Tag Archives: Irish Guards

‘For the Queen and old Ireland’, 1900

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

For your consideration, courtesy of the National Army Museum, a photogravure after Frank T Copnall (1890-1942), 1900. Published as a supplement to ‘The Spear‘, 1900, of a tough-as-nails Irish soldier in the Queen’s Army during the campaigns against the Boer:

NAM. 1973-12-55-1

As noted by the NAM:

With the exception of the 4th (Royal Irish) Dragoon Guards, which was stationed in India between 1894 and 1906, all the Irish regiments of the Regular Army served in South Africa during the Boer War (1899-1902). In appreciation of the services rendered by Irish regiments in the defence of Ladysmith, Queen Victoria authorized the wearing of the shamrock by all Irish regiments on 17 March 1900 and on St Patrick’s Day in all succeeding years.

Even after the great separation in 1922 and the disbanding of six regular Irish regiments in the British Army, today, the force still has numerous units with a Celtic identity including the Royal Irish Regiment (R IRISH) amalgamating the 27th Inniskilling, 83rd, 87th, and The Ulster Defence Regiment; the newly reformed The Scottish and North Irish Yeomanry (SNIY), “A” (Liverpool Irish) Troop within 208 (3rd West Lancashire) Battery, 103 Regiment; and, of course, the “Micks” of the Irish Guards.

Besides heavy frontline service in both World Wars, the Irish Guards have been best known for…well, guarding (Photos: MOD Crown Copyright)

And with that, how about a great cover of As I Roved Out, an Irish take on the classic tale of the Trooper and the Maid.

The hidden Irish battle flags

Following the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922, the six British infantry regiments that recruited there were disbanded, and on 12 June– 100 years ago today– their Colours were laid up at St George’s Hall in Windsor Castle, to be kept forever in the care of the King and his descendants.

These included the colors of the:

-The Royal Irish Regiment.
-The Connaught Rangers.
-The Prince of Wales Leinster Regiment.
-The Royal Munster Fusiliers.
-The Royal Dublin Fusiliers.
-The South Irish Horse.

These regiments had been bled white during the Great War just a few years prior. “Estimates of how many Irish men fought in the First World War vary, but it is now generally accepted that around 200,000 soldiers from the island of Ireland served over the course of the war,” notes the IWM. This was up from the 30,000 in service with The Old Contemptibles in 1914. “Historians today tend to use a figure of between 27,000 and 35,000 men killed” when it comes to the numbers of Irishmen left on Great War battlefields.

The “Blue Caps/Old Toughs” of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, for instance, dated back to the old 102nd and 103rd Foot of 1644 and had over four dozen battle honors on their flag starting with the Battle of Plassey, making them one of the most decorated units in the British Army.

Royal Dublin Fusiliers June 12th 1922

According to The Times the King inspected the representatives of the regiments and then addressed them as such:

We are here today in circumstances which cannot fail to strike a note of sadness in our hearts. No regiment parts with their Colours without feelings of sorrow. A knight in days gone by bore on his shield his coat-of-arms, tokens of valour and worth. Only to death did he surrender them. Your Colours are the records of valorous deeds in war and of the glorious traditions thereby created. You are called upon to part with them today for reasons beyond your control and resistance. By you and your predecessors these Colours have been reverenced and guarded as a sacred trust – which trust you now confide in me.

As your King I am proud to accept this trust. But I fully realise with what grief you relinquish these dearly-prized emblems; and I pledge my word that within these ancient and historic walls your Colours will be treasured, honoured, and protected as hallowed memorials of the glorious deeds of brave and loyal regiments.

The Queen’s and Regimental Colours of each Battalion were paraded through Windsor and handed to the King for safekeeping after a service at Windsor Castle.

Marching the flags to exile…

Today, the British Army still has the famous “Micks” of the Irish Guards based in London and the Belfast-based Royal Irish Regiment, formed from Northern Ireland, but the old “Southern Irish” flags have largely been kept away for the past 100 years.

Quis Separabit

The Irish Guards received a number of pieces of silver from each regiment upon disbandment, which are kept in the Officers and Sergeants Messes.

Livgarde and Livgardet in Reception

We’ve talked about the Swedish Livgardet and Danish Kongelige Livgarde a few different times over the years, as, well, they deserve it. Besides being historic frontline combat units with a long history, and their current dual-hatting as royal guards on public duties while training to fight if things go sideways, they just look great doing it.

Case in point, the Swedish Livgardet late last month fell in for a state reception for King Felipe VI of Spain, complete with their 6.5mm Carl Gustav-made Mausers and bearskin grenadiers helmets.

Likewise, the Danish Livgarde, complete with horse soldiers of the Gardehusarregiment, assembled for a state reception for new ambassadors to Copenhagen. Always nice to see the traditional hussar pelisse hanging over the shoulder of braided dolmans. Of note, the foot guards are in their scarlet gala tunics and bearskins rather than the more commonly seen black tunics. The red tunics are only for special occasions such as royal birthdays.

In other, related news, the British Army’s five regiments (actually just single battalions) of foot guards will continue to use bearskin grenadiers’ hats after testing found a synthetic replacement, proposed by animal rights wackos at PETA and urged on by Pam Anderson of all people, “didn’t meet the standards required.”

1st Battalion Irish Guards for a special St Patrick’s Day Parade today at their Barracks in Hounslow, 3.16.2017. MOD photo by Sgt. Rupert Frere.

Some 110 replacement ceremonial caps were purchased by the MOD in 2020 at a cost of £145,000, with the fur coming from Canada’s black bear cull surplus– in other words, pelts that would have been harvested regardless of the Guards. 

Some 14 nations still have bearskin caps in use for military dress uniforms, a practice picked up in most respects from Napoleon’s Old Guard. 

Grenadiers of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard, by Hippolyte Bellangé, 1843

Happy 120th to “The Micks”

Smart Irishmen Wanted for HM Irish Regiment of Foot Guards Coloured chromolithograph recruiting poster after Black. Published by HM’s Stationery Office, 1927.

The Irish Guards regiment of the Britsh Army was formed on 1 April 1900 by order of Queen Victoria, to honor the Irish war dead in the war with the Boers. To this day, “The Micks” remain the “young” regiment of the Guards and their 1st Battalion is based in London at the Cavalry Barracks, Hounslow.

Today, they are 120 years old.

One of their fallen Great War officers, 18-year-old John Kipling, late of Wellington College, led his fresh platoon of the Irish Guard’s 2nd battalion “over the top” at the Battle of Loos in 1915 and was never seen alive again. The truth was, young Mr. Kipling should probably have never been there, having previously failed his admission to the Royal Navy due to poor eyesight. However, his father, Rudyard Kipling, pulled some strings and arranged to find a place in the Guards for his only and most beloved son.

John’s loss would reportedly crush the renowned author and poet.

With that,

The Irish Guards – by Rudyard Kipling (1918)

We’re not so old in the Army List,
But we’re not so young at our trade,
For we had the honor at Fontenoy
Of meeting the Guards’ Brigade.
‘Twas Lally, Dillon, Bulkeley, Clare,
And Lee that led us then,
And after a hundred and seventy years
We’re fighting for France again!
Old Days! The wild geese are flighting,
Head to the storm as they faced it before!
For where there are Irish there’s bound to be fighting,
And when there’s no fighting, it’s Ireland no more!
Ireland no more!

The fashion’s all for khaki now,
But once through France, we went
Full-dressed in scarlet Army cloth,
The English-left at Ghent.
They’re fighting on our side to-day
But, before they changed their clothes,
The half of Europe knew our fame,
As all of Ireland knows!
Old Days! The wild geese are flying,
Head to the storm as they faced it before!
For where there are Irish there’s memory undying,
And when we forget, it is Ireland no more!
Ireland no more!

From Barry Wood to Gouzeaucourt,
From Boyne to Pilkem Ridge,
The ancient days come back no more
Than water under the bridge.
But the bridge it stands and the water runs
As red as yesterday,
And the Irish move to the sound of the guns
Like salmon to the sea.
Old Days! The wild geese are ranging,
Head to the storm as they faced it before!
For where there are Irish their hearts are unchanging,
And when they are changed, it is Ireland no more!
Ireland no more!

We’re not so old in the Army List,
But we’re not so new in the ring,
For we carried our packs with Marshal Saxe
When Louis was our King.
But Douglas Haig’s our Marshal now
And we’re King George’s men,
And after one hundred and seventy years
We’re fighting for France again!
Ah, France! And did we stand by you,
When life was made splendid with gifts and rewards?
Ah, France! And will we deny you
In the hour of your agony, Mother of Swords?
Old Days! The wild geese are flying,
Head to the storm as they faced it before!
For where there are Irish there’s loving and fighting
And when we stop either, it’s Ireland no more!
Ireland no more!

Vale, Grand Duke Jean

Today, let us celebrate a modern warrior king, or grand duke, as it was.

Related to King Louis XIV through his father and the famed Dutch-German House of Nassau through his mother, Jean Benoît Guillaume Robert Antoine Louis Marie Adolphe Marc d’Aviano was born at Berg Castle in Luxembourg on 5 January 1921 and was the eldest son of Grand Duchess Charlotte, who had assumed the duchy’s throne the previous year immediately after the country was liberated from the Kaiser’s forces by the Allies.

Jean was sent to Ampleforth College in England at age 13, where he served in the school’s officer’s training corps which was commanded by a Great War-era Grenadier Guards officer. When he returned home from abroad in 1938 at the age of 17, Jean was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Corps des Gendarmes et Volontaires— the country’s mixed two-company police and volunteer corps.

Luxembourg Prince Jean was promoted to the rank of 1st Lieutenant of the Volunteers’ Company

(Photos: Collection MNHM /Cour Grand Ducale MNHM – Musée National d’Histoire Militaire Luxumbourg)

On 10 May 1940, three German panzer divisions swept through the Duchy and by the end of the day the Luxembourgish forces had laid down their arms. The royal family fled to England and later the U.S. to set up a government in exile. This “Free Luxembourg” government later raised a 70-man force overseas who formed a four-gun artillery battery attached to the Free Belgian Brigade.

As for Jean, he fell back on his previous experience in British officer training and, after a stint at Sandhurst, joined the 3rd battalion, Irish Guards, as a lieutenant in 1943.

He landed at Normandy at Arromanches five days after D-Day and went on to serve as a liaison officer with the rank of captain in the 32nd Brigade, fighting in the Battle of Caen– which was no pushover-– and in the liberation of Brussels.

He reentered Luxembourg in September 1944 but kept on trucking with the British Army through Arnheim and the fight into Germany itself, only retiring from active British service in 1947. He would later serve as the Irish Guard’s titular Colonel from 1984 through 2000.

When he became Grand Duke in 1964, he became head of the country’s military, which by 1967 was expanded to a full brigade in size under NATO. Having been decidedly beefed up after its experiences in 1914 and 1940, the Duchy moved to conscription to swell the ranks.

Jean retained his rank of general until he left the throne, retiring in favor of his son, Henri, in 2000 at age 79, having first put on a uniform more than six decades prior.

Grand Duke Jean died 23 April, aged 98.

His mortal remains will be exhibited at the Grand-Ducal Palace of Luxembourg with the public eager to pay a last tribute to his royal highness is invited:

Thursday, May 2, from 10.00 to 12.00 and from 14.00 to 19.00.
Friday, May 3 from 10.00 to 12.00 and from 14.00 to 16.00.

The Micks get muscular

Formed on 1 April 1900 by order of Queen Victoria to commemorate the Irishmen who fought in the Second Boer War, the Irish Guards, commonly known as “The Micks,” have been a facet of the Guards for going on 119 years.

Besides heavy frontline service in both World Wars, the Irish Guards have been best-known for…well, guarding (Photos: MOD Crown Copyright)

This month they came off of their normal peacetime gig– that of the largely ceremonial public order duty in their traditional bearskins– and are transitioning to an operational unit, ready for overseas service with the British Army’s 11 Brigade.

On 30 January they paraded with their regimental Drums and Pipes off Buckingham Forecourt for the final time for the next few years.

The Irish Guards return to Wellington Barracks, having come off Queen’s Guard Duty 2019. Note the winter grey greatcoats

The Irish Guards and their Colours after their final Queen’s Guard Duty for some time.

The Irish Guards on the steps of Wellington Barracks after their Guard Duty came to an end last month.

Currently spread all over the UK and overseas in small contingents undergoing workups, the Micks will remain nominally in London for at least the rest of the year before they are marked ready to deploy and then…who knows.

Hanging up their redcoats and bearskins, they are now transitioning to Foxhound armored fighting vehicles. The 1st Battalion Irish Guards is currently composed of three rifle companies, No.1, No.2, and No.4 Companies, along with Headquarters Company, and Support Company the latter of which has Recon, Anti-Tank, Sniper and Artillery Platoons.

Some of the Irish are on Pirbright ranges brushing up on small arms, others are in the Stanford Training Area doing small unit tactics.

The Reconnaissance Platoon emerges from the early morning mist in Northumberland on their 8-mile fitness test.

Irish Guards in the dreary Salisbury Plain Training Area Feb 2019

Irish Guards at the Ash Ranges with LMT’s DMR, dubbed the L129A1 Sharpshooter Rifle, in British service. Feb 2019. Note they still have the Guards flash on their sleeve

A platoon is in Uganda assisting the Ugandan Peoples Defence Force in training, and still, others are creeping along the sewers and underground tunnels of the UK preparing for city fighting.

No. 2 Company Irish Guards carrying out bayonet fighting in the sewage system under Eastmere Village Feb 2019

This includes exercises in the Williamson Tunnels in Liverpool – the first time troops have been in the tunnels since the 1950s.

While I am sure some are happy to get away from the daily interaction with tourists from around the globe, hopefully, they will not get a chance to add more honors to their colors.