Irish military diaspora

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The Irish military diaspora refers to the many people of either Irish birth or extraction (see Irish diaspora) who have served in overseas military forces, regardless of rank, duration of service, or success.

Many overseas military units were primarily made up of Irishmen (or members of the Irish military diaspora) and had the word 'Irish', an Irish place name or an Irish person in the unit's name. 'Irish' named military units took part in numerous conflicts throughout world history.[1][2][3] The first military unit of this kind was in the Spanish Netherlands during the Eighty Years' War between Spain and the Dutch. A notable example is that of Owen Roe O'Neill.

Austria and Austria-Hungary[edit]

The Hapsburgs were the principle employers of Irish soldiers in Central Europe. The multinational nature of the empire meant gifted foreigners were always welcome and had opportunities not available in other Eastern and Central European countries. By one estimation over 100 Irishmen were Field Marshals, Generals or Admirals in the Austrian Army with a corresponding number of men holding commissions in the lower ranks.[4] The first Irishman of note to serve the Hapsburgs was Colonel Richard Walsh of Carrickmines Dublin who was mortally wounded at the Battle of Lützen. His son, Oliver became a Major-General. In all eleven members of the family were field marshals or generals the most notable being George Olivier, count of Wallis.[5] Many Irishmen were inhaber and held rank as regimental colonels. Jacob Butler is the first of these. A Walter Butler was an inhaber of a dragoon regiment and received praise for his role in the defence of Frankfurt an der Oder.[6] Butler was responsible for the assassination of the Bohemian general Albercht von Wallenstein who was in the process of defecting to the Swedes.[7] Another Irishman to serve as Field marshal was Francis Taaffe, 3rd Earl of Carlingford. While attending the Jesuit college at Olomouc he came to know Charles V, Duke of Lorraine and this benefited his career greatly. He played a prominent role in saving Vienna in 1683 and in the subsequent conflict with the Turks. He later became a member of the Order of the Golden Fleece and served Charles V as his prime minister. Maximilian Ulysses Browne was of the first generation born in Austria but was from a prominent Limerick family. Through his mother he was descended from the FitzGeralds, Earls of Desmond. Browne was a major-general by the age of 30. He rose to the rank of Generalfeldmarschall and died leading his men into battle during the Battle of Prague. Browne was a kinsman and mentor to Franz Moritz von Lacy (son of Peter Lacy) who rose to be president of the Hofkriegsrat from 1766-74. Other famous Irish-Austrian generals included William O'Kelly from Aughrim in Galway,[8] John Sigismund Maguire of Kerry who captured Dresden in 1758 and successfully defended it against Frederick the Great who mentioned him on a number of occasions,[9] General Karl O'Donnell, was known for his exceptional conduct at the Battle of Torgau while Colonel Hume Caldwell was noted for his conduct at Breslau and Olmütz where he perished. Unusually Caldwell was of Protestant origin with his family coming from Fermanagh.[10] Field marshal Laval Nugent von Westmeath was prominent during the Napoleonic Wars and was most noted for his role in the capture of Rome in 1815. In recognition of this Pope Pius VI made him a prince in 1816. There were no Irish regiments in the Austrian Army with influence confined to nobility serving as officers.

Franz Moritz von Lacy

Britain[edit]

A significant number of Irish people, of all backgrounds, have served in the forces of the British Crown over the centuries. By the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, well over one-third of the military forces of the British Army consisted of Irishmen[citation needed]), because of:-

Irishmen with notable or outstanding overseas careers included:-

Others were not born in Ireland, but were born into Irish families, such as:-

Victoria Cross recipients:-

The Victoria Cross, the British Crown's highest award for military valour, has been awarded to 188 persons who were born in Ireland or had full Irish parentage. Of these thirty were awarded in the Crimean War, 52 in the Indian Mutiny, and 46 in numerous other British Empire campaigns between 1857 and 1914. In the 20th century, 37 Irish VCs were awarded in the First World War, ten in the Second World War. One has been awarded in Afghanistan in the 21st century to a Belfast-born soldier of the Parachute Regiment.

'Irish' named units of the British Army[edit]

'Irish' named 1922 disbanded units of the British Army[edit]

The Royal Irish regiment in the Battle of Amoy in China, 26 August 1841

Following the establishment of the independent Irish Free State in 1922, the six regiments that had their traditional recruiting grounds in the counties of the new state were all disbanded.[13] On 12 June, five regimental Colours were laid up in a ceremony at St George's Hall, Windsor Castle, in the presence of HM King George V.[14] (The South Irish Horse had sent a Regimental engraving because the regiment chose to have its standard remain in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin). The six regiments finally disbanded on 31 July 1922 were:

Canada[edit]

The Irish Regiment of Canada in the Second World War was the only Canadian Irish unit to fight in any war. It also perpetuates the active service of the 1st Canadian Machine Gun Battalion from the First World War and the indirect service of the 190th (Sportsmen) Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, and the 208th (Canadian Irish) Battalion, CEF. Served as 1915 110th Irish Regiment; 1920 – The Irish Regiment; 1932 – The Irish Regiment of Canada; 1936 – The Irish Regiment of Canada (MG); 1940 – The Irish Regiment of Canada.

The Irish Fusiliers of Canada (Vancouver Regiment) perpetuated the First World War active service of the 29th (Vancouver) Battalion, CEF plus the indirect service of the 121st (Western Irish) Battalion, CEF and the 158th (Duke of Connaught's Own) Battalion, CEF. Served as 1913 – 11th Regiment, Irish Fusiliers of Canada; 1920 – The Irish Fusiliers of Canada; 1936 – The Irish Fusiliers of Canada (Vancouver Regiment); 1946 – 65th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment (Irish Fusiliers); 1958 – The Irish Fusiliers of Canada (Vancouver Regiment); 1965 – placed on the Supplementary Order of Battle; 2002 – amalgamated with The British Columbia Regiment.

The Irish Canadian Rangers perpetuated the indirect service of the 199th Battalion Duchess of Connaught's Own Irish Rangers, CEF. Served as 1914 – 55th Irish Canadian Rangers; 1920 – The Irish Canadian Rangers; 1936 – disbanded.

The 218th (Edmonton Irish Guards) Battalion, CEF lacks perpetuation. The colonel had Irish ancestry, but the largest group of its men were recent eastern European immigrants from the fringes of the Austro-Hungarian Empire who spoke Ukrainian but would have had Austrian citizenship. This combined with the 211th (Alberta Americans) Battalion, CEF, to form the 8th Battalion, Canadian Railway Troops, which served in France building and maintaining railroads.

'Irish' named units of the Canadian Army[edit]

The camp flag of the Irish Regiment of Canada.

France[edit]

The Irish Brigade served the Ancien Régime from 1690-1792.

Patrice de MacMahon, duc de Magenta at the Battle of Magenta

Notable Irishmen who served in the French military include

'Irish' named units of the French Army[edit]

Kingdom of France

  • Irish Brigade
    • Régiment de Albemarle (1698–1703) (renamed Régiment de Fitzgerald)
    • Régiment de Athlone
    • Régiment de Berwick (1698–1775) (to Régiment de Clare)
      • 2nd Battalion (1703–1715) (to 1st Battalion and Régiment de Roth)
    • Régiment de Botagh
    • Régiment de Bourke (1698–1715) (renamed Régiment de Wauchop)
    • Régiment de Bulkeley
    • Régiment de Butler (1689–1690)
    • Régiment de Charlemont
    • Régiment de Clare
    • Régiment de Clancarty
    • Régiment de Dillon (1698–1733) (renamed Régiment de Lee)
    • Régiment de Dorrington (1698– ) (renamed Régiment de Roth)
    • Régiment de Dublin
    • Régiment de Feilding (1689–1690)
    • Régiment de Fitzgerald (1703–1708) (renamed Régiment de O'Donnell)
    • Régiment de Fitzgorman
    • Régiment de Galmoy (1698–1715) (to Régiment de Dillon)
    • Régiment de Lally
    • Régiment de Lee (1733– )
    • Régiment de Limerick
    • Régiment de Mountcashel (1698– ) (renamed Régiment de Lee)
    • Régiment de MacElligott
    • Régiment de O'Brien
    • Régiment de O'Donnell (1708–1715) (to Régiment de Clare)
    • Régiment de Roscommon
    • Régiment de Roth (or Rooth) (renamed Régiment de Walsh)
    • Régiment de Walsh (renamed from Régiment de Roth)
    • Régiment de Wauchop (1715) (to Spain)
    • Fitzjame's Horse
    • Galmoy's Horse
    • Kilmallock's Dragoons
    • O'Gara's Dragoons
    • Nugent's Horse (renamed Fitzjames' Horse)
    • Sheldon's Horse (1698– ) (renamed Nigent's Horse)

First French Empire

Germany[edit]

Bavaria[edit]

During the War of the Spanish Succession Irishmen formed 8% of the Bavarian officer corps. The Elector of Bavaria, Maximilian, was also governor of Spanish Netherlands and nominated Irish officers to Walloon regiments.[15]

Unified Germany[edit]

In the First World War, Imperial Germany tried with the help of Roger Casement to recruit an "Irish Brigade" from Irish-born prisoners of war who had served in the British Army. By 1916 only 52 men had volunteered, and the plan was abandoned.

In the Second World War an even smaller number volunteered to join the Wehrmacht of Nazi Germany and were trained at Friesack Camp. Separately some IRA sympathisers planned certain operations with the Abwehr that were generally unsuccessful.

Latin America[edit]

Monument of Vargas Swamp Battle
Commemorative plaque of Saint Patrick's Battalion at Mexico City plaza

Events[edit]

People[edit]

  • Bernardo O'Higgins – First Chilean head of state (Supreme Director, 1817–23), commanded the forces that won independence from Spain.

'Irish' named units in Latin America[edit]

Papal States[edit]

The Irish that went to fight for the Papal States were not professional soldiers but an entirely voluntary force that was raised with a sole purpose, to defend Pope Pius IX. By 1860 the ability of foreign countries to recruit in Ireland and Great Britain was frowned upon but still technically possible. It wouldn't be outlawed for another ten years with the Foreign Enlistment Act. Despite been promised that they would serve in a single brigade they were scattered among other brigades with men from other European Catholic countries.[18] They were poorly clothed and equipped but fought with gallantry. The first battle they played a part in was Perugia where after most of the Papal force surrendered the Irish continued to fight.[19] The next battle where the Irish fought was Spoleto. 300 Irish volunteers under Myles O'Reilly held off 2,500 veteran Piedmontese, including Victor Emmanuel’s elite light infantry the Bersaglieri for fourteen hours including vicious hand-to-hand fighting. The next significant engagement was the Battle of Castelfidardo where 150 Irishmen fought. The war ended shortly after this when the outnumber and outequiped Papal army were ordered by Pius to lay down their arms.[20] Apart from Myles O'Reilly this was the first military experience of Myles Keogh who later on to fight with distinction during the US Civil War and after in the United States Cavalry until he fell at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876.

Portugal[edit]

Kingdom of Portugal

Russia[edit]

the most recognised and outstanding Irishman to serve in the Russian Army was Peter Lacy from Bruff, County Limerick, who died in 1751 while governor of Livonia. Lacy's daughter married another Irish man from Limerick, General George Browne who became a Russian general and their son Johann Georg von Browne also rose to the rank of general in Russia. Count John O'Rourke was a prominent military theorist during the time of Catherine the Great. O'Rourke and his brother Cornelius joined the Russian Army. Cornelius married a niece of Lacy.[21] John O'Rourke's son Joseph Cornelius O'Rourke rose to the rank of lieutenant general during the Napoleonic period. Another prominent descendant Eduard Alexander Ladislaus Graf (Count) O'Rourke became the bishop of Gdańsk in the inter war years and died an exile in Rome in 1943.

Sweden[edit]

Irish military involvement in the Swedish army was neither happy nor successful. At the beginning of the Seventeenth Century about 6,000 men were shipped out of Ulster for the security of the plantation and sent to Sweden. They were especially unhappy fighting for a Lutheran power. Some Irish friars disguised themselves as soldiers and moved among the men encouraging them to desert to Catholic powers. The men then left Swedish service and most joined the army of Poland.[22] After this incident Gustavus Adolphus refused to accept any large scale recruitment of Irishmen considering them untrustworthy. However a small number went to serve in the officer corps. The most prominent of these was Hugh Hamilton, 1st Viscount of Glenawly. Two of his nephews also entered Swedish service.

South Africa[edit]

Disbanded 'Irish' named units in South Africa[edit]

'Irish' named units in South Africa[edit]

Spain[edit]

The first major military exodus of Irishmen to Spain happened after the failure of the Second Desmond Rebellion in 1583. At least 200 Irish were part of the Armada in 1588.[23] About the same time, in 1587, 600 Irishmen under the command of Sir William Stanley sent to aid the Dutch in their war with Spain switched sides with their commander and served Spain. The next great exodus of Irishmen to serve in the armies occurred after the Siege of Kinsale. An Irish regiment was formed in 1605 and Colonel Henry O'Neill was placed at its head. Five other Irish regiments were formed between 1632 and 1646 and were placed under the command of The Earl of Tyrconnell, Owen Roe O'Neill, Thomas Preston, Patrick FitzGerald and John Murphy. Later they were joined by Irishmen who had served in the army of Henri de Bourbon and Charles IV. The difficulties that plagued them at home were carried to the continent when O'Donnells refused to serve under O'Neills and tension existed between the Old English and the Old Irish. This was especially evident in tensions between O'Neill and Preston. After the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland there was a fresh exodus of men which suited the English as it ensured that men of fighting age would be engaged in wars on the continent. In one incident in 1653 during the Siege of Girona (Principality of Catalonia) some of the Irish defenders deserted and joined the French under de Bellefonds. With the restoration of Charles II in 1660 most of the remaining Irish chose to return to Ireland. Two regiments remained under the command of the O'Neills and Hugh Balldearg O'Donnell. With the War of Succession in 1701 Irish regiments were reformed mostly via France. Two dragoon regiments were formed and named after their founders, O'Mahony (1703) and Crofton 1705). Four infantry regiments were formed between 1702 and 1718 while a fifth transferred from French service in 1715. They were named:[24]

  • Regimento de Infanteria de Hibernia (1705– )
  • Regimento de Infanteria de Irlanda (1702– )
  • Regimento de Infanteria de Limerick (1718– )
  • Regimento de Infanteria de Ultonia (Ulster) (1718– )
  • Regimento de Infanteria de Wauchop (1715– )
  • Regimento de Infanteria de Waterford (1718– )

There was a certain amount of reorganisation so Regimento de Infanteria de Waterford became the second battalion of Irlanda in 1733. When Charles, Duke of Parma (future Charles II) became King of Naples and Sicily he took Regimento de Infanteria de Limerick with him into Neapolitan service where it was known as Regimento del Rey. The remaining regiments remained in Spanish service and wore red uniforms until 1802 when they changed to light blue in common with the remainder of the Spanish army.

Ambrosio O'Higgins, 1st Marquis of Osorno, governor of Chile, Viceroi of Peru, Bernardo O'Higgins's father, whom he never met.
Leopoldo O'Donnell, 1st Duke of Tetuan

Spanish Civil War

Spanish Cvil War (1936–1939)

United States of America[edit]

Commodore John Barry by Gilbert Stuart

Confederate States of America[edit]

'Irish' named units in the United States[edit]

Many of these units have their origins from the participation of Irish-Americans in the American Civil War.

Incomplete

American Revolution

Loyalists

    • Loyal Irish Volunteers
    • 2nd American Regiment (Volunteers of Ireland) later the 105th Regiment of Foot (British Army)

American Civil War

Union Army

Confederate Army

  • 1st Irish Battalion, Virginia Infantry Regulars
  • 2nd Tennessee Volunteer Infantry ("Irish")
  • 6th Louisiana Volunteer Infantry ("Irish Brigade")
  • 9th Georgia Cavalry
  • 10th Tennessee Volunteer Infantry ("Sons of Erin")
  • Company E, 33rd Virginia Infantry, Stonewall Brigade ("Emerald Guards")
  • McMillan Guards, Company K, 24th Georgia Infantry
  • Jeff Davis Guard, Company F, 1st Texas Heavy Artillery
  • Company I, 8th Alabama Volunteer Infantry ("Emerald Guards")
  • Cobb's Legion (Georgia Legion)
  • Company D, 18th Arkansas Infantry Regiment, Marmaduke's ("The Shamrock Guards")

Modern era

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Harris, R. G.: The Irish Regiments 1689–1999 , Sarpedon New York (1989, 1999) ISBN 1-885119-62-3
  2. ^ Murphy, David: The Irish Brigades 1685–2006, Four Courts Press Dublin (2007) ISBN 978-1-84682-080-9
  3. ^ Murphy, David: Introduction, xvii–xxi
  4. ^ Murphy, W.S. (1958). Irish Units in Imperial Service. Dublin: Irish Sword. pp. 74–5. 
  5. ^ Walsh Family Genealogy and history http://homepages.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~walsh/austria.html. Retrieved 14 September 2016.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  6. ^ Murtagh, Harman. "Irish soldiers abroad, 1600-1800". Retrieved 14 September 2016. 
  7. ^ Projekt Runeberg: Walter Butler
  8. ^ O Cealligh http://www.kellyclanireland.com/kellys-from-around-the-country/kelly-s-of-connaught/sir-william-o-kelly. Retrieved 14 September 2016.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ O'Donovan, John. "The Maguires of Fermanagh". Library Ireland. Retrieved 14 September 2016. 
  10. ^ "Hume Caldwell". Library Ireland. Retrieved 14 September 2016. 
  11. ^ Norman Davies, Vanished Kingdoms (London: Penguin, 2011), p. 638 (last paragraph)
  12. ^ http://www.movilleinishowen.com/history/moville_heritage/moville_heritage_htm/family_field_marshal_montgomery.htm
  13. ^ Murphy, David: Irish Regiments in the World Wars (Osprey Publishing (2007) ISBN 978-1-84603-015-4), p. 20 quote: "Following the treaty that established the independent Irish Free State in 1922, it was
    The Royal Irish regiment in the Battle of Amoy in China, 26 August 1841
    decided to disband the regiments that had their traditional recruiting grounds in southern Ireland: The Royal Irish Regiment; The Connaught Rangers; The Prince of Wales' Leinster Regiment; The Royal Munster Fusiliers; The Royal Dublin Fusiliers; The South Irish Horse"
  14. ^ Harris, Major Henry E. D.: p.209
  15. ^ Murtagh, Harman (1996). Irish soldiers abroad, 1600-1800. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 304. ISBN 0521415993. 
  16. ^ http://www.historyireland.com/18th-19th-century-history/museum-eye-the-irishman-who-took-a-bullet-for-bolivar/
  17. ^ http://www.illyria.com/irish/irishven.html
  18. ^ O'Hanlon, Oliver. "The Irishmen who fought for the pope". The Irish Times. Retrieved 15 September 2016. 
  19. ^ "THE CAPTURE OF PERUGIA.". New York Times. Retrieved 15 September 2016. 
  20. ^ "The pope's Irish battalion, 1860". History Ireland. Retrieved 15 September 2016. 
  21. ^ "O'Rourkes in Russia". Irish Identity. Retrieved 15 September 2016. 
  22. ^ Jordan, John (1954). Wild Geese in the North. An Cosantóir. pp. 77–82, 147–50, 192–6. 
  23. ^ Fallon, Niall (1978). The Armada in Ireland. Wesleyan. pp. 221–2. ISBN 978-0819550286. 
  24. ^ Oman, Professor C. "Irish Troops in the Service of Spain 1709-1818". Retrieved 14 September 2016.