ROOTS : IRISH
The Irish have a long history of soldiering. The moniker of the 'fightin' Irish' was hard won - if you will excuse the pun. The Irish soldier or mercenary gained a fearsome reputation for toughness, courage & fighting ability.
The first Irish Regiment was formed in the 1580s to fight for the Dutch against Spain in the 80 years war. Elizabeth I wanted these native Irish soldiers out of the country ! Induced by Spanish bribes these Irish soldiers ended up fighting for Spain. Such was the way of the world in those days.
Some years later in 1607 another important exodus occurred . Named ‘The Flight of the Earls' ( with lots of their soldiers) it marks the departure from Ireland of Hugh O'Neill, 2nd Earl of Tyrone and Rory O'Donnell, 1st Earl of Tyrconnell. They had been defeated in many battles starting with Battle of Kinsale in 1601.This was seen as the end of old Gaelic order as the Earls were from Gaelic clan dynasties that had ruled Ulster from 300AD.
Irish Jacobites supported the catholic Stuart claims to the thrones of England, Ireland & Scotland in the hope of ending discriminatory laws. These Irish Jacobites were defeated in 1691 by William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne & the Siege of Derry which are still commemorated to this day by the Unionist community in Northern Ireland today. These battles have had a profound effect on Ireland resulting in British and Protestant rule for over 200 years.
After this defeat of the Irish Jacobites, some 14,000 Irish soldiers agreed to exile to France under the Treaty of Limerick in 1691. This was known as the ‘Flight of the Wild Geese'- these Irish soldiers subsequently sought service as mercenaries throughout Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Napoleon even had Irish soldiers in his army. He established an Irish Legion (Legion Irlandaise ) which was created to prepare for an invasion of Ireland. Napoleon hoped that the Legion Irlandaise would be viewed as an army of liberation , would require minimum French troops & would tie up English troops. However, his dream died when Lord Nelson in 1805 at the Battle of Trafalgar defeated the combined French and Spanish fleet. The French and Spanish lost 22 ships of the line…Nelson lost none. Without command of the Channel an invasion of Ireland was impossible.
Over 300,000 Irish soldiers served in all armies during World War I . Some 63,000 Irish man & women gave their lives in the 2 World Wars. The Mayo War Memorial commemorated the Mayo soldiers that fell in all wars.
Many famous Irish Regiments have earned battle honours throughout the World .
The Connaught Rangers ("the Devil's Own") was raised in 1793 from the men of Connacht by John Thomas de Burgh, 13th Earl of Clanricard. The Rangers served in the Peninsular War (1808-1814), and in the Crimean War (1854-1856). When you are visiting Galway , see the pair of guns now are displayed outside City Hall , which were presented to the City of Galway in recognition of their bravery. It was disbanded in 1922.
The Royal Irish Rangers was formed 1st July 1968 through the amalgamation of the three remaining Irish infantry regiments.
- The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers
- The Royal Ulster Rifles
- The Royal Irish Fusiliers
You can read and see more on Ivor's Forces website which commemorates the Irish Guards.