IRISH GREAT WAR SOCIETY

Last Update - 19/05/2016 Photos

                  The Royal Dublin Fusiliers

The Royal Dublin Fusiliers of the Great War was formed in 1881 by the amalgamation of the 102nd Regiment of Foot/The Royal Madras Fusiliers and the 103rd Regiment of Foot/The Royal Bombay Fusilers (known as the 'Old Toughs').   The 102nd becoming the 1st Battalion and the 103rd, the 2nd Battalion.

 

The 102nd Regiment of Foot.

In 1639, the Honourable East India Company established its first fortress on the Indian sub-continent at the coastal town of Madras to protect its growing interests there.   It was named Fort St. George as its construction was completed on St. George’s Day and garrisoned with fifty men.   The establishment increased to around 500 men, mainly Irishmen, by 1748 and was given the name, the (Madras) European Regiment.   The regiment claimed to have taken battle to native forces and the French on more than 70 occasions before becoming a three battalion regiment in 1760.   A fourth battalion was added in 1774.    The (Madras) European Regiment was also involved in a major engagement at Goojerat in 1780.    In 1791 the Regiment received its Royal Tiger badge for valiantly protecting the East India Company’s interests and in 1830 the Honourable East India Company formally added ‘Madras’ to the Regiment’s title to become the Madras European Regiment.  Nine years later it became the 1st Madras European Regiment.   By 1841 with other engagements fought and won, the motto ' Spectamur Agendo ' (We are judged by our deeds) was granted and two years later the regiment was renamed to the 1st Madras Fusiliers.  

The 1st Madras Fusiliers were in India just after the Mutiny broke out at Delhi and Meerut, and took part in the engagements at Benares and Allahabad in May / June 1857, also in September in the desperate fighting for the relief of Lucknow.  It was during this campaign and the bitter fighting that ensued that the Regiment earned its famous nickname,  ' Neill's Blue Caps '.   This related to the rebel leader Nana Sahib’s command to his men, that they should ' kill all the men in blue caps and dirty shirts '; a compliment to the Madras and Bengal (later the Royal Munster Fusiliers), Fusiliers who’s fighting reputations were renowned and feared throughout India.   The gallant Colonel Neill of the Fusiliers was killed at Lucknow.   He not only left his name to the Regiment, but was also a historian who recorded the complex history of the corps.   It was during the Indian Mutiny that four members of the Regiment were awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry of which, three of the recipients were Irish; they were Sergeant Patrick Mahoney from Waterford, Kilkenny born Private John Ryan and Private Thomas Duffy of Athlone, Co. Westmeath.  The fourth was Londoner, Private John Smith.

In 1860-1861 the Crown took over the command of all East India Company regiments and the Madras Fusiliers was ‘Listed’ as the 102nd Regiment of Foot (The Royal Madras Fusiliers).  Of the four regiments that held the 102nd number on the army list before the Royal Madras Fusiliers only one had previously been an Irish regiment and it, the 102nd (Irish) Regiment of Foot, had existed for just one year in 1793/1794.   The first regiment to be allocation the 102nd position was The Queen’s Royal Volunteers in 1760, around midway during the Seven Years War with France, Austria, Sweden, Saxony, Russia and Spain on the American continent.  King George II and England’s allies were Prussia and Hanover.    The war ended in 1763 under the Treaty of Paris with a new King on the English throne, George III.  The 102nd was duly disbanded. 

The 102nd was raised for a second time in 1781 and in Ireland but did not bear an Irish name; it was disbanded in 1785.   In 1793, Colonel-Commandant Eyre Power Trench raised his Trench’s Regiment of Foot in Ireland and a year later was to enter the Army List as the102nd Regiment of Foot (Trench’s Irish Rangers).  In 1795 the regiment was posted to Guernsey where it was disbanded and the men were transferred to the 3rd Foot at Southampton.

In 1789, the New South Wales Corps was formed in England as a permanent regiment to relieve the Royal Marines who had accompanied the First Fleet to Australia.    A year later the new Corps accompanied the Second Fleet to the ‘Antipodes’ where it earned the nickname ‘The Rum Corps’ as it was used to enforce prohibition on the illegal Rum trade, which was rife in the continent.

On 26th January 1866 the regiment was presented with new colours whilst stationed at Cannanoren by Mrs de Saumarez (great aunt of General Gordon of Khartoum).  Four years later the regiment was transported to England for the first time in 1870.   It remained at home for six years being stationed at Dover, Parkhurst and Portland before embarking again for overseas in April 1876.   The regiment spent two years in Gibraltar followed by a tour in Ceylon where it remained until returning back to England and then Ireland in 1887.  It was whilst in Ceylon the regiment was re-designated as the 1st Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers on 1st July 1881 as a result of the Childer’s reforms (previously discussed elsewhere in this section).

The 102nd Regiment of Foot/ Royal Madras Fusiliers took part in the following engagements on the Indian sub-continent;

Arcot, Plassey, Condore, Wandiwash, Pondicherry, Nundy Droog, Ambovna, Ternate, Banda, Maheidpoor, Ava, Pegu and Lucknow

 

The 103rd Regiment of Foot (The Old Toughs)

The regiment was originally raised in England during 1662 as independent companies of European soldiers to garrison Bombay, which had been newly ceded to the English crown as part of Princess Catherine of Braganza’s (Portugal) dowry when she married King Charles II of England.   They were dispatched as the Bombay Regiment to protect the interests of the Honourable East India Company when the latter leased Bombay from the Crown in 1668.  

In 1839 the regiment was permanently transferred to the establishment of HEIC when it formed its second European regiment and was re-named as the 1st Bombay (European) Regiment.   

In 1844 the regiment was again renamed the 1st Bombay (European) Fusiliers to bring it into line with its other sub-continental regiment, the 1st Madras (European) Fusiliers, which had been renamed the year before.

As with the other "European" regiments of the HEIC they were placed under the command of the Crown in 1858, and formally moved into the British Army in 1862 and entered the ‘List’  as the 103rd Regiment of Foot (The Royal Bombay Fusiliers) .

 

Of the Regiments of the Line, the first 103rd Regiment of Foot entered the establishment in 1760 as the Volunteer Hunters amid the Seven Years War against France and her allies, and was disbanded three years later in 1763 at the cessation of hostilities.   It was raised again in 1781 as the King’s Irish Infantry and again disbanded three years later in 1784.

The third raising of the 103rd Regiment of Foot took place in 1794 as the Loyal Bristol Regiment and disbanded the following year.

In 1806, a unit was raised in Ireland and named the 9th Garrison Battalion.  In 1808, it entered the army list as the 103rd Regiment of Foot.  It had a relatively long period of service before being disbanded in 1817.   The 103rd Regiment of the Line then remained vacant until the Royal Bombay Fusiliers took the list position in 1862.  

In 1881, the 103rd/Royal Bombay Fusiliers was in England when it became the 2nd Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers as part of the Childers Reforms, thus joining its Indian sub-continent partner, the 102nd Regiment of Foot (Royal Madras Fusiliers), to form the 1st & 2nd Battalions of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers.

The Royal Dublin Fusiliers was one of five infantry regiments given Irish territorial titles and recruited from the Counties of Dublin, Kildare, Wicklow and Carlow with its garrison depot being at Naas, Co. Kildare.

The (new) Irish regiments were administered as a separate command within the United Kingdom with the Command Headquarters located at Parkgate (Phoenix Park) Dublin, but directly under the War Office in London

 

The Boer War

The Boers declared war on 12 October 1899 and invaded Natal and the Cape Colony.   On the 20 October the 2nd Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers took part in the first major battle of the war at Talana Hill when the Boers fired a few artillery shells into the town of Dundee from the hill.   The Battalion charged the hill and removed the enemy after some fierce fighting.   However, the British withdrew from Dundee to the garrison town of Ladysmith shortly after, only to be followed by the Boer army.  On the 29th /30th October the Dublin Fusiliers were involved in the fighting about Ladysmith at Pepworth Hill and Lombard’s Kop.   They actively took part in the efforts to lift the Siege of Ladysmith, which lasted from 30 October 1899 to 28 February 1900.  

On the 15 November 1899 a detachment of Dubs and Durban Light Infantry were monitoring Boer movements from an armoured train operating out of Estcourt when they were ambushed on the return journey with a section of the train was de-railed in the chaos. Among the passengers was Winston Churchill, then a war correspondent accompanying the detachment, who helped load the train engine with wounded before it made an escape attempt, pushing through the de-railed section that blocked its path and making it through safely. The remaining troops put up a stout defence until they were eventually compelled to surrender, including Churchill who had returned to the remaining defenders. Churchill later made a successful escape attempt from his prison in Pretoria. He wrote glowingly of the gallantry displayed by the men of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and the other troops that were present during the ambush. The Dubs lost three men during the ambush.

On the 15 December the 2nd Dublins took part in the Battle of Colenso. The Dublins were part of the 5th (Irish) Brigade, which crossed the wrong part of the Tugela River and suffered heavy casualties in the process.  The battle was a defeat for the British forces and became part of a notorious period for the British in the war, known as "Black Week". The defeat, however, did not discourage further attempts being made. The Dublins did not participate in any more attempts until January 1900 when they took part in the Tugela campaign, collectively known as the Battle of the Tugela Heights.   February saw them take part in heavy fighting before, on 27 February, they supported the Royal Irish Fusiliers in their final charge on Pieters Hill, suffering heavy casualties though taking the position. This victory led to the siege of Ladysmith being lifted the following day by cavalry, with the main force of infantry arriving on 3 March.

On the 10 March 1900 Queen Victoria decreed that a sprig of shamrock be adorned on the head-dress of Irish units on St Patrick's Day to commemorate their actions in South Africa. This tradition remains in existence today within Irish units of the British army.

In May, the British began their advance towards the Boer republic of Transvaal and early in April the Dubs took part in the attack at Laing's Nek in the attempt to gain entry into the Transvaal, which was successful and was followed by the capture of the Boer capital Pretoria on the 5 June. The war, however, did not end and the Boers began a guerrilla campaign. During this phase of the war many blockhouses were built to restrict the movement of the Boer guerrillas and the Dublin Fusiliers shared the duties of garrisoning them.  This phase of the war also saw the use of mounted infantry companies and among them was the Dublin Fusiliers Mounted Infantry unit, which hunted down small groups of Boers, including the hunt for the prominent Boer officer, Christian De Wet.

The conflict ended when the last of the Boers surrendered in May 1902 followed by the Treaty of Vereeniging.  During the war, volunteers from the three militia battalions of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers had been used to provide reinforcements for the two regular battalions fighting in South Africa.   The Battalion left South Africa three months before the cessation of hostilities in January 1902 and had suffered 700 casualties (killed, wounded & missing) during the conflict, many of whom had died from disease, indeed the vast majority of British Army casualties were from disease.

 

First World War

At the start of the First World War the Regiment had an establishment of five battalions and raised a further 6 battalions during the war, serving on the Western Front, Gallipoli, Middle East and Salonika.  The Dublin Fusiliers received 3 Victoria Crosses, 48 Battle Honours and 5 Theatre Honours. The Regiment lost just over 4,700 killed and many thousands wounded during the war.

1st Battalion

1914

When war was declared the 1st Battalion was garrisoned at Fort St. George in Madras, India.

December – The Battalion returned to the UK and landed at Plymouth and moved into billets at Torquay.

1915

January - moved to Nuneaton and came under the orders of the 86th Brigade/29th Division.

March/April - Sailed from Avonmouth for the Dardanelles via Alexandria and Mudros, where the battalion halted on 9 April.   Sailed to the Gallipoli peninsular on the SS River Clyde and landed on the 25 April at the heavily defended Cape Helles where it disembarked under heavy Turkish fire suffering heavy casualties in doing so. The battalion sustained 600 casualties, including most of the Battalion’s officers, during the first two days of action.  By the end of April, both the 1/Dublins and the 1/Munsters had sustained such high losses that they could only muster enough men to form a composite battalion, which became known as the ‘Dubsters.   Both battalions regained their identity the following month replacements arrived.

Engagements

Battle of Cape Helles (Beachhead)

Capture of Sedd-el-Bahr

Failed attacks on Krithia

 

1916  Withdrawal to Egypt

January - evacuated to Egypt

March - sailed from Port Said to Marseille

July – Battle of the Somme

Engagements

The Battle of Albert 

The Battle of Le Transloy

 

1917

October - transferred to 48th Brigade/16th (Irish) Division in Ypres Sector and the Ypres Salient

 

1918

February - Absorbed 200 men from disbanded 8/9th Battalion

March – Suffered heavy losses during the German Offensive ‘ Operation Michael’.

April - Amalgamated with 2nd Battalion due to heavy losses and subsequently rejoined 86th Brigade/29th Division.

August - Breakout and advance into Flanders

September – 5th Battle of Ypres

December – Crossed the Belgium/German border at Malmedy and entered Cologne as part of the army of occupation.

Engagements

Retreat from Operation Michael

Outtersteene Ridge

Capture of Ploegsteert & Hill 63

1919 Ponteland, Northumberland

1920 Bordon, Hampshire.

1922 Battalion disbanded

 

2nd Battalion

1914 

When war was declared the 2nd Battalion was garrisoned in Gravesend, under the command of 10th Brigade/4th Division.

August - landed at Boulogne

Engagements

The Battle of Le Cateau

The Battle of the Marne

The Battle of the Aisne

The Battle of Messines

1915
The Second Battle of Ypres

May – The Battalion was devastated by a gas attack as they had no protection against gas.

Engagements

Battle of Saint Julien

Actions at Frezenburg and Bellewaarde

 

1916

July – Battle of the Somme

Engagements

The Battle of Albert 

The Battle of Le Transloy

 

1917

November – Transferred to 48th Brigade in 16th (Irish) Division in Ypres Sector and the Ypres Salient

 

1918

February - absorbed 200 men from disbanded 8/9th Battalion

March – Suffered heavy losses during the German Offensive ‘ Operation Michael’.

April - Amalgamated with 1st Bn due to heavy losses and reduced to cadre strength

June - cadre transferred to 94th Brigade/31st Division

       Reconstituted by absorbing troops from the 7th Battalion then

       transferred as army troops to Lines of Communication.

July - transferred to 149th Brigade /50th (Northumbrian) Division

September/November – Breakout and pursuit

November – left the 149th Brigade /50th (Northumbrian) Division

Engagements

Retreat from Operation Michael

Battle of St. Quentin Canal; 29 Sep-2 Oct, including the passage at Bellenglise and the capture of the Bellicourt tunnel defences.

Battle of Beaurevoir. 3-5 Oct.

Battle of Cambrai. 8-9 Oct, including the capture of Villers Outreaux and Cambrai.

The pursuit to the Selle. 9-12 Oct.

Battle of the Selle. 17-25 Oct.

Battle of the Sambre. 4 Nov, including the passage of the Sambre-Oise canal and the capture of Le Quesnoy.

 

1919  Joined the army of occupation in Constantinople, Turkey.

1920   Moved to Multan, India

1922   Recalled to UK and disbanded.

 

3rd (Reserve) Battalion

1914 When war was declared the 3nd (Reserve) Battalion was garrisoned at Naas as a depot/training unit.

August – Battalion moved on mobilisation to Queenstown (Cobh)

 

1917 

November - Moved to Pembroke

December – Gateshead

 

1918

May – Transferred to the Humber Garrison at Grimsby and absorbed 4th, 5th & 11th Battalions

1922  Disbanded

 

4th (Extra Reserve) Battalion

1914 When war was declared the 4th (Extra Reserve) Battalion was garrisoned at Richmond Barracks Templemore, Dublin as a depot/training unit. Richmond Barracks was renamed McCan Barracks by the Irish Free State army and is now the Garda Síochána College.

August - Battalion moved on mobilisation to Queenstown (Cobh)

October – Moved to Sittingbourne, England

 

1915
December – Returned to Templemore, Dublin.

 

1916

April - Easter Rising, Dublin

Engagements

Re-capture of the railway line from Broadstone Railway Station to Cabra Bridge

 

1917

November – Moved to Brocklesby, England

 

1918

May – Absorbed by 3rd Battalion at the Humber Garrison, Grimsby.

1922   Disbanded

 

 

5th (Extra Reserve) Battalion

1914 

When war was declared the 5th (Extra Reserve) Battalion was garrisoned at

the Royal Barracks, Dublin (Later Collins Barracks) as a depot/training unit.

 

August - Battalion moved to Queenstown (Cobh) on mobilisation.

October – Moved to Sittingbourne, England

 

1915

September - returned to and the Curragh.

 

1916

April – Easter Rising, Dublin losing six men killed.

Engagements

Storming of City Hall & the Daily Express offices

 

1917

August - Moved to Longford

November- Moved to Glencorse

 

1918

May – Absorbed by 3rd Battalion at the Humber Garrison, Grimsby.

1922  Disbanded

 

6th (Service) Battalion

1914

Formed at Naas Barracks in August as part of K1 and attached to 30th Brigade/10th (Irish) Division and moved to the Curragh.

 

1915

May - Moved to Basingstoke.

July -  Embarked at Devonport and sailed to Gallipoli via Mytilene.

August - Landed at Suvla Bay

October -  moved via Mudros to Salonika.

September - moved to Egypt for service in Palestine.

Engagements

Battle for Chocolate Hill (Gallipoli)

Battle for Scimitar Hill(Gallipoli)

Battle of Kosturino (Selonika)

Capture of Yenikoi (Selonika)

Third Battle of Gaza (Palestine)

Capture of Jerusalem (Palestine)

 

1918

May - left the 10th (Irish) Division.

July - sailed from Alexandria, arriving at Taranto five days later before moving by train to France.   Joined the 197th Brigade/66th (2nd East Lancashire) Division.

August - Transferred to 198th Brigade of the same Division.

September– Disbanded at Abancourt

 

7th (Service) Battalion  (The Dublin Pals)


1914

Formed at Naas Barracks in August as part of K1 and attached to 30th Brigade/10th (Irish) Division and moved to the Curragh.

 

1915

May - Moved to Basingstoke.

July -  Embarked at Devonport and sailed to Gallipoli via Mytilene.

August - Landed at Suvla Bay

October -  moved via Mudros to Salonika.

September - moved to Egypt for service in Palestine.

Engagements

Battle for Chocolate Hill (Gallipoli)

Battle for Scimitar Hill(Gallipoli)

Battle of Kosturino (Selonika)

Capture of Yenikoi (Selonika)

Third Battle of Gaza (Palestine)

Capture of Jerusalem (Palestine)

 

1918

May - left the 10th (Irish) Division.

June – Moved to Marseilles then reduced to a cadre with troops being absorbed into the 2nd Battalion.   Cadre moved to England and disbanded with the remaining troops being absorbed into the 11th Royal Irish Fusiliers.

 

8th (Service) Battalion

1914

September - Formed as part of K2 and attached to 48th Brigade/16th (Irish) Division, moved to Buttevant

 

1915

June – Moved to Ballyhooley

September – Moved to Blackdown, England

December – Landed at Le Havre, France

1916

Moved to the Loos Sector

 

April – Suffered heavy casualties due to gas attack and removed from the line.

Moved to the Somme

Engagements

Battle of Hulluch (Loos)

Capture of Ginchy (Battle of the Somme)

Battle of Ancre (Battle of the Somme)

 

1917

October – Amalgamated with the 9th Battalion to form the 8/9th Battalion.

November – took part in a diversionary attack during the Battle of Cambrai as the 8/9th Battalion.

 

1918

February – The 8/9th Battalion disbanded with troops going to the 1st and 2nd Battalions

 

9th (Service) Battalion

 

1914

September - Formed as part of K2 and attached to 48th Brigade/16th (Irish) Division, moved to Buttevant

 

1915

June – Moved to Ballyhooley

September – Moved to Blackdown, England

December – Landed at Le Havre, France

1916

Moved to the Loos Sector

 

April – Suffered heavy casualties due to gas attack

Engagements

Battle of Hulluch (Loos)

Capture of Ginchy (Battle of the Somme)

Battle of Ancre (Battle of the Somme)

 

1917

October – Disbanded when amalgamated with the 9th Battalion to form the 8/9th Battalion.

November – took part in a diversionary attack during the Battle of Cambrai as the 8/9th Battalion.

 

1918

February – The 8/9th Battalion disbanded with troops going to the 1st and 2nd Battalions

 

10th (Service) Battalion

1915

Formed in Royal Barracks, Dublin and moved to Buttevant.

June – Moved to Ballyhooley

 

1915

August – Moved to Pirbright, England

 

1916

At the Royal Barracks, Dublin

 

April – Easter Rising in Dublin

August – Landed at Le Havre and placed under command of 190th Brigade/63rd (Royal Naval) Division.

November – Final phase of the Battle of the Somme and suffered around 50% casualties.

Engagements

Easter Rising (Dublin; The relief of Dublin Castle & building clearance including clearing the Mendocity Institute

Battle of Ancre

 

1917

June – transferred to 48th Brigade/16th (Irish) Division.

October – absorbed surplus troops from 8/9th Battalion after merging.

 

1918

February – Disbanded with troops going to the 19th Entrenching Battalion at St. Quentin

 

11th (Reserve) Battalion

 

1916

July - Formed in Royal Barracks, Dublin

 

1918

January – Moved to Aldershot.

May – Moved to the Humber Garrison at Grimsby and absorbed by the 3rd Battalion



The Royal Dublin Fusiliers lost 4,777 killed in action during WW1.  It is unknown how many succumed to their wounds in the years that followed.