In the Crimea on 25 Oct 1854, the 550 men of the 93rd Highlanders, under the command of Sir Colin Campbell, lined up on a hillside at Balaclava. They witnessed the prelude to a battle between the British Light and Heavy Cavalry brigades and the Russians. Then a squadron of 400 Russian cavalry broke away from the main group, intent on attacking an artillery unit which shared the same hill as the 93rd. Campbell gave the order for the Highlanders to advance to the sound of their pipes, played on this occasion by six men whose names were to pass into regimental legend: John Mcleod, Roderick Mackay, Hugh Connachar, George Macdonald, James Sinclair and Angus Mackay of Lochside, Isauld. As they crested the hill the Russian horses reared up at the sound and appearance of the Highlanders who fired a salvo from a range of 500 yards, and again at 250 yards, forcing their enemies to retreat. The Highlanders cheered and their pipers struck up triumphant tunes. 'The Thin Red Line' became a legend in Scottish military history, the story of the 93rd's heroism rapidly becoming widely famous.
James Sinclair and Henry MacKay were the only two pipers of the 93rd to be posted to India to quell the mutiny, undertaking the 600 mile trek towards Cawnpore from Calcutta. Sir General Colin Campbell again led his men to the Residency at Lucknow, attacking the fortified stronghold at the Secundrabagh. This time, approaching the walls of Lucknow, the sound of bagpipes was maintained by James Sinclair, Henry McKay, Angus McKay, George McDonald and William Campbell. The fighting became fierce and six Victoria Crosses had been earnt before breakfast. The 93rd stormed the second stronghold at Shah Nujjih, forcing the gates and forcing surrender and retreat. After heading to Cawnpore, Sir Colin Campbell returned to Lucknow with the 93rd on 1 Mar 1858 for the findal Battle of Lucknow.