The 79th Regiment of Foot (Cameronian Volunteers) was raised by Sir Alan Cameron of Erracht on August 17, 1793 at Fort Williams from among the members of the Clan Cameron. In 1806, the official name of record was changed and the regiment became the 79th Cameron Highlanders. The 79th was one of four regiments of Highlanders requested by the Duke of Wellington for the Battle of Waterloo.
On June 16, 1815, the regiment was at Quatre Bras, where the French infantry and cavalry kept them under constant attack. The Camerons lost half their fighting strength, dead and wounded, in this battle. Wellington's forces left Quatre Bras on the June 17 after a miserable night in the fields and proceeded to the area known as Waterloo. They arrived wet, hungry and tired after their long march in time to face the French again. At a very critical moment during this battle, when the regiment formed a square to repel the French cavalry, an astonishing event took place. Piper Kenneth MacKay stepped outside the square and played the ancient rallying Piobaireachd, “Cogadh no Sith” (“War or Peace”). By nightfall, the Great Army of Napoleon had been destroyed.
The regiment spent many years abroad after Waterloo, with several tours of duty in Canada, Ireland and Gibraltar. While garrisoned on the “Rock,” (1841–48), Pipe-Major John MacDonald composed the famous pipe tune “The 79th's Farewell to Gibraltar.” Then in 1854, the regiment was sent to the Crimea to join Sir Colin Campbell's Highland Brigade. The regiment won two more battle honors at Alma and Sevastopol. Barely a year at home after the Crimean War (1856), the regiment was given orders to sail to India to help quell the Indian Mutiny.
The Cameron Highlanders are the only clan-raised unit with their own tartan that is not based on the government tartan. The tartan worn by the regiment is the Cameron of Erracht adopted by the 79th NY when a militia unit in 1859."
The Battle of Dunkirk was the last time any Highland Battalion fought in the kilt.
The 79th's Farewell to Gibraltar was written by Pipe Major John MacDonald of the 79th Regiment of Foot (Cameronian Volunteers). The regiment played a major part at Waterloo and also served in the Boer War, guarded the queen at Balmoral Castle, went to Ireland and eventually to WWI in France.