some neighbours especially Guatemala which had a long standing claim to the country. In the immediate run up to independence the threat from Guatemala increased and the Gordons were dug in along the border to defeat any attack. Belize achieved independence peacefully in September 1981.


In response to riots in Belfast in August 1969, British forces were deployed to Northern Ireland. The Gordons carried out six operational tours in Northern Ireland during ‘The Troubles’.  The Gordons role throughout was to provide support to the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) which faced daily attack from a range of terrorist organisations which prevented them from carrying out their normal police duties.

BERLIN, 1991 -1994

The Gordons last overseas deployment was to Berlin as part of the Berlin Infantry Brigade.  With the departure of most Russian forces following the collapse of the Warsaw Pact in 1991 the Gordons operational role no longer had to be focussed on the defence of Berlin.  As part of overall reassurance measures they developed good relations with the Russian Brigade that was still stationed in the city.  When the Gordons left, they were awarded the Freedom of the Borough of Charlottenburg.  They were the first and only British troops to be so honoured. 


On 17 September 1994, after exactly 200 years of service, The Gordon Highlanders amalgamated with the Queen’s Own Highlanders to form 1st Battalion The Highlanders (Seaforth, Gordons and Camerons). In March 2006, the British Army evolved again. This time the six Scottish infantry regiments were joined together to form a new large regiment – The Royal Regiment of Scotland. 1st Battalion The Highlanders became The Highlanders, 4th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (4SCOTS), who have seen tours of duty in both Iraq and Afghanistan. It is within this new identity that the legacy of The Gordon Highlanders continues to live on as a powerful inspiration to the men and woman of the British armed forces. #