British Regiment


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. 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.


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.

==Seven Years War and American Revolution==

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.

==French Revolutionary Wars==

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

==New Zealand Wars==

The regiment’s second battalion, formed mainly from volunteers from the Irish Militia, began to arrive in New Zealand from 4 July 1863. It 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.


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.

==Boer War==

The regiment participated in the Boer War.

==First World War==

In the First World War, 7 further battalions were raised 5th (Service) Battalion [1914-1919]; three 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 Bn and were part of the 10th (Irish) Division.

The 6th (Service) Battalion, volunteers following Kitcheners 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==

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. Eight of the Royal Irish Regiment were killed and sixteen more wounded. Some of these are buried in Grangegorman Military Cemetery.[/ref] A Royal Irish Regiment officer reported that “they regarded, not unreasonably, everyone they saw as an enemy, and fired at anything that moved”.


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, 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.