|THE IRISH IN UNIFORM
THE ROYAL IRISH RIFLES
A ration party of the Royal Irish Rifles resting in a communication trench during the Battle of The Somme 1 July 1916(IWM)
|The Royal Irish Rifles
developed from an infantry regiment raised in 1758 called
the 83rd. (County of Dublin) Regiment. After it was
disbanded in 1763, a Scottish regiment was raised and
given the same number. This Scottish regiment was the
83rd. (Royal Glasgow Volunteers) Regiment of Foot, which
fought in The American War of Independence. In 1781, it
was stationed in the English Channel Islands off the
French coast, and fought the French when they invaded the
island of Jersey. That regiment then went to New York in
America, and was disbanded there in 1783.
Ten years later, in 1793, another regiment was raised in Dublin by Colonel Fitch and given the number 83. This led to it becoming known as "Fitch's Grenadiers". This body of soldiers fought against the Maroons in Jamaica, where their Commanding Officer was killed in 1795. The 2nd. Battalion of the 83rd. Regment was raised in England, and gained many battle honours between 1809 and 1814.
In 1805, the 1st. Battalion of the 83rd. was sent to The Cape of Good Hope at the very Southern tip of Africa, where it spent 11 years on garrison duty. The regiment then saw service in Ceylon, whence it returned to England and then to Ireland. It was first stationed in Castlebar, County Mayo and then in Limerick from 1823 to 1833. It then went to Dublin in 1834. Later that same year the 83rd. embarked and sailed Westwards across The Atlantic to Halifax in Nova Scotia, Canada.
The regiment served in Canada from 1834 to 1843. Military service there involved coping with wild terrain and extremely harsh weather conditions. In 1838, one action of The 83rd. Regiment to apprehend bandits involved a sleigh journey over deep snow of 600 miles in a temperature of 30 degrees below freezing. Another Canadian action The 83rd. was involved in necessitated advancing 15 miles led by Native American scouts across the ice of Lake Erie in winter to attack Pelee Island, a French fortress.
In 1843, the 83rd. returned to England and then went again to Ireland in 1845. After four years there, it embarked for service in India. Arriving there in 1849, it was initially stationed at Deesa, and then had to march 237 miles at the hottest time of year to the town of Nasirabad, when the uprising known as The Indian Mutiny broke out. In 1858 The 83rd. became part of the Rajputanan Field Force under the command of Sir Hugh Rose, together with the 8th. King's Royal Irish Hussars.
In 1950 these two regiments were again part of the same military force when they were put into the 29th. Infantry Brigade in Korea.
In 1859, the 83rd. was given the title "The County of Dublin Regiment" by Her Majesty Queen Victoria's Pleasure. The regiment returned to England in 1863, and in in 1867 took the place of the 86th. (Royal County Down) Regiment in the garrison at Gibraltar. Lady Mary Airley, the wife of the Governor of Gibraltar, presented the 83rd. with the flag of its first Regimental Colours in May of that year.
In 1873 The County of Dublin (83rd) Regiment and The Royal County Down (86th) Regiment were merged to become the 1st. and 2nd.Battalions (respectively) of The Royal Irish Rifles.
The first regiment to carry the number 86 was raised in Ireland in 1756 and saw seven years service in Africa before being disbanded in 1783. A second regiment was then raised and given the same number. Thisone were sent to The West Indies,and there two ofits Companies were captured by the French in Tobago. That 86th. regiment was disbanded in England in 1783.
When The Great War broke out in 1914, the 1st. Battalion of The Royal Irish Rifles was serving in the British Protectorate of Aden on the Persian Gulf. During the 1914-1918 war, the Regiment's strength was increased to 21 Battalions, most of which were included in the 36th. (Ulster) Division. Losses to The Royal Irish Rifles were very heavy. Over 7,000 officers and men of this regiment died in the fighting between 1914 and 1918.
46 honours were added to The Regiment's record during the First World War, which included 3 Victoria Crosses, the highest award given for bravery in The British Army. Two of those Victoria Crosses were awarded posthumously, to men who died saving others.
Private William McFadzean from Lurgan, County Armagh sacrificed his life on 1 July 1916 by throwing himself onto a box of mortar bombs when the safety pins of two of them fell out. This action saved the lived of his companions in the trench. As a result of Private McFadzean's heroic action, only one man was injured. Private McFadzean was awarded The Victoria Cross posthumously for his outstanding heroism.
Also on 1 July 1916, Private Robert Quigg from Lurgan, County Antrim of the 12th. Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles, was awarded the Victoria Cross for leading his platoon on three assaults and then going into "no man's land" between the lines no less than seven times to rescue wounded soldiers.
On 21 March 1918, Second Lieutenant Edward de Wind of the 15th. Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles, who was from Ballycastle, County Down, was awarded the Victoria Cross for holding a strategically important post for 7 hours, repelling repeated attacks until he was killed.
There is a link to The Victoria Cross Reference website on the "LINKS" page of this website, which gives details of the citations of every Victoria Cross Medal awarded.
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