Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers

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Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
Active 1881–1968
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Type Infantry
Role Line infantry
Size 1 Regular battalion at amalgamation (10 during the Great War)
Garrison/HQ St Lucia Barracks, Omagh
Nickname(s) The Skins
Motto Nec Aspera Terrant (By difficulties undaunted) (Latin)
Colors Blue facings

Quick – The Sprig of Shillelagh & Rory O'More

Slow – Eileen Alannah
Anniversaries Waterloo Day, 18 June
Somme Day, 1 July
Engagements Badajoz, Waterloo, Gallipoli, Burma
Colonel of
the Regiment
Henry, Duke of Gloucester
Hackle Grey
Tartan Saffron (pipes)[dead link]

The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers was an Irish line infantry regiment of the British Army in existence from 1881 until 1968. The regiment was formed in 1881 by the amalgamation of the 27th (Inniskilling) Regiment of Foot and the 108th Regiment of Foot.[1]

It saw service in the Second Boer War, the First World War and the Second World War before being amalgamated with the other regiments in the North Irish Brigade, the Royal Ulster Rifles and the Royal Irish Fusiliers (Princess Victoria's) into the Royal Irish Rangers in 1968.[2] However, in 1992, the Royal Irish Rangers merged with the Ulster Defence Regiment to form the Royal Irish Regiment.


1881 – 1914[edit]

On 1 July 1881 the 27th and 108th were redesignated as the 1st and 2nd Battalions, The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers respectively.[1] In 1903 the Regiment was granted a grey hackle for their fusilier raccoon skin hats to commemorate the original grey uniforms of the Inniskilling Regiment.[3][4]

The regimental district comprised the City of Londonderry and the counties of Donegal, Londonderry, Tyrone and Fermanagh in Ireland, with its garrison depot located at Omagh.[5] The local militia regiments also became part of the new regiment, becoming the 3rd to 5th (Militia) Battalions.[5] 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.[6]

Under the Childers system, one regular battalion of each regiment was to be at a "home" station, while the other was abroad. Every few years, there was to be an exchange of battalions. In the period from the regiment's formation to the outbreak of the Second Boer War the two regular battalions were stationed as follows:

Location of 1st Battalion (ex 27th Foot)[7] Years Location of 2nd Battalion (ex 108th Foot)[8] Years
Hong Kong 1881–1883 England 1881–1882
Straits Settlements and Singapore 1883–1886 Ireland 1882–1886
South Africa 1886–1889 England 1886–1888
England 1889–1893 India and Burma (fought in Tirah Campaign of 1897) 1888–1899
Ireland 1893–1899

Second Boer War[edit]

External images
Memorial to the fallen from the 1st Battalion during the Battle of Colenso. Clouston Field of Remembrance, Colenso, South Africa

In October 1899 war broke out between the United Kingdom and the Boer Republics. The 1st Battalion landed at Durban, where they became part of the 5th (Irish) Brigade.[7] The battalion was involved in a series of military reverses at the hands of the Boers that became known as the "Black Week", culminating in defeat at the Battle of Colenso.[9] The unit subsequently took part in the Tugela Campaign before helping relieve Ladysmith in early 1900. The regiment lent its name to "Inniskilling Hill", which was taken by the 5th brigade on 24/25 February 1900.[10]

The 2nd Battalion only arrived in South Africa from India in the late stages of the war and saw little action.[9][11]

Following the war in South Africa, the system of rotating battalions between home and foreign stations resumed as follows:

Location of 1st Battalion (ex 27th Foot)[7] Years Location of 2nd Battalion (ex 108th Foot)[8] Years
Ireland 1902–1907 Egypt 1902–1908
Crete and Malta 1907–1911 Ireland 1908–1910
China 1911–1913 England 1910–1914
India 1913–

First World War[edit]

In 1914 the Great War broke out and the 2nd Battalion was first to see action in the Battle of Le Cateau. The 1st Battalion participated in the Landing at Cape Helles on the Gallipoli peninsula in April 1915 with the 29th Division. There were also nine New Army battalions raised seeing service with the 10th (Irish) Division, the 16th (Irish) Division and the 36th (Ulster) Division on the Western Front and at Gallipoli, the Macedonian Campaign and Palestine.

Portrait of Captain Wood of Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers painted by Sir William Orpen in 1919.

1916 Easter Rising[edit]

The 12th (Service) Battalion[12] fought against Irish rebels who were fighting to end British rule in Ireland and to establish the Irish Republic during the Easter Rising of 1916 in Dublin. Two of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers were killed and seven more wounded.[13][14]

Inter War[edit]

After the war, the Childers system was resumed, with the 1st Battalion moving to India for foreign service, and the 2nd Battalion based on Salisbury Plain for home service. With the independence of the Irish Free State in 1922 all the Irish line infantry regiments of the British army regiments were to be disbanded. However, this decision was later amended to exclude four battalions and after a successful campaign by the Royal Irish Fusiliers (Princess Victoria's) it was agreed that the disbandment would not be of the most junior regiment but of the two most junior battalions. These were the 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers, the old 89th Foot, and the 2nd Battalion, Inniskillings, the old 108th Foot. These were placed in 'suspended animation' and the surviving battalions formed the Corps of Royal Inniskilling and Royal Irish Fusiliers. From 1924 this 'corps' shared the Inniskillings' Depot, St Lucia Barracks, in Omagh.

The Inniskillings moved from India to Iraq in 1922, returning to Shorncliffe, England in 1925. They were stationed in Northern Ireland from 1927 to 1933, before moving to Aldershot. They resumed foreign service in 1934, moving to Shanghai and then Singapore two years later.[7][15]

In 1937 there was an expansion of the army, and the 2nd Battalion was re-raised at Omagh, moving to Catterick in the following year. The 2nd Battalion of the Royal Irish Fusiliers was also reformed, and the arrangement of 1922 ended.[15] The 1st Inniskillings moved to Wellington, Madras in 1938. The two battalions were in these locations when the Second World War broke out in 1939.[15]

Second World War[edit]

In addition to the 1st and 2nd battalions, both part of the Regular Army, the regiment raised three other battalions (5th, 6th and 70th) to fight in the war.[5] However, only a few of them saw active service overseas and the rest would be used for home defence or training units so the frontline units would receive trained infantry replacements.

Men of the 6th Inniskillings clearing houses during the Centuripe, during the invasion of Sicily.

The Regular 1st Battalion was stationed in British India on the outbreak of war and spent the entire war there, fighting in the early stages of the Burma Campaign. In 1942 the battalion was flown to Burma to help stem the Japanese advance and in 1943 took part in the operations in the Arakan peninsular with the 48th Indian Infantry Brigade, part of the 14th Indian Infantry Division. After this, the battalion did not see action again for the rest of the war.

The 2nd Battalion, a Regular Army, was serving in the 13th Infantry Brigade, alongside 2nd Wiltshire Regiment and 2nd Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), part of 5th Infantry Division, and was sent to France in late 1939 after war was declared. The battalion, as part of the BEF, was among those that were evacuated from Dunkirk after desperate fighting as the rearguard to the retreating BEF where the battalion was reduced to a mere 215 all ranks.[16] After re-fitting, the 2nd Battalion, with the rest of 5th Division, left England in 1942 for the East Indies. Their journey was to take them to Madagascar, where they fought the Vichy French in a brief campaign in Madagascar to ensure that the Japanese did not occupy the island to interdict Allied shipping, British India, Persia and Syria before they deployed for Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily followed by that of Italy, now serving with the British Eighth Army in both.[17] In July 1944, while resting in Palestine after seeing severe fighting at Anzio, the 2nd Battalion absorbed many personnel of the 6th Battalion and transferred to 38th (Irish) Infantry Brigade, of the 78th Battleaxe Infantry Division, and would remain with this formation for the rest of the war. With absorbing the men of the 6th Battalion, the 2nd Battalion was at a new War Establishment strength of 43 officers and 900 other ranks.[18] The battalion would see service in the battles around the Gothic Line in August–September 1944, and later in the final offensive in Italy in April 1945, which saw the battalion finishing the war in Austria.

The 5th Battalion was a hostilities-only unit raised in 1940 that never saw service overseas and remained in the United Kingdom for the war. It served as a home defence formation assigned to the 48th (South Midland) Infantry Division, and briefly the 55th (West Lancashire) Infantry Division. In 1944, the battalion became a training formation that was also tasked with providing drafts for overseas fighting formations. In this capacity, it was assigned to the 45th Infantry Brigade and was initially part of the 80th Infantry (Reserve) Division and later part of the 38th Infantry (Reserve) Division. The battalion was disbanded after the war in 1946.

The 6th Battalion was a war service battalion created in October 1940. In early 1942 the battalion was assigned to the 210th Independent Infantry Brigade (Home), serving alongside 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers and 2nd Battalion, London Irish Rifles. The brigade was under command of Brigadier The O'Donovan and was later redesignated 38th (Irish) Infantry Brigade, which was part of the 6th Armoured Division. During the fighting in Italy, the 6th Battalion would serve in the same theatre as the 2nd Battalion. The 6th Battalion fought in the Tunisian Campaign in North Africa in 1942-1943 with the rest of the 6th Armoured Division, part of the British First Army, and the 2nd Battalion took part in the landings in Sicily and then Italy. In February 1943 the 6th Skins, Irish Brigade included, was exchanged for 1st Guards Brigade and joined the 78th Battleaxe Division, considered to be one of the best divisions of the British Army during the Second World War, and remained with them until disbandment in 1944. The 6th Battalion then fought in Sicily and Italy, most notably at Centuripe in Sicily where its unexpected assault on the hilltop town took the Germans by surprise and earned the 78th Division great praise in their first battle with the British Eighth Army. In Italy the battalion fought at the terrible Battle of Monte Cassino and in the pursuit north of Rome but was disbanded after the battles at Lake Trasimene in June 1944 due to a shortage of manpower; its place in the Irish Brigade was taken by the 2nd Inniskillings, from the 5th Infantry Division, which absorbed many of the personnel of 6th Inniskillings with the rest of the men going elsewhere in the Irish Brigade.

The 70th (Young Soldiers) Battalion was raised during the war for those young soldiers who had volunteered and so had not yet reached the age to be conscripted. The battalion never saw active service abroad and was disbanded in 1943, due to the British government lowering the age of consent for conscription, as were all such units of other regiments and the manpower of the 70th Battalion was sent to the 2nd and 6th battalions.

Post War[edit]

After the war, the 1st Battalion returned to India from Burma and after a stay in Hong Kong was engaged for many months hunting insurgents in the jungles of Malaya. In 1948 both regular battalions were amalgamated as the 1st Battalion, the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.[19] In 1949, after a brief spell at home, the battalion went to the West Indies, returning to the United Kingdom in April 1951. In 1952 it was presented with the Freedom of Enniskillen, the town of its founding. Later that year it went abroad to the Suez Canal Zone and afterwards to Kenya, where it helped to suppress the Mau Mau uprising; while in the latter country, it received the Freedom of Nairobi in perpetuity, the first and so far only time that a British regiment has been so honoured by a colonial city. For a short time, from April 1952, the 2nd Battalion was reformed and saw service in Egypt and Cyprus, where it was in action against EOKA insurgents. The battalion had also deployed 400 men to help the civil authorities during severe flooding in the Thames estuary. In 1956 the battalion was again disbanded.

The 1st Battalion returned to England in 1955 and after two years at the School of Infantry went to Germany, being stationed in Berlin and Wuppertal. In 1960 half of the battalion was back in Kenya with a detachment in Bahrain. In 1961 the battalion flew into Kuwait when the sheikdom was threatened by Iraq. The battalion returned to England in 1962, stationed at Gravesend.[20]

In April 1968 the 1st Battalion had its final operational deployment when Tactical Headquarters and B Company were ordered at short notice to Bermuda with trouble brewing on the island due to a tense political situation.[21] Following a peaceful election the detachment returned to Worcester in preparation, with the remainder of the battalion, for the final regimental chapter; at midnight on 30 June 1968, following a nostalgic ceremony, the regimental flag was lowered for the last time.[2]


On 1 July 1968, the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, the Royal Ulster Rifles and the Royal Irish Fusiliers became the Royal Irish Rangers (27th Inniskilling, 83rd and 87th). The date of 1 July was chosen as it marked the fifty-second anniversary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme, in which battalions of all three merging regiments fought.[22] The Royal Irish Rangers amalgamated with the Ulster Defence Regiment and on 1 July 1992 became the Royal Irish Regiment.

Battle honours[edit]

Borne on the Regimental Colours (including the combined honours of the 27th and 108th Foot)[23]

† Awarded to 27th Foot
‡ Awarded to 108th Foot
¶ Awarded in 1909 for services of the 27th Foot[24]
♦ Awarded in 1882 for services of 27th Foot[5][24]

Borne on the Queen's Colour (10 selected honours each for the First and Second World Wars)[25]

The Regimental Chapel[edit]

The Regimental chapel is in St Macartin's Cathedral, Enniskillen

Boer War memorial to the men of the Inniskilling Fusiliers

Great War Memorials[edit]

Victoria Cross[edit]

Recipients of the Victoria Cross:[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b The London Gazette: no. 24992. pp. 3300–3301. 1 July 1881.
  2. ^ a b Corbally (1979) p.61
  3. ^ MJPM Corbally (1979). Outline History of the Royal Irish Rangers (27th (Inniskilling), 83rd and 87th) (2 ed.). Royal Irish Rangers. p. 37. 
  4. ^ EG Frames Ltd
  5. ^ a b c d Mills, T F (14 July 2006). "The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers". Land Forces of Britain, The Empire and the Commonwealth. Archived from the original on 13 January 2008. Retrieved 3 April 2010. 
  6. ^ H.E.D. Harris The Irish Regiments in the First World War (1968) pp. 2–3
  7. ^ a b c d Mills, T F (22 March 2005). "1st Bn, The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers". Land Forces of Britain, The Empire and the Commonwealth. Archived from the original on 13 January 2008. Retrieved 3 April 2010. 
  8. ^ a b Mills, T F (3 April 2005). "2nd Bn, The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers". Land Forces of Britain, The Empire and the Commonwealth. Archived from the original on 13 January 2008. Retrieved 3 April 2010. 
  9. ^ a b Corbally (1979), pp.34–36
  10. ^ Churchill, Winston S (1900). The Boer War: London to Ladysmith Via Pretoria and Ian Hamilton's March. London: Longmans Green. pp. 185–198. 
  11. ^ Biggins, David. "Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers". Anglo Boer War. Retrieved 3 April 2010. 
  12. ^ "The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers". The Long, Long Trail. Retrieved 16 November 2010. 
  13. ^ Sinn Féin Rebellion Handbook. Irish Weekly Times. 1917. p. 55. Retrieved 16 November 2010. 
  14. ^ "British soldiers KIA 1916 Rising". Irish Medals. Retrieved 16 November 2010. 
  15. ^ a b c Corbally (1979), pp.43–44
  16. ^ Richard Doherty, Irish Volunteers in the Second World War (ISBN 1851825231)
  17. ^ Corbally (1979) pp.47–52
  18. ^
  19. ^ Corbally (1979) p.54
  20. ^ Corbally (1979) p.59
  21. ^
  22. ^ Corbally (1979), p.3
  23. ^ Corbally (1979) p.5
  24. ^ a b Norman, C B (1911). Battle Honours of the British Army. London: John Massey. pp. 104, 109, 351–353. 
  25. ^ Swinson, Arthur (1972). A Register of the Regiments and Corps of the British Army. London: The Archive Press. p. 213. ISBN 0-85591-000-3. 
  26. ^ Corbally (1979), pp.67–68


  • Corbally, M J P M (1979). Outline History of The Royal Irish Rangers (27th (inniskilling), 83rd and 87th). Armagh: Royal Irish Rangers. 

External links[edit]