|THE IRISH IN UNIFORM
THE ROYAL DUBLIN FUSILIERS
Two Officers of The Royal Dublin Fusiliers , during preparations for the regiment's departure for Gallipoli, 1915.
|The two regiments which in 1881 became the
First and Second Battalions respectively of The Royal
Dublin Fusiliers were originally created as part of the
private militia which served The East India Company. The
First Battalion was derived from the 102nd. (Royal
Madras) Fusiliers which was raised in 1661, and the
Second Battalion derived from the 103rd. (Royal Bombay)
The Madras Europeans were formed as a regiment around 1798, and in a ten-year campaign in India fought against native forces and the French in 72 battles.. This regiment was begun with two battalions, a third was added in in 1760 and a fourth in 1774. For its part in the action at Goojerat in 1780, the regiment was awarded a "Royal Tiger" insignia in 1791, which henceforth was used as the regimental badge with the words 'Plassey'and 'Buxar'. Originally, the regiment was referred to as The Honourable East India Company's European Regiment; then in 1830 it became known as the Honourable East India Company's Madras Regiment, and in 1839 this name was shortened to The First Madras European Regiment. In 1843 the name was changed again to The First Madras European Fusiliers Regiment and this name was later shortened to The First Madras Fusiliers. In 1860, the regiment changed from being a private militia to a regiment of the British Crown, and received the official regimental number of 102, being from then known as The 102nd. (Royal Madras) Fusiliers. Although four other regiments had previously borne the regimental number 102, only one of those had Irish connections. This was The 102nd. (Irish) Regiment of Foot, which existed from 1793 to 1794.
The 102nd.(Royal Madras) Fusiliers took part in the Second Burmese War from 1852 to 1853 and stayed in Burma until 1857, when it returned to India upon the outbreak of mutinies at Meerut and Delhi. The troops of the regiment fought at Benares and Allahabad in May and June 1857, and in September of that year were engaged in the fierce fighting which preceded the relief of the seige of Lucknow. During their attempts to liberate those held under seige in the British Residency at Lucknow, the men of the regiment were give the nickname "Neill's Blue-caps" by the Indian rebel Nana Sahib, who urged his men to "kill all the men in blue caps and dirty shirts" (The nickname being a reference to the uniform cap of the 102nd., at that time commanded by a General Neill).
During The Indian Mutiny, four soldiers of The Madras Fusiliers were awarded the highest British Army award for bravery - The Victoria Cross medal, and three of those were Irishmen - Sergeant Patrick Mahoney 21 September 1857, Private John Ryan 26 September 1857, and Private Thomas Duffy 18 June 1858. An Englishman of the regiment, Private John Smith was awarded The Victoria Cross 16 November 1857. All three Irishmen died of wounds sustained during their heroic actions.
The battle honours of The 102nd. up to 1857 were 'Arcot', 'Plassey', 'Wyndewash', 'Condore','Sholingur','Amboyna,.'Ternate', 'Banda', 'Pondicherry', 'Mahidpoor', 'Ava', 'Pegu', and 'Lucknow'. In 1870 two officers of The 5th. (Royal Irish) Lancers inIndia presented a tiger cub to The Madras Fusiliers as a regimental mascot. The animal was named 'Plassey', after one of the aforementioned battle honours, and returned to England with the regiment when it returned to its depot at Aldershot, Surrey.
With their service in India, there was always a close association between The 102nd. Madras Fusiliers and The 103rd. Bombay Fusiliers, and in 1881 the two regiments were merged to become The Royal Dublin Fusiliers, with its regimental headquarters depot at The Curragh Military Camp to the East of Dublin City. In 1911, the 1st. Battalion of The Royal Dublin Fusiliers were in Alexandria, Egypt, where they were presented with colours by The Duke of Connaught, who had become the regiment's Colonel-in-Chief in 1903.
The other regiment which eventually became part of The Royal Dublin Fusiliers was The 103rd. Bombay Fusiliers. This regiment had been originally formed in 1661, as part of a European Corps raised to garrison Bombay and police the surrounding district for The East India Company. The men of this corps were a motely crew of mercenaries with a reputation for extreme violence, and they became known as "The Old Toughs". They included deserters from foreign armies, escaped convicts and men who for various reasons wished to live far away from their origins and support themselves by military service. They could be said to be the British equivalent of The French Foreign Legion. Some troops of The Bombay Europeans were detached to fight under the command of General Clive at The Battle of Plassey, and later at The Battle of Buxar in 1764; but generally the regiment remained in the control of The East India Company.
In 1834, colours were presented to the regiment at Poona, with the battle honours of Seringapatam, Bennibon-Ali and Kirkee, by The Governor of Bombay, The Earl of Clare. At the ceremony, he made special mention of the regiment's service in The Persian Gulf fighting against the Arabs.
The badge of The 103rd. was an elephant, with the words 'Mysore' and 'Carnatic' denoting battle honours. This was adopted when in 1860 the regiment became a regiment of the British Crown of Queen Victoria,and became known as The 103rd. Bombay Fusiliers. The men of this regiment were recruited from a depot at Colchester, England and were sent to India after initial training.The regiment itself was engaged overseas since its inception and did not go to England until 1871, where it established a depot. That year, at their depot in Parkhurst, on The Isle ofWight, colours were presented to The 103rd. by HRH Prince Arthur, who later became The Duke of Connaught. From 1871 to 1874, The 103rd. was on home service within The United Kingdom, and then went overseas to serve in Gibraltar.
The 102nd. and 103rd. Regiments had been merged in 1881 to become the 1st. and 2nd. Battalions respectively of The Royal Dublin Fusiliers. At the outbreak of The Boer War, the 2nd. Battalion had already been serving in South Africa for several years, and the 1st. Battalion were stationed in The Curragh Camp near Dublin in Ireland. Two of the initial engagements of the South African War were at Talana Hiull and Colenso, and involved some of the fiercest fighting under difficult conditions. A hero of The Battle of Colenso was Bugler John Dunne, aged fourteen, who was severely wounded with front-line troops at Tugela Heights and invalided home to Portsmouth. During the war against the Boers in South Africa, the 2nd. Battalion of The Dublin Fusiliers lost 8 officers and 209 NCO's and men killed in action, died of wounds or disease; and 24 officers and 408 NCO's and men wounded.
After The South African War, the 2nd.Battalion returned to Dublin in 1903. It was presented with colours by the regiment's Colonel-in-Chief, The Duke of Connaught at Aldershot, England in 1911.
At the outbreak of The First World War in 1914, the 2nd.Battalion of The Royal Dublin Fusiliers was in England and was despatched almost immediately to Bolougne, France as part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF). They.took part in The Battle of Mons and The Retreat from Mons. During the first part of The Great War of 1914-1918, the 2nd. Battalion fought with The 31st.Division, but towards the end of the war were transferred to The 50th. Division.
The 1st. Battalion were stationed in Madras, India in 1914 and sailed for England, arriving in December. It then departed for The Middle East and fought there as part of The 29th.Division. In 1917, this battalion went to France and joined The 16th. Division, before being amalgamated with the 2nd. Battalion of the regiment. At Ervillers, The Royal Dublin Fusiliers Brigade was addressed by Cardinal Bourne on 27 October 1917.
During the 1914-1918 War, The Royal Dublin Fusiliers recruited nine extra battalions,some of which were held in reserve in Britain against the threat of an invasion should The Allies be defeated by the Axis Powers on the mainland of Europe. The 3rd. Reserve Battalion, 4th. Extra Reserve Battalion and 5th. Extra Reserve Battalion were formed from the old 3rd., 4th, and 5th. Militia Battalions respectively. These were stationed in England or Ireland, and in 1917 the 5th. Battalion was transferred to Scotland. The 11th. Reserve Battalion was formed in Dublin in 1916 and then became part of the 3rd.Battalion.
The 6th., 7th., 8th., 9th., and 10th. Battalions all fought in continental Europe against the German and Austrian forces in France and Flanders (Belgium); the 7th. to 10th. serving there throughout the war, and the 6th. Battalion being sent to fight in Turkey in 1915. The 6th. Battalion of The Royal Dublin Fusiliers landed at Sulva Bay alongside the ANZAC troops from Australia and New Zealand in October 1915.
Three Sergeants serving with the 2nd. Battalion of The Royal Dublin Fusiliers during The First World War were awarded The Victoria Cross medal for bravery. They were (with dates of their citations in The London Gazette in square brackets) Sgt. Robert Downie from Glasgow [ 25 November 1917]; Sgt. James Ockendon of Southsea, Essex [ 8 November 1917] for bravery at Langemaarke, Flanders, Belgium on 4 October 1917; and Sgt. H.A.Curtis [6 January 1919] for conspicuous bravery in The Battle of Le Cateau, France in 1918.
Following the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, the 1st.Battalion of The Royal Dublin Fusiliers were stationed at Bordon Camp, Hampshire, England from 1921 to 1922. The 2nd.Battalion were stationed in Multan, India and returned to England in 1922 when the regiment was disbanded.
For more information on this regiment, and on Irish soldiers of The First World War visit the excellent website of The Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association
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