405: Royal Irish Fusiliers (Princess Victorias) raised 1793

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Royal Irish Fusiliers

The Royal Irish Fusiliers was an Irish infantry regiment of the British Army, raised originally as 87th (Prince of Wales’s Irish) Regiment of Foot in 1793 and later combined with 89th (The Princess Victoria’s) Regiment of Foot in1881. It was given the title “The Royal Irish Fusiliers” in 1827. It was one of eight Irish regiments. 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). In 1968 the regiment was amalgamated with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and the Royal Ulster Rifles to become the Royal Irish Rangers. In 1999 the present title of the Royal Irish Regiment was adopted.

Early history of constituent regiments

The 87th and 89th Regiments of Foot both saw extensive service in the Napoleonic Wars. At the battle of Barrosa in 1812 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 Peninsula 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

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. In peace-time the Royal Irish Fusiliers had the counties of ArmaghMonaghan 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 racoon-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

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 . 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

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 of 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.

At 4-35am on 7 August the “Snaefell” and “Honeysuckle” arrived off Suvla Bay under heavy shrapnel fire. A landing was made at 8-30am with the battalion going into action in support of the 5th Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers and East Yorkshire Regiment at 9am 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 the 9th August; the battalion held Hill 53 until relieved by the Essex Regiment on the 10th 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 4am on 30 September the battalion left Suvla Bay; arriving at Lemnos Island at 8-30am on the same day.

The 5th and 6th Battalions Royal Irish Fusiliers were subsequently amalgamated and continued service in the Mediterranean theatre 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

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.

Victoria Cross

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