Ulster Glider Marksman

80 Years Ago: 29 August 1942. A sniper with British glider troops. He was with the 1st Battalion, The Ulster Rifles, 1st Airborne Division.

(By War Office official photographer LT Spender. Imperial War Museum photo H23360)

The Irish unnamed marksman is aiming one of the very first No. 4 MK.I (T) sniper rifles made and issued. This one was made from an early 1930s Trials No. 4 MK. I made and converted by the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield. Note the extra sling swivel on the upper band, the “wasp-waist” early version of the Mark I foresight protector, and the magazine cut-off. The scope will be a No. 32 MK. I.

World War II British No. 4 MKI (T) Enfield Sniper Rifle with Matching Scope, via RIAC

As for the unit, The Ulster Rifles was formed during the 1881 reforms originally as two infantry regiments (83rd and 86th Regiments of Foot) which fought in South Africa, India, and in France during the Great War.

An interwar post-Free State recruiting poster advertised “free clothes on joining. Free food and lodging. Free medical attention. Games and sports of every kind” along with images of boxing and sitting around a canteen.”

Recruiting poster printed by Gale and Polden Limited, 1922 (c) for the Royal Ulster Rifles. This regiment was formed in 1881 as the Royal Irish Rifles by merging two Irish line infantry regiments, the 83rd and 86th Regiments of Foot, but Irish independence in 1922 led to two changes. ‘Irish’ was changed into ‘Ulster’ and it lost one of its recruiting counties, Louth, which became part of the Free State. Its other two counties, Antrim and Down, were in Northern Ireland and so the regiment survived Irish independence. NAM. 1983-11-138-1

When WWII hit, the 1st Battalion was recalled from the North West Frontier of India in 1939 and retrained for landings by glider. It went on to fight in that role in Tunisia in 1942, Sicily in 1943, Normandy in June 1944, and the Rhine crossings in 1945.

The regiment continued in British Army service until 1968, when it was amalgamated with the two other Northern Irish (Ulster) infantry regiments, The Royal Irish Fusiliers (Princess Victoria’s) and The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, to form The Royal Irish Rangers (27th (Inniskilling), 83rd and 87th).

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