Royal Irish Fusiliers

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Princess Victoria's (Royal Irish Fusiliers)
Royal Irish Fusiliers (Princess Victoria's)
Active 1881–1968
Country  United Kingdom
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Type Infantry
Role Line infantry

1–2 Regular battalions
Up to 3 Militia and Special Reserve battalions
1–2 Territorial and Volunteer battalions

Up to 10 Hostilities-only battalions
Garrison/HQ Gough Barracks, Armagh
Nickname(s) The Old Fogs, The Rollickers
Motto Faugh-a-Ballagh (Clear the way)

The Royal Irish Fusiliers (Princess Victoria's) was an Irish line infantry regiment of the British Army, formed by the amalgamation of the 87th (Prince of Wales's Irish) Regiment of Foot and the 89th (The Princess Victoria's) Regiment of Foot in 1881. The regiment's first title in 1881 was Princess Victoria's (Royal Irish Fusiliers), changed in 1920 to the Royal Irish Fusiliers (Princess Victoria's). Between the time of its formation and Irish independence, it was one of eight Irish regiments.

In 1968 the Royal Irish Fusiliers (Princess Victoria's) was amalgamated with the other regiments of the North Irish Brigade, the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and the Royal Ulster Rifles to become the Royal Irish Rangers which later merged with the Ulster Defence Regiment to form the Royal Irish Regiment.

Early history of constituent regiments[edit]

The 87th and 89th Regiments of Foot both saw extensive service in the Napoleonic Wars. At the Battle of Barrosa in 1811 the 2nd battalion of the 87th became famous as the first British Army unit to capture a French Imperial eagle in battle. It was during the Peninsular War that the regiment got its nickname, the Faughs, from their Irish war cry "Faugh A Ballagh" (Fág a' Bealach, meaning Clear the Way).

The 87th Regiment subsequently saw service in the Burmese War of 1824-26, where the battle honour "Ava" was gained. The 89th Regiment served in the Crimean War (1854) and the Indian Mutiny (1857).

Following amalgamation in 1885 battalions of the Royal Irish Fusiliers saw active service in Egypt and the Sudan (1882 and 1898) and the Boer War (1899–1902).

Prior to World War I[edit]

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.[1] In peace-time the Royal Irish Fusiliers had the counties of Armagh, Monaghan and Cavan as its recruiting area. The regimental garrison depot was located at Armagh town. The pre-1914 full dress of the regiment comprised a scarlet tunic with dark blue facings, worn with dark blue trousers and the standard fusilier raccoon-skin cap. Regimental distinctions included a green plume worn on the left side of the headdress and an Irish harp as part of the badge.

World War I[edit]

Battalions of the regiment served with the 10th Irish Division and 36th (Ulster) Division during World War I. The 1st Battalion fought at Le Cateau, the Marne, the Somme, Arras, Cambrai and Ypres, losing 1,058 dead throughout the War. The 2nd Battalion served on the Western Front, Macedonia and Palestine.[2] In addition to the two regular battalions, a further six were raised during 1914-18. The regiment as a whole won 44 battle honours in the course of the War, suffering 3,181 dead and more than 15,000 wounded.

6th Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers in the Gallipoli Campaign[edit]

RIrF memorial in Armagh

The 6th Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers received orders to embark for service in the Dardanelles on 9 July 1915 as part of the 31st Brigade, 10th (Irish) Division. At the time the battalion was with the rest of the 10th (Irish) Division (less Divisional Artillery which had been sent to France previously) in Basingstoke having just completed their training.The Division was part of Kitcheners New Army; made up generally of raw recruits with a sprinkling of older men who had already seen military service (i.e. Boer War and India) and who had either been recalled to the colours or had volunteered on the outbreak of war.

The battalion left Basingstoke in successive train loads on 12 July arriving at Keyham Dockyard, Plymouth where they were to embark upon the SS Canada. Owing to non-arrival of the vessel, the battalion located to a rest camp at Pull Point, Devonport overnight.

On 13 July the battalion and ammunition column commenced embarkation upon the SS Canada, setting sail the following day at 5 pm.

The vessel passed Gibraltar on 18 July and arrived in Malta on 21 July for coaling. The vessel then sailed for Alexandria; arriving on 24 July.

On 26 July the vessel arrived at Mudros Harbour, Lemnos Island and during the period to 31 July the battalion participated in the disembarkation and sorting of stores and equipment; it having been recognised that equipment had not been loaded securely or in the correct order.

On the evening of 31 July the SS Canada sailed for Mytilene Harbour, Lesbos Island arriving on 1 August. During the next few days the battalion undertook route marches around the island. A part of the battalion was inspected by General Sir Ian Hamilton; C in C Mediterranean Expeditionary Force.

On 5 August the battalion received orders to be prepared to move by 12 noon the following day to a destination not yet stated. At 5-30 pm on 6 August the battalion sailed to Suvla Bay, Gallipoli aboard the minesweepers “Snaefell” and “Honeysuckle”. At this time the battalion comprised 778 officers and other ranks.

At 4-35 am on 7 August the “Snaefell” and “Honeysuckle” arrived off Suvla Bay under heavy shrapnel fire. A landing was made at 8-30 am with the battalion going into action in support of the 5th Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers and East Yorkshire Regiment at 9 am the same morning. On its first day of action the battalion suffered casualties of 1 officer wounded, 12 other ranks killed and 76 other ranks wounded or missing.

Overnight the battalion occupied trenches atop Hill 53 and during the following days provided support and reinforcement to other troops attacking Hill 70. During the period 8 to 9 August the battalion suffered further casualties of 5 officers killed, 12 officers wounded or missing, 12 other ranks killed and 220 other ranks wounded or missing. The battalion was suffering from the environment in which they were serving and existed on the “iron” rations with which they had landed since no supplies were able to get to them.

Having received supplies late on 9 August; the battalion held Hill 53 until relieved by the Essex Regiment on 10 August. The battalion was rested in reserve lines for the next few days.

The battalion moved into support trenches on 13 August and the following day received reinforcements of 5 officers and 159 other ranks from the battalion reserve at Mudros.

During 15 to 16 August the battalion was engaged in heavy fighting against Turkish Infantry on the Kiretch Tepe Ridge suffering losses of 10 officers and 210 other ranks killed, wounded or missing.

The battalion located to support trenches or rest areas during the period 17 August to 29 September taking part in almost daily skirmishes with the Turkish Infantry.

On 1 September the battalion was now recorded as comprising 5 officers and 388 other ranks, as well as losses through enemy action the battalion was increasingly suffering from ill health.

At 4 am on 30 September the battalion left Suvla Bay; arriving at Lemnos Island at 8-30 am on the same day.

The 5th and 6th Battalions Royal Irish Fusiliers were subsequently amalgamated and continued service together until the cessation of hostilities in 1918. The 5/6th served in Salonika/the Balkans then were sent to Palestine. In 1918 they were transferred to France and became part of the 48th Brigade in the 16th (Irish) Division. By November 1918 they had advanced to the border with Belgium.

1916 Easter Rising[edit]

The Royal Irish Fusiliers fought against the Irish rebels, who were fighting to end British rule in Ireland and to establish the Irish Republic during the Easter Rising. Two of the Royal Irish Fusiliers were killed and six more wounded.[3]

Second World War[edit]

During the Second World War the 1st Battalion was originally serving with 25th Infantry Brigade, part of the 50th Division and was sent to France in early 1940 to join the rest of the British Expeditionary Force. The battalion fought in the Battle of Dunkirk and were forced to be evacuated. After Dunkirk the battalion then became part of 210th Independent Infantry Brigade (Home) which was later renumbered 38th (Irish) Infantry Brigade. The brigade also included the 6th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and the 2nd Battalion, London Irish Rifles; 6th Inniskillings was a war-raised service battalion while the Rifles was a Territorial Army battalion of the Royal Ulster Rifles, the only one of the Irish infantry regiments to have a Territorial battalion. The brigade was initially attached to the 6th Armoured Division and served with them during the start of the Tunisian Campaign until 2 February 1943 when they swapped with 1st Guards Brigade into the 78th Battleaxe Division. They would remain with the division for the rest of the war, serving in the fighting in Sicily where the Irish Brigade fought, with great success, in the Battle of Centuripe. The success in Sicily was followed by the landings in the Italian mainland. During their paid holiday in Italy, (see The D-Day Dodgers) the battalion took part in many river crossings and battles with perhaps the most famous being the Battle of Monte Cassino, one of the hardest-fought battles of the entire campaign and saw their final battle in Operation Grapeshot.

The 2nd Battalion, formerly the 89th Regiment of Foot, served throughout the Siege of Malta from 1940-1943 with the 4th (Malta) Infantry Brigade, later renumbered 234th Infantry Brigade. The battalion was lost in the Battle of Leros and the Battle of Kos. The 2nd Battalion was reformed by the redesignation of the 6th Battalion, a hostilities-only battalion raised in 1940.

The 5th Battalion was raised on 3 July 1940.

The regiment raised many other battalions in the Second World War but none of these saw active service overseas and remained in the United Kingdom for the war as home defence or training units.

Battle honours[edit]

The Regiment was awarded the following battle honours. Those shown in bold from the two World Wars were those selected to be emblazoned on the Kings's Colour.

  • From 87th Regiment of Foot: Monte Video, Talavera, Barrosa, Tarifa, Vittoria, Nivelle, Orthes, Toulouse, Peninsula, Ava
  • From 89th Regiment of Foot: Egypt, Java, Niagara, Ava, Sevastopol
  • Tel-el-Kebir, Egypt 1882 '84, Relief of Ladysmith, South Africa 1899-1902
  • The Great War (14 battalions): Le Cateau, Retreat from Mons, Marne 1914, Aisne 1914, Armentières 1914, Hill 60, Ypres 1915 '17 '18, Gravenstafel, St. Julien, Frezenberg, Bellewaarde, Somme 1916 '18, Albert 1916, Guillemont, Ginchy, Le Transloy, Arras 1917, Scarpe 1917, Messines 1917 '18, Langemarck 1917, Cambrai 1917, St. Quentin, Rosières, Lys, Bailleul, Kemmel, Courtrai, France and Flanders 1914-18, Kosturino, Struma, Macedonia 1915-17, Suvla, Landing at Suvla, Scimitar Hill, Gallipoli 1915, Gaza, Jerusalem, Tell 'Asur, Megiddo, Nablus, Palestine 1917-18
  • The Second World War: Withdrawal to Escaut, St Omer-La Bassée, Bou Arada, Stuka Farm, Oued Zarga, Djebel bel Mahdi, Djebel Ang, Djebel Tanngoucha, Adrano, Centuripe, Salso Crossing, Simeto Crossing, Malleto, Termoli, Trigno, Sangro, Fossacesia, Cassino II, Liri Valley, Trasimene Line, Monte Spaduro, Monte Grande, Argenta Gap, San Nicolo Canal, Leros, Malta 1940

Victoria Cross[edit]

Recipients of the Victoria Cross:

Victoria Cross medal, ribbon, and bar.

Royal Irish Fusiliers Museum[edit]

The Royal Irish Fusiliers Museum is located on the Mall in Armagh, County Armagh, Northern Ireland (54°21′02″N 6°39′06″W / 54.3506°N 6.6518°W / 54.3506; -6.6518 (Royal Irish Fusiliers Museum)). The exhibits include uniforms, medals, regalia and the two Victoria Crosses won by the regiment. The regimental archive and library may be viewed by appointment.

Great War Memorials[edit]


  1. ^ H.E.D. Harris The Irish Regiments in the First World War (1968) pp. 2-3
  2. ^ "Irish Rangers site". Irish Rangers site. Retrieved 31 December 2007. 
  3. ^ Weekly Irish Times, Sinn Féin Rebellion Handbook, 1917
  4. ^ Lieut Geoffrey St. George Shillington Cather at Find a Grave

External links[edit]