Royal Irish Regiment (1684–1922)

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18th Regiment of Foot
18th (Royal Irish) Regiment of Foot
Royal Irish Regiment
Royal Irish Regiment Cap Badge.jpg
Royal Irish Regiment Cap Badge
Country Kingdom of Ireland (1684–1800)
 United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (1801–1922)
BranchFlag of the British Army.svg British Army
RoleLine infantry
Size2 Regular battalions

3 Militia and Special Reserve battalions

6 Hostilities-Only battalions
Garrison/HQKickham Barracks, Clonmel
Nickname(s)The Namurs, Paddy's Blackguards
Motto(s)Virtutis Namurcensis Praemium (Reward for Valour at Namur)
MarchQuick: Garry Owen

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]



Colours of the Royal Irish Regiment (1848)

The regiment was formed in 1684 by the Earl of Granard from independent companies in Ireland.[3] In 1695, the regiment became known as the Royal Regiment of Ireland due to its performance at the Siege of Namur in 1695 under the direction of King William III.[3]

Early history[edit]

The regiment saw action at the Siege of Kaiserswerth in 1702,[4] the Battle of Schellenberg in July 1704 and the Battle of Blenheim in August 1704 during the War of the Spanish Succession.[5] It also took part in the Battle of Ramillies in May 1706,[6] the Battle of Oudenarde in July 1708[7] and the Battle of Malplaquet in September 1709.[8]

The regiment also won the right to display the King's arms on their colours along with the harp and crown. The regiment was sent to Gibraltar, which was being blockaded by Spain, in 1727.[9] 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]

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.[10] The regiment remained at Philadelphia, although a small detachment was sent to Fort 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 de Chartres was abandoned. A small detachment under Captain Hugh Lord, remained at Fort 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 in April 1775 during the American Revolutionary War[11] as well as the Bunker Hill in June 1775, its first formal combat in more than 50 years.[12] A detachment of the Royal Irish along with a detachment of the Royal Fencible Americans were sent to Penobscot, Maine to cut wood for the garrison in the early Autumn 1775.[13] The eight companies at Boston were drafted into other regiments in December 1775 and the detachment at Detroit was drafted into the 8th (The King's) Regiment of Foot in July 1776.[13]

In 1783 there was a mutiny by 500 mainly Irish soldiers in the 104th Regiment based at Fort George in Guernsey. Both the regiment (the Royal Irish) and the Guernsey Militia turned out with six pieces of artillery. Volleys of shots were fired by the rebels, but when the militia outflanked the rebels, they surrendered. The Government of Guernsey gave a public thanks to the regiment and militiamen, awarding them 100 guineas.[14] The regiment returned to Gibraltar later in the year, where it remained until the Siege of Toulon in 1793 during the French Revolutionary Wars.[15] The regiment also saw action at the Battle of Alexandria in March 1801.[16] The 1st Battalion served in Jamaica and the 2nd Battalion served in Curaçao during the Napoleonic Wars.[17]

On 19 November 1807, 120 members of the 18th Regiment of Foot were drowned when HM Packet Ship Prince of Wales sank in Dublin Bay. They were buried at Merrion Cemetery, Bellevue.[18]

The Victorian era[edit]

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

During the First Opium War in China, the regiment next saw action at the Capture of Chusan in July 1840, Battle of Canton in May 1841,[19] Battle of Amoy in August 1841,[20] Second Capture of Chusan in October 1841, Battle of Ningpo in March 1842,[21] Battle of Tzeki in March 1842, Battle of Chapu in May 1842, Battle of Woosung in June 1842, and Battle of Chinkiang in July 1842.[22] It took part in the Siege of Sevastopol during the Crimean War; Captain Thomas Esmonde was awarded the Victoria Cross for saving a party of colleagues from a fire of shell and grape.[23] The regiment also took part in the Second Anglo-Afghan War.[24]

The 2nd Battalion, which was re-formed on 18 September 1857, began to arrive in New Zealand from 4 July 1863 and served in the Waikato and Taranaki campaigns of the New Zealand Wars.[24] Captain Hugh Shaw won the Victoria Cross when he rescued wounded soldiers during a skirmish at Nukumaru near Whanganui.[25]

The regiment was not fundamentally affected by the Cardwell Reforms of the 1870s, which gave it a depot at Victoria Barracks in Clonmel from 1873,[26] or by the Childers reforms of 1881 – as it already possessed two battalions, there was no need for it to amalgamate with another regiment.[27] Under the reforms the regiment became The Royal Irish Regiment on 1 July 1881.[28] It served as the county regiment of Tipperary, Waterford, Wexford and Kilkenny. 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.[29]

The 1st Battalion was stationed in British India and Afghanistan from 1875 to 1884, when it were transferred to Egypt to take part in the Nile Expedition. It was back in home barracks from 1885 to 1891, then in Ireland until it was sent to South Africa as part of reinforcements for the Second Boer War in late 1899.[30] The battalion took part in several battles, and played an important role at the Battle of Slabbert's Nek in July 1900 during the war.[31]

The 2nd Battalion saw action in Egypt during the Anglo-Egyptian War in 1882.[24] From 1884 it was stationed at Malta, then in India where it had various postings, including the last in Kamptee until it returned home in late 1902.[32]

In 1908, the Volunteers and Militia were reorganised nationally, with the former becoming the Territorial Force and the latter the Special Reserve;[33] the regiment now had two Reserve but no Territorial battalions.[34][3]

First World War[edit]

Men of the 16th Irish Division in a lorry going back for a rest after taking Guillemont, 3 September 1916. Two soldiers clearly display badges of the Royal Irish Regiment.

Regular Army[edit]

The 1st Battalion landed at Le Havre as part of the 82nd Brigade in the 27th Division in December 1914 for service on the Western Front but moved to Salonika in November 1915.[35] The 2nd Battalion landed at Boulogne-sur-Mer as part of the 8th Brigade in the 3rd Division in August 1914 for service on the Western Front but was almost completely destroyed at the Battle of La Bassée in October 1914 with many men being taken as prisoners of war.[35] The battalion was re-formed in October 1914 and, as part of the 22nd Brigade in the 7th Division saw further action at the Battle of the Somme, when it was involved in capturing three miles of the German frontline trenches, in Autumn 1916.[36]

The 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, largely made up from local Dubliners, were the first British army troops to attack the Irish rebels during the Easter Rising: the rebels were fighting to end British rule in Ireland and to establish the Irish Republic in Dublin.[37] Eight of the Royal Irish Regiment were killed and sixteen more wounded.[38] 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".[39]

New Armies[edit]

The 5th (Service) Battalion (Pioneers) landed in Suvla Bay as pioneer battalion for the 10th (Irish) Division in August 1915 but moved to Salonika in September 1915.[35] The 6th (Service) Battalion landed at Le Havre as part of the 47th Brigade in the 16th (Irish) Division in December 1915 for service on the Western Front.[35] The 7th (South Irish Horse) Battalion was formed in France as part of the 49th Brigade in the 16th (Irish) Division from the dismounted 1st and 2nd South Irish Horse in September 1917.[35]


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,[40][41] 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.[42] The six regiments were then all disbanded on 31 July 1922.[3] 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.[43]

Battle honours[edit]

Royal Irish Regiment memorial in St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, c.1900

The battle honours of the regiment were:[3]

  • Early Wars: 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]

The following are memorials of the Great War (World War I):


The colonels of the regiment were:[3]

Earl of Granard's Regiment of Foot
Royal Regiment of Ireland - (1695)
18th (The Royal Irish) Regiment of Foot - (1751)
The Royal Irish Regiment - (1881)


  1. ^ Harris, 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, 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"
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "The Royal Irish Regiment". Archived from the original on 10 January 2006. Retrieved 9 July 2016.
  4. ^ Cannon, p. 20
  5. ^ Cannon, p. 26
  6. ^ Cannon, p. 30
  7. ^ Cannon, p. 33
  8. ^ Cannon, p. 35
  9. ^ Cannon, p. 42
  10. ^ Cannon, p. 47
  11. ^ Cannon, p. 48
  12. ^ Cannon, p. 49
  13. ^ a b Baule, p. 25
  14. ^ Duncan, p. 163
  15. ^ Cannon, p. 50
  16. ^ Cannon, p. 58
  17. ^ Cannon, p. 61
  18. ^ "Rochdale and Prince of Wales". On-line Journal of Research on Irish Maritime History. Retrieved 9 February 2017.
  19. ^ Cannon, p. 69
  20. ^ Cannon, p. 70
  21. ^ Cannon, p. 72
  22. ^ Cannon, p. 74
  23. ^ "No. 22043". The London Gazette. 25 September 1857. p. 3194.
  24. ^ a b c "Royal Irish Regiment". National Army Museum. Retrieved 9 July 2016.
  25. ^ "No. 23044". The London Gazette. 28 November 1865. p. 6005.
  26. ^ "The Kickham Army Barracks Master Plan" (PDF). Tipperary Cpounty Council. Retrieved 6 January 2018.
  27. ^ "Training Depots 1873–1881". Archived from the original on 10 February 2006. Retrieved 16 October 2016. The depot was the 69th Brigade Depot from 1873 to 1881, and the 18th Regimental District depot thereafter
  28. ^ "No. 24992". The London Gazette. 1 July 1881. pp. 3300–3301.
  29. ^ Harris, pp. 2–3
  30. ^ Hart′s Army list, 1903
  31. ^ "Royal Irish Regiment". Anglo-Boer War. Retrieved 9 July 2016.
  32. ^ "Naval & Military intelligence - The Army in India". The Times (36896). London. 11 October 1902. p. 12.
  33. ^ "Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907". Hansard. 31 March 1908. Retrieved 20 June 2017.
  34. ^ These were the 3rd Battalion (Special Reserve) and the 4th Battalion (Special Reserve).
  35. ^ a b c d e "Royal Irish Regiment". The Long, Long Trail. Retrieved 9 April 2016.
  36. ^ "Irish Soldiers in the Battle of the Somme". Department of the Taoiseach. Retrieved 9 April 2016.
  37. ^ Caulfield, pp. 76–80
  38. ^ Sinn Féin Rebellion Handbook. Irish Weekly Times. 1917. Archived from the original on 12 November 2013. Retrieved 16 November 2010.
  39. ^ McGarry, p. 184
  40. ^ Army Order 78/1922
  41. ^ Murphy, p. 30
  42. ^ Harris, p. 209
  43. ^ Cottrell, p. 23
  44. ^ "No. 13627". The London Gazette. 25 February 1794. p. 180.


Further reading[edit]

  • Geoghegan, Brigadier-General Stannus, C.B. (1927). The Campaigns and History of the Royal Irish Regiment Volume 2 from 1900 to 1922. William Blackwood and Sons Ltd Edinburgh and London. ISBN 978-1847347473.
  • Gretton, Lieutenant Colonel G. le M. (1911). The Campaigns and History of the Royal Irish Regiment From 1684 to 1902. William Blackwood and Sons Ltd Edinburgh and London.

External links[edit]