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Irish Regiments in the British Army

In the list below I have tried to give a brief history of the origin of Irish regiments in the British Army. As there is a host of excellent websites and books covering the history of each regiment in detail I have tried to give a summary of the origins of the regiment. Several were disbanded on the founding of the Irish Free State and since then by the mergers of regiments. I hope to add a sample of the naming on medals from each Regiment. I have concentrated on the origins of each regiment as medals to these regiments often produce some very interesting Irish connections. It is well worth while researching the history of a regiment you are interested in.

The Dublin Fusiliers

The regiment was created on 1 July 1881 due to Childers reforms by the amalgamation of the 102nd Regiment of Foot (Royal Madras Fusiliers) and the 103rd Regiment of Foot (Royal Bombay Fusiliers) who had been in the service of the East India Company until they were transferred to the British Army in 1862 to form the 1st and 2nd Battalions, The Royal Dublin Fusiliers.

Cap badge of the 103rd as used on their Kilmarnock Bonnet Cap which was used up until 1868. They were called Kilmarnock Bonnets because they were made in Kilmarnock in Scotland. Kilmarnock is also one of the three fish which begin and end with the letter K.

The Connaught Rangers

The Connaught Rangers, recruited mainly from the Province of Connaught had its origins in 88th and 94th Regiments of Foot, the 88th Foot (Royal Highland Volunteers, Campbell's Volunteers ) and the 94th known as Keating's Regiment.

The Munster Fusiliers

Originally formed in 1881 by the amalgamation of two regiments of the former East India Company the 101st Regiment of Foot (Royal Bengal Fusiliers) and 104th Regiment of Foot (Bengal Fusiliers) and the Militia of Munster.. It served in India and the Great War, disbanded in 1922. Known to many Cork and Munster people at the time as the dirty shirts Its historic background goes back as far as 1652, before it was reformed as part of a reorganization of the Army in 1881. Headquarters in Tralee County Kerry, a good regiment for men from Clare, Cork, Kerry and Limerick.

The Leinster Regiment

Had its origins in two Regiments of Foot of The British Army, the 100th. and the 109th. There were several 100th regiments in the British Army so the link is somewhat tenuous but if possible it is well worth researching medals to the 100th and 109th Foot as they can turn-up some very interesting Irish connections. When the British Army was re-organised in 1881, The 100th. Regiment was re-named the 1st. Battalion The Prince of Wales' Leinster Regiment (Royal Canadians) and their home Depot became Birr, in County Offaly, Ireland. The medal in the image is a Kingís South Africa Medal with Leinster in full, WW1 medals had the abbreviation LEINS.

South of Ireland Imperial Yeomanry

Formed on the 2nd January 1902 as the South of Ireland Imperial Yeomanry. It was renamed as the South Irish Horse from 7 July 1908 and transferred to the Special Reserve (Cavalry). After fighting in the Great War the unit was disbanded in 1922 following the implementation of the Anglo-Irish Treaty.

South Irish Horse

Was in existence for only 20 years (1902-1922) and was raised from the South of Ireland Imperial Yeomanry. Also connected with the Boer War through the 61st South Irish Company, 17th Battalion, Imperial Yeomanry.

North Irish Horse
Is a yeomanry unit of the British Territorial Army raised in the northern counties of Ireland in the aftermath of the Second Boer War. King Edward VII approved the formation of the North of Ireland Imperial Yeomanry and the South of Ireland Imperial Yeomanry in 1901. Recruiting for the North of Ireland Imperial Yeomanry began in 1903, with four squadrons raised:
  • Regimental HQ and A Squadron in Belfast,
  • B Squadron in Londonderry
  • C Squadron in Enniskillen
  • D Squadron in Dundalk.
They became a special reserve regiment in 1908 and the name changed to the North Irish Horse following the formation of the Territorial Force.

The declaration of war against Germany in August 1914 found the North Irish Horse at summer camp, as was its sister regiments the South Irish Horse. Together they supplied a composite regiment who acted as GHQ (General Head Quarters) troops in the BEF (British Expeditionary Force) in France, two from the North Irish Horse and B Squadron from the South Irish Horse. They were the first non-regular troops to land in France and be in action in the First World War.

The unit survives in the modern Territorial Army as B Squadron (North Irish Horse) Queen's Own Yeomanry. Personal have been deployed to Kosovo, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanastan.

Inniskilling Fusiliers

Was an infantry regiment, formed in 1881 by the amalgamation of the 27th (Inniskilling) Regiment of Foot and the 108th Regiment of Foot (Madras Infantry). It saw service in the South African War, the First World War and the Second World War, before being amalgamated into the Royal Irish Rangers in 1968. Why Inniskilling and not Enniskillen? Inniskilling was the original name of the town - a Gaelic word meaning the 'Island of Kathleen'. Since then the name has changed around 20 times before finally settling on its present spelling of Enniskillen.

Enniskillen Castle and the regiments raised at Enniskillen during the Williamite Wars are inextricably linked. The Inniskilling Dragoons were quartered there many times since their formation. The badge of the regiment also features a depiction of the castle.

The 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons was a cavalry regiment in the British Army, first raised in 1689. It saw service for three centuries, before being amalgamated into the 5th/6th Dragoons (later the 5th Inniskilling Dragoon Guards, then finally the 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards) in 1922.

The 'Skins' (as they were known) are one of the four ancestor regiments of the Royal Dragoon Guards.

The regiment was first raised as Sir Albert Cunningham's Regiment of Dragoons in 1689, by the regimenting of various independent troops, and ranked as the 6th Dragoons. It later took the nickname of the "Black Dragoons", and in 1751 was formally titled as the 6th (Inniskilling) Regiment of Dragoons, later simply the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons.

Arguably one of the most famous cavalry regiments of all time. One of their most notable battles was the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. They also fought with distinction at the Battle of Waterloo in the Charge of the Union Brigade and again during the Crimean War as part of the successful Charge of the Heavy Brigade against superior numbers at the Battle of Balaklava.

The Great War sounded the death knell for mounted cavalry as it became apparent that technology had moved forward with greater destructive power and made horsed cavalry redundant on the modern battlefield. The British Army reorganized and reduced its cavalry corps by disbanding or amalgamating many of its famous cavalry regiments in 1922 as part of the Geddes Reforms the Inniskillings was one of those affected.

Royal Irish Fusiliers

Infantry regiment of the British Army, raised originally as 87 Prince of Wales's Irish Regiment of Foot in 1793 and later combined with The 89 Regiment in 1881. It was given "The Royal Irish Fusiliers" title in 1827. It was one of eight Irish regiments raised and garrisoned in Ireland. Nicknamed, the Faughs, from their Irish war cry "Faugh A Ballagh" (Fag a' Bealach, meaning Clear the Way).

FAG AN BEALACH or as it more often spelled now Faugh a Ballagh was the battle cry of the Royal Irish Fusiliers. It is now translated into English as clear the way but a more literal and more correct translation is clear the road or as they say in Connaught and Munster get out of my road. The first recorded use of the phrase was by Napier in his History of the Peninsular War 1806 and it became the motto of the 87th Prince of Wales's Irish Regiment of Foot which later became The Royal Irish Fusiliers.

The origins of the saying date back well before the Royal Irish Fusiliers as it was a common battle cry used by the Clans of both Munster and Connaught in faction fights. The song Faugh a Ballagh was written by Charles Gavin Duffy M.P. in 1842 and is often credited with being the origins of the saying but as Napier's book pre dates the song it is much more likely the phrase was taken and used by the men of Munster and Connaught when fighting abroad.

The Royal Ulster Rifles
The Royal Ulster Rifles (formerly Royal Irish Rifles) was an infantry regiment. It saw service in The Great War and the Second World War, before being amalgamated into the Royal Irish Rangers in 1968.

The Royal Irish Rifles were connected with the 36th (Ulster) Division and 16th (Irish) Division during The Great War. The Unionist militias, the Ulster Volunteer Force and Young Citizens Volunteers had amalgamated with the 36th whilst the Nationalist National Volunteers had joined the 16th after the outbreak of the Great War. In 1921, following the proclamation of the Irish Free State, the Royal Irish Rifles were renamed the Royal Ulster Rifles, with the regimental district of Louth ceded to the newly independent state.

The 36th Ulster Division

The 36th (Ulster) Division was a division of Lord Kitchener's New Army formed in September 1914. Originally called the Ulster Division, it was made up of members of the Ulster Volunteer Force who formed thirteen additional battalions for three existing Irish regiments; the Royal Irish Fusiliers, the Royal Irish Rifles and the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. The division served on the Western Front for the duration of the First World War. During the Battle of the Somme the Ulster Division was the only division of X Corps to have achieved its objectives on the opening day of the battle. This came at a heavy price, with the division suffering in two days of fighting, 5,500 officers and men, killed, wounded or missing.

Royal Irish Rifles

The Royal Irish Rifles was an infantry regiment (see Royal Ulster Rifles above). It saw service in the First and Second World Wars, before being amalgamated into the Royal Irish Rangers in 1968. In 1881, under the Cardwell Reforms, the 83rd and 86th were amalgamated into a single regiment, named the Royal Irish Rifles. It was one of eight Irish regiments raised and garrisoned in Ireland and was the county regiment of Antrim, Down and Louth, with its garrison depot located at Belfast. Militarily, the whole of Ireland was administered as a separate command within the United Kingdom with Command Headquarters at Parkgate (Phoenix Park) Dublin, directly under the War Office in London.

The Royal Irish Regiment

Until 1881 the 18th regiment of Foot, was an infantry regiment of the line, first raised in 1684. It was one of eight Irish regiments raised and garrisoned in Ireland. It saw service for two and a half centuries before being disbanded in 1922.

Also known as the 18th (Royal Irish) Regiment of Foot and the 18th (The Royal Irish) Regiment of Foot.

The present day Royal Irish Regiment is properly named The Royal Irish Regiment (27th (Inniskilling) 83rd and 87th and Ulster Defense Regiment.

The Irish Guards

The regiment was formed on 1 April 1900 by order of Queen Victoria in response to the many courageous actions performed by Irish regiments in the Second Boer War. The Irish Guards' first honorary Colonel-of-the-Regiment was Field Marshal Lord Roberts, known to many troops as "Bobs". Because of this, the regiment gained the nickname 'Bob's Own' but is now known affectionately as "The Micks" (this term is not seen as offensive or derogatory by the regiment.) The regiment's first Colours were presented by Edward VII in May 1902 at Horse Guards Parade. A few Irish Guardsmen saw action as mounted infantry in the final stages of the Boer War. Otherwise, the Irish Guards were stationed in the United Kingdom for the first fourteen years of its existence, performing ceremonial duties in London during that time until the beginning of World War I.
Royal Irish Lancers

The 5th Royal Irish Lancers was a cavalry regiment formed in 1689 as Owen Wynne's Dragoons. They fought in the Battle of the Boyne and at the Battle of Aughrim under William of Orange.

Renamed the 5th Royal Irish Dragoons, they served in Ireland and were active during the Irish Rebellion of 1798. However, they were accused of treachery; their accusers claimed their ranks had been infiltrated by rebels. This accusation appears to have been false, but nevertheless they were disbanded in 1799. In 1858 they were reformed as a lancer regiment and served in India. A section served in Egypt in 1885, taking part in the battles at Suakin. They served with distinction in the Second Boer War from 1899 to 1902, gaining battle honors at Battle of Elandslaagte and The Defense of Ladysmith.

They were part of the British Expeditionary Force and saw action continually from 1914 to 1918 in some of the war's bloodiest battles. Disbanded in 1922, they were amalgamated with the 16th The Queen's Lancers to become 16th/5th Queen's Royal Lancers. That regiment, too, was amalgamated with the 17th/21st Lancers to form the Queen's Royal Lancers in 1993.

8th King's Royal Irish Hussars

Was a cavalry regiment, first raised in 1693. It saw service for three centuries, before being amalgamated into The Queen's Royal Irish Hussars in 1958. The regiment was first raised in Ireland as Henry Conyngham's Regiment of Dragoons in Derry/Londonderry in 1693, and ranked as the 8th Dragoons. It was briefly disbanded from 1714 to 1715, and 1716 to 1719, reforming each time without any loss of precedence. In 1751, it was formally titled as the 8th Regiment of Dragoons, and designated light dragoons in 1775 as the 8th Regiment of Light Dragoons.

The regiment was renamed in 1777 for George III as the 8th (The King's Royal Irish) Regiment of (Light) Dragoons, and became hussars in 1822, as the 8th (The King's Royal Irish) Regiment of (Light) Dragoons (Hussars). The title was simplified in 1861 to the 8th (The King's Royal Irish) Hussars. After service in the First World War, the regiment was re-titled as the 8th King's Royal Irish Hussars in 1921, and was transferred to the Royal Armored Corps in 1939. Fighting with distinction in North Africa, Greece, France & Germany during World War 2. The regiment survived the immediate post-war reduction in forces, but was slated for reduction in the 1957 Defense White Paper, and was amalgamated with the 4th Queen's Own Hussars, to form the The Queen's Royal Irish Hussars the following year.

Kings Liverpool Regiment
The two most common Battalions with Irish Connections are the 1/8th Battalion, known as The Liverpool Irish and the 2/8th (Irish) Battalion. Liverpool's large Irish community formed the 64th Lancashire Rifle Volunteer Corps on 25 April 1860, one of many volunteer corps raised in Lancashire in response to heightened tension with France. The Liverpool Irish became a volunteer (later territorial) battalion of the King's (Liverpool Regiment) in July 1881. As such, it fought in the Second Boer War and First World War, sustaining thousands of casualties in numerous battles that prominently included Givenchy, Guillemont, Third Ypres, and the Hundred Days Offensive. Disbanded in 1922, the Liverpool Irish reformed before the Second World War and constituted the nucleus of the 7th Beach Group that landed at Juno Beach on 6 June 1944. Irish heritage was asserted in the traditions and uniform of the Liverpool Irish. Once adopting a uniform similar in appearance to the Royal Irish Rifles, the Liverpool Irish eventually wore the caubeen headdress with red and blue hackle; the attire of pipers the battalion maintained on its strength included the saffron kilt and shawl. While the battalion derived pride from its Irish identity, some, including the 17th Earl of Derby, associated Irish status with indiscipline and disobedience, which the Liverpool Irish gained a reputation for.

London Irish Rifles (LIR)
The London Irish Rifles (LIR) is now known more formally known as "D (London Irish Rifles) Company, London Regiment" and is a volunteer Rifle Regiment with a distinguished history. They are based on Flodden Road in Camberwell, and on Hammersmith Road in Hammersmith.

The London Irish Rifles were originally formed in 1860 during the Victorian Volunteer Movement as the "28th Middlesex (London Irish) Rifle Volunteer Corps". In 1908, the London Irish were transferred to the Territorial Force and renamed the "18th (County of London) Battalion, the London Regiment (London Irish Rifles)".

During the First World War, the LIR raised 3 Battalions, and the first Battalion to be sent to France in 1915 was sent into action at Festubert in May. In 1937, the London Regiment was disbanded and the LIR became known as "London Irish Rifles, The Royal Ulster Rifles". In 1939, is response to the requirements of Second World War, the London Irish were raised as two Battalions, the 1st leaving England in 1942 to serve in Iraq and Italy, the 2nd serving later in North Africa and Italy.

After the war, the Battalion re-formed as a Battalion of the Royal Ulster Rifles. In 1967, with the disbanding of the London Regiment, The three Irish Regular Infantry Regiments had combined to form The Royal Irish Rangers, and the LIR became D Company (London Irish Rifles), 4th Battalion The Royal Irish Rangers, remaining so until the re-formation of The London Regiment. The Royal Irish Rangers later amalgamated with the Ulster Defense Regiment to form the Royal Irish Regiment, with the Northern Irish Territorial Army (TA) company remaining as Rangers.

Tyneside Irish Brigade
The Tyneside Irish Brigade was a First World War infantry brigade of Kitcheners Army, raised in 1914. Officially numbered the 103rd (Tyneside Irish) Brigade, it contained four Pals battalions from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, largely made up of men of Irish extraction.

The brigade's four battalions were known as the 1st to 4th Tyneside Irish. When taken over by the British Army, these became battalions of the Northumberland Fusiliers.

  • 1st Tyneside Irish (24th Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers)
  • 2nd Tyneside Irish (25th Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers)
  • 3rd Tyneside Irish (26th Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers)
  • 4th Tyneside Irish (27th Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers)
Along with the 101st and 102nd Brigades, the Tyneside Irish Brigade made up the 34th Division which arrived in France in January 1916 and first saw action in the Battle of the Somme. On the first day on the Somme, the 34th Division attacked astride the Albert-Bapaume road at La Boisselle. The task of the Tyneside Irish Brigade was to follow up the main attack by the 101st and 102nd Brigades and advance on a line from Pozi�res to Contalmaison. The brigade's losses on 1 July were so severe that on 6 July it, along with the 102nd (Tyneside Scottish) Brigade, was transferred to the 37th Division, swapping with the 112th Brigade. The two brigades returned to the 34th Division on 22 August.

In February 1918 the 1st, 3rd and 4th Tyneside Irish battalions were disbanded and the remaining battalion, the 2nd Tyneside Irish, was transferred to the 116th Brigade of the 39th Division. From then on the Tyneside Irish Brigade ceased to exist and the brigade was simply the 103rd Brigade.

Royal Irish Artillery
The was a regiment of the British army in the 18th century. It was formed in 1755 as The Artillery Company of Ireland. The name was changed in 1760 to The Royal Regiment of Irish Artillery.

They were recruited all over Ireland and were trained in Dublin Castle and then in Woolwich. Parts of the Regiment were sent to Canada in 1777 with Major General John Burgoyne, taking part in the American War of Independence. In addition, some Royal Irish Artillery gunners were shipped directly to New York under Brigadier-General James Pattison.

The Royal Irish Artillery was awarded white leather stocks as a mark of their good gunnery. In 1801, following the Act of Union and the formation of the United Kingdom, the Royal Irish Artillery was made an integral part of the Royal Artillery and therefore ceased to exist. They became part of the 2nd Battalion of The Royal Regiment of Artillery.