Royal Irish Regiment (1684–1922)

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For the contemporary regiment, see Royal Irish Regiment (1992).
18th Regiment of Foot
18th (Royal Irish) Regiment of Foot
Royal Irish Regiment
Active 1684–1922
Country  Kingdom of Ireland (1684–1800)
 United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (1801–1922)
Branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Type Infantry
Role Line infantry

2 Regular battalions
3 Militia and Special Reserve battalions

6 Hostilities-Only battalions
Garrison/HQ Kickham Barracks, Clonmel
Nickname(s) The Namurs, Paddy's Blackguards
Motto Virtutis Namurcensis Praemium (Reward for Valour at Namur)
March Quick: Garry Owen
Disbanded 1922

The Royal Irish Regiment, until 1881 the 18th Regiment of Foot, was an infantry regiment of the line in the British Army, first raised in 1684. Also known as the 18th (Royal Irish) Regiment of Foot and the 18th (The Royal Irish) Regiment of Foot, it was one of eight Irish regiments raised largely in Ireland, its home depot in Clonmel.[1] It saw service for two and a half centuries before being disbanded with the Partition of Ireland following establishment of the independent Irish Free State in 1922 when the five regiments that had their traditional recruiting grounds in the counties of the new state were disbanded.[2]


Regimental colours

The regiment was formed in 1684 by the Earl of Granard from independent companies in Ireland. In 1695, the regiment became known as the Royal Regiment of Ireland due to its performance at Namur under the direction of King William III. The regiment also won the right to display the King's arms on their colours along with the harp and crown. The regiment served throughout the turn of the 18th century in continental battles before being sent to Gibraltar. In 1751, the regiment was officially ranked as the 18th Regiment of Foot – although it was older than all but six other line regiments, it had not been placed on the English establishment until 1689, lowering its precedence.[3]

Seven Years' War and American Revolution[edit]

The regiment was in Ireland during the majority of the Seven Years' War and was ordered to America on 1 January 1767. The regiment arrived at Philadelphia on 11 July 1767 under the command of Lieutenant Colonel John Wilkins. The regiment remained at Philadelphia, although a small detachment was sent to Ft. Pitt later that summer. The majority of the regiment under Wilkins was ordered to Illinois in early 1768 and remained in Illinois until April 1772 when Fort Chartres was abandoned. A small detachment under Captain Hugh Lord, remained at Ft. Gage (Kaskaskia), Illinois until May 1776 when it was ordered to Detroit in anticipation of an American attack on that post. The rest of the regiment was present in Boston, where the grenadier company participated in the Battle of Lexington and Battle of Concord and Bunker Hill, its first formal combat in more than 50 years. The regiment was drafted into other regiments in Boston in December 1775 and at Detroit in July 1776. According to Cannon's Regimental History the losses at Lexington/Concord were 2 killed/4 wounded {.p. 48} and at Bunker Hill 3 rank & file killed while Lt Richardson and seven rank & file were wounded {.p. 49}. A detachment of the Royal Irish along with a detachment of the Royal Fencible Americans were sent to Penobscott, Maine to cut wood for the garrison in the early fall 1775. The eight companies at Boston were drafted in December 1775. Lord's Detachment was drafted into the 8th (King's) Regiment in July 1776 at Detroit.[4]

French Revolutionary Wars[edit]

In 1783 there was a mutiny by 500, mainly Irish soldiers in the 104th Regiment, based at Fort George. Both the 18th Regiment (the Royal Irish) and the Guernsey Militia turned out with 6 pieces of artillery. Volleys of shots were fired by the rebels, but when the militia outflanking the rebels, they surrendered. The Government of Guernsey gave a public thanks to the 18th and militiamen, awarding them 100 guineas.[5]

The Royal Irish returned to Gibraltar in 1783, where they remained until the Siege of Toulon in 1793.

Second Battalion[edit]

The second battalion, originally raised for the French wars and disbanded on Jersey on 24 October 1814, was re-formed on 18 September 1857 for the New Zealand wars, mainly from volunteers from the Irish militia. They began to arrive in New Zealand from 4 July 1863. They served in the Waikato and Taranaki campaigns of the New Zealand wars. Captain Hugh Shaw won the V.C. when he rescued wounded soldiers during a skirmish at Nukumaru near Wanganui. The battalion was the last Imperial Army unit to leave New Zealand in February 1870.

The Battalion moved from Fermoy to Buttevant in Co. Cork in 1906, where it is recorded on 14 September. On 16 October 1908 it was to be found at Blackdown near the Limerick road outside Dublin. In 1910 Major-General J Burton Forster, who had commanded the Battalion between December 1897 and February 1901, presented it with a set of Brian Boru bagpipes. In the same year the Battalion moved to Guernsey. On 31 March 1913 the band of the 2nd Battalion performed in St Paul’s Cathedral at the funeral of Viscount Wolseley, the first Colonel-in-Chief of the Regiment.

In the same year the Battalion was moved to Devonport, and on the outbreak of the First World War to Flanders as part of the 3rd Division. The Royal Irish Regiment was committed in the First Battle of Ypres as part of II Corps under General Horace Smith-Dorrien, where at Le Pilly on 20 October 1914 the 2nd Battalion was cut off and obliged to surrender. The Battalion was re-formed; by March 1915 it was part of the 4th Division. By May 1916 the Battalion was part of the 7th Division; it was involved in the Battle of the Somme in that year. By October 1916 it was part of the 16th Division, and by April 1918 the 63rd Division. On Armistice Day the Battalion was at Spiennes near Mons in Belgium. On 27 November 1918 the Battalion is recorded at Blaregnies a few miles further south, and on 12 December at Frameries in the same area. On 13 January 1919 the Battalion was reunited there with its band. By 7 May 1919 it had narrowly escaped being sent to northern Russia; instead it returned to Britain and was stationed at Rugeley Camp in Staffordshire, then by 14 May at Resborough Barracks in Folkestone, and by 23 October at Purfleet by the Rainham Marshes in Essex.

Between 13 February and 26 March 1920 the Battalion was at sea on its way to Chakratta and Dehra Dun in the Himalayan foothills not far to the south-east of Simla, with a detachment at Ambala down in the plain on the river Tangri (the Battalion was not unfamiliar with India, having spent nearly a decade on the North West Frontier and near Indore in the years to 1903). By 19 October 1920 the Battalion was in Delhi, and then returned to the Chakratta area, where it is recorded 16 April and 29 December 1921 and on 2 February and 4 March 1922. On 26 March it embarked for Portsmouth, where it arrived on 2 May. On 31 July 1922 it was disbanded at its home base, like the four other regiments of the British Army whose traditional recruiting grounds lay in the new Irish Free State.[6]


In 1881 as part of the Childers Reforms the regiment became the Royal Irish Regiment, and served as the county regiment of Tipperary, Waterford, Wexford and Kilkenny. Its garrison depot was at Clonmel. 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.[7] The Regiment provided the Guard of Honour during the visit of the King to Kilkenny on 29 April 1904.

Boer War[edit]

The regiment participated in the Boer War.

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

First World War[edit]

In the First World War, seven further battalions were raised - 5th (Service) Battalion [1914–1919]; three battalions, including a mounted unit, the 7th (South Irish Horse) Battalion, for the front and three garrison battalions.

The Fifth (Service) Battalion and the regular army First Battalion and were part of the 10th (Irish) Division.

The 6th (Service) Battalion, volunteers following Kitchener's New Army appeal, was part of the 16th (Irish) Division.

The regiment was one of the six disbanded under the terms of the Anglo-Irish Treaty after the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922.

Easter Rising 1916[edit]

The Royal Irish Regiment, made up in the vast majority of local Dubliners and were the first British army troops to attack the Irish rebels during the 1916 Easter Rising who were fighting to end British rule in Ireland and to establish the Irish Republic in Dublin.[8] Eight of the Royal Irish Regiment were killed and sixteen more wounded.[9] Some of these are buried in Grangegorman Military Cemetery. A Royal Irish Regiment officer reported that "they regarded, not unreasonably, everyone they saw as an enemy, and fired at anything that moved".[10]


Due to substantial defence cuts and the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922, it was agreed that the six former Southern Ireland regiments would be disbanded,[11][12] including the Royal Irish Regiment. 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. (The South Irish Horse sent a Regimental engraving because the regiment chose to have its standard remain in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin).

The six regiments were then all disbanded on 31 July 1922. With the simultaneous outbreak of the Irish Civil War conflict some thousands of their ex-servicemen and officers contributed to expanding the Free State government's newly formed National Army. They brought considerable combat experience with them and by May 1923 comprised 50 per cent of its 53,000 soldiers and 20 per cent of its officers.[13]

Battle honours[edit]

Royal Irish Regiment memorial in St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, c.1900
  • Namur 1695, Blenheim, Ramillies, Oudenarde, Malplaquet, Egypt, China, Pegu, Sevastopol, New Zealand, Afghanistan (1879–80), Tel-el-Kebir, Egypt 1882, Nile (1884–85), South Africa (1900–02)
  • The Great War: Mons, Le Cateau, Retreat from Mons, Marne 1914, Aisne 1914, La Bassée 1914, Ypres 1915 '17 '18, Gravenstafel, St Julien, Frezenberg, Bellewaarde, Somme 1916 '18, Albert 1916 '18, Bazentin, Delville Wood, Guillemont, Ginchy, Messines 1917, Pilckem, Langemarck 1917, St. Quentin, Rosières, Arras 1918, Drocourt-Quéant, Hindenburg Line, Canal du Nord, St Quentin Canal, Beaurevoir, Cambrai 1918, Courtrai, France and Flanders 1914–18, Struma, Macedonia 1915–17, Suvla, Landing at Suvla, Gallipoli 1915, Gaza, Jerusalem, Tell 'Asur, Megiddo, Nablus, Palestine 1917–18

Victoria Crosses[edit]

The following members of the Regiment were awarded the Victoria Cross:

Great War Memorials[edit]


  • 1684 to 1686 Arthur Forbes,Earl of Granard
  • 1686 to 1688 Arthur,Lord Forbes
  • 1688 to 1689 Colonel Sir John Edgworth
  • 1689 to 1692 Edward Brabazon, Earl of Meath
  • 1692 to 1705 Major-General Frederick Hamilton
  • 1705 to 1712 Lieutenant-General Richard Ingoldsby
  • 1712 to 1717 Brigadier-General Robert Stearns
  • 1717 to 1732 Brigadier-General William Cosby
  • 1732 to 1735 Sir Charles Hotham,Bart.
  • 1735 to 1742 Major-General John Armstrong
  • 1742 to 1747 General Sir John Mordaunt K.B
  • 1747 to 1762 Lieutenant-General John Folliott
  • 1762 to 1794 Sir James Saunders Sebright
  • 1794 to 1811 Sir James Pulteney, 7th Bt [14]
  • 1811 to 1832 General John Hely Hutchinson,Earl of Donoughmore K.B.
  • 1832 to 1850 General Matthew Aylmer (Lord Aylmer) G.C.B.
  • 1850 to 1877 Field Marshal Sir John Forster Fitzgerald G.C.B.
  • 1877 to 1882 Lieutenant-General Clement Alexander Edwards C.B.
  • 1882 to 1886 General Sir Alexander Macdonnell K.C.B.
  • 1886 to 1889 General Sir Richard Denis Kelly K.C.B.
  • 1889 to 1895 General George Frederick Stevenson Call C.B.
  • 1895 Lieutenant-General Walter McLeod Fraser
  • 1895 to 1897 Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Marshman Havelock-Allan, Bart, V.C., G.C.B.
  • 1897 to 1918 Major-General Charles Frederick Gregorie,C.B.
  • 1918 TO 1922 Major-General John Burton Forster C.B.


  1. ^ Harris, Major Henry E. D.: The Irish Regiments in the First World War, Mercer Press Cork (1968): Appendix II pp.216–217: Table listing the eight Irish Regiments of the British Army July 1914, their Depots, Reserve Bns., and local Militia.: Royal Irish Regiment Depot Clonmel, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers Depot Omagh, Royal Irish Rifles Depot Belfast, Royal Irish Fusiliers (Princess Victoria's) Depot Armagh, Connaught Rangers Depot Galway, Leinster Regiment Depot Birr, Royal Munster Fusiliers Depot Tralee, Royal Dublin Fusiliers Depot Naas.
  2. ^ Murphy, David: Irish Regiments in the World Wars p.30 quote: "Following the treaty that established the independent Irish Free State in 1922, it was 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" Osprey Publishing (2007) ISBN 978-1-84603-015-4
  3. ^ Baule, Steven (2013). Protecting the Empire's Frontier: Officers of the 18th (Royal Irish) Regiment of Foot During Its North American Service, 1767–1776. Ohio University Press. 
  4. ^ Baule, Steven (2013). Protecting the Empire's Frontier: Officers of the 18th (Royal Irish) Regiment of Foot During Its North American Service, 1767–1776. Ohio University Press. 
  5. ^ Duncan, Jonathan. The History of Guernsey with Occasional Notices of Jersey, Alderney and Sark ... Longman 1841. 
  6. ^ The Campaigns and History of the Royal Irish Regiment, Brigadier-General Stannus Geoghegan CB, Blackwood, Edinburgh and London, 1911, updated 1927
  7. ^ H.E.D. Harris The Irish Regiments in the First World War (1968) pp. 2–3
  8. ^ Caulfield, Max, The Easter Rebellion, Dublin 1916, pp. 76–80 ISBN 1-57098-042-X
  9. ^ Weekly Irish Times, Sinn Féin Rebellion Handbook, 1917
  10. ^ McGarry, Fearghal (2010). The Rising: Ireland, Easter 1916. Oxford University Press. p. 184. ISBN 978-0-19-280186-9. 
  11. ^ Army Order 78/1922
  12. ^ Murphy, David: Irish Regiments in the World Wars, The Irish Divisions, 1914–18, The Inter War Years p.30, Osprey Publishing (2007) ISBN 978-1-84603-015-4
  13. ^ Cottrell, Peter: The Irish Civil War 1922–23, Saorstát Éireann Forces, p.23, Osprey Publishing Ltd. (2008) ISBN 978-1-84603-270-7
  14. ^ The London Gazette: no. 13627. p. 180. 25 February 1794. Retrieved 6 December 2009.


  • Cannon, Richard (1848). Historical Record of the Eighteenth, or Royal Irish Regiment of Foot. London: Parker, Furnivall and Parker. 
  • Geoghegan, General S., C.B.: Royal Irish Regiment, Navy & Military Press (2007), ISBN 1-84734-747-9
  • Baule, Steven (2013). Protecting the Empire's Frontier: Officers of the 18th (Royal Irish) Regiment of Foot During its North American Service, 1767–1776. Athens, OH: Ohio University Press. ISBN 9780821420553. 
  • Lt.Colonel G.le M.Gretton "The Campaigns and History of the Royal Irish Regiment From 1684 to 1902" William Blackwood and Sons Ltd Edinburgh and London 1911.
  • Br.General Stannus Geoghegan C.B. "The Campaigns and History of the Royal Irish Regiment Volume 2 from 1900 to 1922". William Blackwood and Sons Ltd Edinburgh and London 1927.

External links[edit]