King Edward I
recruited Irish light cavalry (hobblers) to serve in his English
Army in France in the 100 years War and to patrol the English
border with Scotland. Their style of warfare gave rise to the
famed Steele Bonnets or Border Reivers. In 1243, they fought for
the Plantagenets against their fellow Celts, the Welsh - perhaps
in memory of the Welsh mercenaries that had fought at
Strongbow's side and brought the English to Ireland's shore. In
1485, they fought with the Yorkists against the Lancastrians in
the Wars of the Roses.
the wars of religion swept through Europe setting Catholic
against Protestant, the Irish were to be found fighting for both
sides. As early as the 1520's, Irish troops were to be found in
the Netherlands. The German artist Durer sketched Galloglas
& kerne on the continent in 1521.The Tudor crown of England
gave the Irish grudging respect, acknowledging them as the
hardiest and fiercest troops in the known world. For this reason
the English commander in the low countries in 1585 requested
Irish Galloglas and kerne; these duly arrived in Flanders in
1586.The Irish served as Stanley's Irish Regiment from 1587 till
1596 with the Protestant Dutch against the Catholic Spanish.
However, Sir Edward Stanley, a devout Catholic changed sides and
took the Irish to fight for Spain. From 1597 till 1604 it was
known as "El Tercio Irlanda" (the Regiment later
became the Independent Irish Companies). In 1605, The Spanish
raised their own Irish Regiment under Prince Henry O'Neill, son
of Hugh O'Neill, The O'Neill and Earl of Tyrone. They recruited
heavily from the Irish Companies in Flanders. Called the Tyrone
Regiment, it served Spain till 1628 when it was dissolved.
During the English
Civil War, the Stuart kings hired a large Irish Army to fight
the parliamentary forces of Cromwell in England and Scotland. In
July 1644, Alasdair MacColla landed in Scotland with 2,500 Irish
veteran soldiers. At the Battle of Tippermuir (1644) and
Aberdeen (1644), the Irish Regiments held the centre of the line
and with the Highland Clans developed the famed highland charge.
This they used to smash the lowland Scots army and the hated
Campbells. At Inverlochy (1645) they took the flanks of the
battle, and at Auldearn (1645) they held the right flank, but at
Kilsyth they again held the centre — every battle a victory
for the combined Irish and Scottish Gaelic force. In 1689, a 300
man Irish unit served under Bonnie Dundee at the victorious
Battle of Killiecrankie, again using the highland charge.
When the Stuarts
were driven in to exile in France in 1652 the bulk of the
British Army was Irish. This, for the most part, was from the
20,000 Irishmen, the remains of the Irish Confederate forces
that had elected to leave Ireland when Cromwell was victorious
there. In April 1656, Charles, the Prince of Wales (later
Charles II), with his brother James, signed a treaty with the
Spanish Crown and took their army to the Spanish Netherlands to
fight France. The Ormonde Regiment was formed of 700 men: The
Duke of York's Regiment, The Duke of Gloucester's Regiment
(under Lord Taffe), the
Muskerry Regiment, and finally an Irish unit under Colonel
Farrell. The Irish Regiments again found themselves fighting
Cromwell's new model army when allied to France. Elements
arrived to fight the Spanish. In May 1660, Charles was restored
to Britain as King Charles II. he immediately abandoned his
Irish troops, leaving them to rot in Northern France till
eventually they were sent to garrison his new Queen's dowry:
Tangiers in North Africa.
The British Army
William III had raised troops in Ireland in the late 17th
century. Most of the Irish Regiments were raised in the
The 6th Horse
became the 5th Horse in 1690 this in 1746 became the 1st
Irish Horse and in Feb 1788 became the 4th Royal Irish
The 5th Royal
Irish Lancers were raised in 1689 fought at the Battle of
the Boyne and as Ross's Horse were sent to the Netherlands
were disbanded in 1799 having being infiltrated by the
United Irishmen. The 5th was raised again in 1858.
Inniskilling Dragoon Guards were raised in 1689 to fight for
King William III. The Regiment left Ireland in 1708 and did
not return for 100 years fighting in the 1715 rebellion in
Scotland were in Flanders and fought at Fontenoy in 1745,
later at Waterloo in 1815 and Balaclava in the Crimea in
The 8th Royal
Irish Hussars was raised in 1693 as dragoons later called
8th Dragoons or King's Royal Irish Light Dragoons. In 1823
they became 8th Royal Irish Hussars.
The 18th Foot
(Royal Irish Regiment) was raised in 1683 and fought against
King James II. It fought against the Irish Brigade in
Flanders and the Spanish Irish Regiments at Gibraltar. In
1751 it became the 18th Foot. It was disbanded after action
around the globe in July 1922.
Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers were raised in 1689, and in
1751 it became the 27th Regt. of Foot. In July 1968 the
Inniskillings was amalgamated with other Irish Regiments to
become the Royal Irish Rangers.
The Royal Irish
Rifles were raised as the 83rd Regiment of Foot in October
1758. Disbanded in 1763 and raised again in 1793.
The 86th Regiment
was raised in November 1756, disbanded in 1763 and raised
again in 1778. In 1881 the 83rd and 86th were combined to
form the Royal Irish Regiment.
The 87th Regiment
and 89th Regiment were raised in Ireland in 1793. In 1881
the two Regiments were amalgamated to form the Royal Irish
Fusiliers in 1968 this was amalgamated in to the Royal Irish
Rangers were formed in September 1793 as the 88th Regiment,
following a Republican mutiny in 1920 the Regiment was
disbanded in 1922.
regiment also disbanded in 1922 was formed from the 100th
and 109th Regiments of Foot.
The Royal Munster
Fusiliers were formed from 101st and 104th Regiments and it
too was disbanded in 1922.
The Royal Dublin
Fusiliers was created from 102 and 103rd Regiments in India
but can trace their origins back to 1661. The Regiment was
stood down in 1922.
newest addition were The Irish Guards raised after the Boer War
in which Irish Brigades served on both the British and Boer
side. Reserve units such as the North and South Irish Horse, The
London Irish Rifles, The 8th King's Liverpool Irish and the
Tyneside Irish Battalions (24th, 25th, 26th, 27th Battalions
Northumberland Fusiliers), were raised and fought in the
1914-1919 War. The Royal Irish Rangers were merged with the
Ulster Defence Regiment battalions and the London Irish Rifles
in 1992 to form the Royal Irish Regiment.
The British Army
had always used Irishmen, in fact it is has been said "the
British Empire was won by the Irish, administered by the Scots
and Welsh and the profits went to the English". In recent
years the last line was amended to read "lost by the
English." The Normans used Irish mercenaries in France,
Wales and Scotland. The majority of the Tudor Army in Ireland
was Irish, as were Tudor troops abroad. Queen Elizabeth I even
raised her own Galloglas unit known as The Queen Majesty's
By 1707 the British
had six Irish Regiments, by 1713 this had dropped to 2, but
later raised to 5 Irish Regiments. However it was estimated that
by 1860 some two thirds of the British Army including the
English country regiments was constituted by Irishmen or their
descendants. A Quarter of a million Irishmen would die the 1st
World War when the 3 Irish Divisions were created, being the
10th, 16th and 36th Divisions. In the Second World War, the 38th
Irish Brigade was formed. Irish Regiments were formed in the
Armies of South Africa, Canada and Australia.