London Irish Rifles

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London Irish Rifles
London Irish Rifles.png
Cap Badge of the London Irish Rifles
Active 1859 - 1919
1920 − Present Day
Country United Kingdom
Branch Army
Type Infantry
Role Light infantry
Size One company
Part of London Regiment
Garrison/HQ London
Motto

Quis separabit?

"Who shall separate us?"
March

"Garryowen"

Anniversaries St Patrick's Day (17 Mar)
Loos (25 Sep)
Commanders
Honorary Colonel Major-General Sir Sebastian John Lechmere Roberts KCVO OBE
Insignia
Tartan Saffron (pipers kilts)     
Hackle Blue for Officers,WO2 & Pipers. Green for all others

The London Irish Rifles (LIR) was a volunteer Rifle Regiment with a distinguished history, and now forms 'D' (London Irish) Company of the London Regiment. They are currently based at Connaught House, Flodden Road in Camberwell.

Victorian Era[edit]

The London Irish Rifles was originally formed in 1859 during the Victorian Volunteer Movement and named "28th Middlesex (London Irish) Rifle Volunteer Corps".

During the Second Boer War, the Battalion sent eight officers and 200 private soldiers for active service. One officer won the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and another member gained seven bars to his South Africa Medal. In recognition of their service, the London Irish was granted their first Battle Honour of "South Africa, 1900-1902".

In 1908, the London Irish was transferred to the Territorial Force and renamed the "18th (County of London) Battalion, the London Regiment (London Irish Rifles)".

First World War[edit]

During the First World War, the LIR raised three Battalions, one of which stayed in reserve in England. The 1st Battalion was sent to France in 1915 and saw its first action at Festubert in May, before taking part in many of the major battles on the western front during the next three years. The 2nd Battalion served in France, Greece and Palestine.

At the Battle of Loos, the 1st Battalion LIR particularly distinguished itself. While storming across No-Man's Land to capture the enemy trenches, Rifleman Frank Edwards, the Captain of the football team, kicked a football along in front of the troops. This earned the LIR probably their most famous Battle Honour - "Loos, 1915". The Loos football is still preserved in the Regimental Museum, and to this day, the memory of Rifleman Edwards and his comrades is commemorated every year at Connaught House on Loos Sunday.

Over 1000 London Irishmen were killed during the conflict.

The following battle honours were gained by the two battalions of the London Irish Rifles during the First World War: "Festubert, 1915" "Loos, 1915" "Somme, 1916,'18" "Flers-Courcelette" "Morval" "Le Transloy" "Messines, 1917" "Ypres, 1917" "Langemarck, 1917" "Cambrai, 1917" "St Quentin" "Bapaume, 1918" "Ancre, 1918" "Albert, 1918" "Pursuit to Mons" "France and Flanders, 1915-18" "Doiran, 1917" "Macedonia, 1916-17" "Gaza" "El Mughar" "Nebi Samwil" "Jerusalem" "Jericho" "Jordan" "Palestine, 1917-18".

The following honours and awards were won by men of the London Irish Rifles during 1914-18: DSO - 7, MC - 33, DCM - 20, MM - 101.

Inter War[edit]

Cap badge variations between WW1 (Left) and WW2 (Right)

After the cessation of hostilities, the LIR was reduced to cadre strength, before being disbanded in May 1919 at Felixistowe. In February 1920, the 18th (County of London) Battalion of the London Regiment (London Irish Rifles) was reconstituted as a component of the 47th (2nd London) Division of the new Territorial Army, and in 1923, the designation of the Regiment was shortened to 18th London Regiment (London Irish Rifles).

During these years, ties between the London Irish Rifles and the Royal Ulster Rifles (RUR), which before 1921 was known as the Royal Irish Rifles, were greatly strengthened, and the London Irish became part of the Corps of the RUR in 1929.

In 1937, when the London Regiment was disbanded, the LIR became known as London Irish Rifles, The Royal Ulster Rifles. After the 47th Division was also disbanded, the London Irish transferred to the 56th (London) Division. Permanent staff were all seconded or attached from the RUR, but up to 1937, the Regimental Sergeant Major was normally found by the Irish Guards. The London Irish was one of the first Territorial units to start mechanisation by drawing up two "Commer" trucks

The Regiment's piper-green head-dress, the Caubeen, which was worn by all Irish regiments, and was characterised by being sloped to the left instead of the right — only the LIR and Liverpool Irish having theirs sloping on the left - was adopted for wear by all ranks in 1937 in place of the service dress cap.

Second World War[edit]

Infantry of 2nd London Irish Rifles move forward through barbed wire defences on their way to attack a German strongpoint on the southern bank of the River Senio, Italy, 22 March 1945.

In April 1939, the establishment of the Territorial Army was doubled and the 2nd Battalion, London Irish Rifles was reformed, initially as a component unit of the 47th (London) Division.

The 70th Battalion, a Young Soldiers company of the London Irish Rifles, was also formed early in 1940, and set up for men between the ages of eighteen and nineteen and a half. Its objective was to train them to the highest standard of drill, skill-at-arms, discipline and turnout in preparation for the time when they would be fit to take their place within the 1st and 2nd Battalions. The 70th Battalion ceased to exist in January 1943, when all such units were disbanded

A company of the 1st Battalion was involved in the Battle of Graveney Marsh, in September 1940 the last ground combat between a foreign invading force and British troops that happened on British mainland soil.[1][2]

The 1st Battalion left England in August 1942 to serve in Iraq and Italy, and the 2nd Battalion sailed to North Africa in November 1942 before taking part in the Tunisian and Italian campaigns.

The 1st Battalion formed part of the 168th Infantry Brigade, primarily within the 56th (London) Infantry Division, taking part in major actions in Italy at Fosso Bottacetto south of Catania, Monte Camino, Monte Damiano, the Garagliano Crossing and Aprilia (Anzio), and at the Gothic Line, and as part of 167th Infantry Brigade taking a leading role in the final Allied offensive in Northern Italy during April 1945.

In the month that they spent in the Anzio beachhead, the 1st Battalion's casualties totalled 32 officers and 550 other ranks killed, wounded and missing. When embarking for rest at Pozzuoli near Naples, the battalion numbered just 12 Officers and 300 Other Ranks, some of which had returned from hospital to rejoin the battalion.

During the action at Anzio, the following awards were issued;

Bar to Military Cross (MC): Major W E Brooks

Military Cross: Captain A Mace, Captain D A Hardy, Captain G R H Mullins, Captain R M Haigh, Lieutenant L Rue.

Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM): Company Serjeant Major F Kelly, Serjeant HF Guy.

Military Medal (MM): Serjeant A Marson Corporal C Wilson Corporal C Hill.

The 2nd Battalion formed part of the 38th (Irish) Brigade, initially as part of 6th Armoured Division and later within the 78th Infantry Division, and was in front line service from November 1942 to May 1945 throughout Tunisia and Italy including taking part in major actions at Bou Arada, Heidous, Centuripe, Termoli, Sangro River, the Liri Valley, Trasimeno, Monte Spaduro and at the Argenta Gap. The battalion garrisoned parts of Austria in the immediate post war period.

Over 600 London Irishmen were killed during the conflict.

The following battle honours were gained by the two battalions of the London Irish Rifles during the Second World War: "Bou Arada" "El Hadjeba" "Stuka Farm" "Heidous" "North Africa, 1942-43" "Lentini" "Simeto Bridgehead" "Adrano" "Centuripe" "Salso Crossing" "Simeto Crossing" "Malletto" "Pursuit to Messina" "Sicily, 1943" "Termoli" "Trigno" "Sangro" "Fossacesia" "Teano" "Monte Camino" "Calabritto" "Garigliano Crossing" "Damiano" "Anzio" "Carroceto" "Cassino II" "Casa Sinagoga" "Liri Valley" "Trasimene Line" "Sanfatucchio" "Coriano" "Croce" "Senio Floodbank" "Rimini Line" "Ceriano Ridge" "Monte Spaduro" "Monte Grande" "Valli di Comacchio" "Argenta Gap" "Italy, 1943-45".

The following honours and awards were won by men of the London Irish Rifles during 1939-45: DSO - 6, MC - 46 (4 with bar), DCM - 12, MM - 55, American Silver Star - 2, American Bronze Star - 2, Mentioned In Despatches - 103 (1 twice), GM - 2, BEM - 2, MBE - 2.

Post war[edit]

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 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 in 1993. The Royal Irish Rangers later amalgamated with the Ulster Defence Regiment to form the Royal Irish Regiment, with the Northern Irish Territorial Army (TA) company remaining as Rangers.

The LIR moved from their historic home, Duke of York's Barracks, Chelsea to Flodden Road, Camberwell in 2000. In 2007 they opened a detachment for 13 Platoon at the TA Centre on Hammersmith Road in Hammersmith, but that venture proved unsuccessful and the Irish withdrew again in 2008. On 9th June 2012, during the Diamond Jubilee Freedom Parade held by the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea for units holding Freedom of the Borough, the London Irish formally co-located with B Detachment of 256 (City of London) Field Hospital at their TA Centre at 1a Iverna Gardens, Kensington. This marked a return to the Borough for the London Irish Rifle, 14 years after leaving the Duke of York's HQ in Chelsea and the intention to recruit locally to build up a Platoon in the first instance. It is anticipated that there will be synergies to be exploited by having infantry and the various Field Hospital cap badges occasionally doing joint training on Training Nights.

Today[edit]

The serving TA soldiers are reserve volunteers who train evenings and weekends and for a two week Battle Camp each year. They are proud to have sent soldiers to the Balkans, and also during the early stages of the Iraq (Second Gulf War) in the spring of 2003. They contributed troops to the wider London Regiment deployment of two composite companies (Cambrai and Messines) in Iraq in 2004, and also to Somme Company, which participated on operations in the Afghanistan as part of wider NATO operations in that country.[3]

The LIR train on Tuesday evenings at the TA Centre on Flodden Road in Camberwell and, from October 2012, will also be training on Tuesdays at the Kensington TA Centre in Iverna Gardens.

On 4 October 2008, the LIR were given the freedom of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in a ceremony at the Town Hall Kensington. This followed a march, with bayonets fixed, and review along Kensington High Street.

Dress[edit]

Their distinctive piper-green head-dress, the Caubeen (which was worn by all Irish regiments later, although the LIR were the first to adopt it) was characterised by being sloped to the left instead of the right—a distinction maintained today between the Royal Irish Regiment (the sponsor Regiment of the LIR) being sloped on the right and the LIR and Liverpool Irish being sloped on the left.

The "sloping" difference was because the bonnets, which were based on the Balmoral of the time, were so big, and sloping fashions of the time were so "rakish", that Riflemen needed to slope to the left in order to see down the sights of the rifle.

2RUR (Royal Ulster Rifles) also sloped to the left.

The LIR sloped to the right whilst part of the Royal Irish Rangers, but reverted to type after the amalgamation or the RIR and the UDR. They are also unique in being the only British Army unit to wear their headdress with the cap badge positioned between the right eye and the right ear - all other units wear theirs with their insignia over the left.

See also[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Kent battle between German bomber crew and British soldiers marked after 70 years". The Daily Telegraph. 20 August 2010. Retrieved 20 August 2010. 
  2. ^ Green, Ron; Mark Harrison (30 September 2009). "Forgotten frontline exhibition tells how Luftwaffe fought with soldiers on Kent marshes". KentOnline. 
  3. ^ 'London Parade for returning UK troops', The Daily Telegraph, 15 October 2007, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/10/14/nparade114.xml

4 Report on the London Irish Rifles parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Graveney Marsh http://www.irishbrigade.co.uk Click on news/articles

External links[edit]