Irish Brigade

The story of the 38th (Irish) Brigade in the Second World War

Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers – “The Skins”

The antecedent regiments of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers can be traced to 1689, with the formation of Tiffin’s Inniskilling Regiment, which was named after its first Colonel, Zachariah Tiffin.  The Regiment would see service in the Low Countries, where it was present at the siege of Namur in 1695, and during the next half-century it was stationed in the West Indies and Spain, before taking part in the Battles of Falkirk and Culloden. In 1751, the Inniskillings became the “27th Regiment”, but was usually referred to as the “27th Inniskillings”.

During the Seven Years War (1756-63) the Regiment fought against the French in North America and in the West Indies and in 1778, it took part in the War of Independence, after which it found itself involved in numerous expeditions against the French West Indian possessions. In 1796, the 27th Inniskillings won one of its most prized battle honours, “St. Lucia, 1796″, where its Regimental Colour was displayed on the flagstaff of the captured fortress for one hour prior to the hoisting of the Union Flag. Its travels during the next few years included the Low Countries and Egypt where it formed part of the force that fought at the Battle of Alexandria against the French in 1801, while the 2nd Battalion, which had been raised in 1800, formed part of the garrison of that city after its capture.

The 1st Battalion of the 27th fought at the Battle of Maida in Southern Italy in 1806, and together with the 2nd and 3rd Battalions formed part of the Peninsula Army, which fought in Spain and Portugal between 1809 and 1812, gaining battle honours at ‘Badajoz’, ‘Salamanca’, ‘Vittoria’, ‘Pyrenees’, ‘Nivelle’, ‘Orthes’ and ‘Toulouse’. The 27th Inniskillings was the only Irish infantry regiment to fight at the Battle of Waterloo, where it held a position of vital importance in the centre of Wellington’s line against great odds. Between 1837 and 1847, the 27th found itself in South Africa where it was engaged in several of the numerous wars that occurred during those years, and from 1854 and 1868 it served in India.

In 1881, the regiment became the 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and a 2nd Battalion (formerly the 108th Regiment) came into being. At the same time, three Regiments of Irish Militia were named the 3rd, 4th and 5th Battalions. The 2nd Battalion saw service in the great uprisings in the North-West frontier of India during 1897-98, and after the end of that campaign remained in India until January 1902 when it was sent to South Africa to take part in the closing stages of the Boer War. The 1st Battalion had already reached South Africa in November 1899 and was sent to support the lifting of the siege of Ladysmith, and stayed in South Africa until the end of the war in 1902.

At the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, the 1st Battalion was based in India and the 2nd in Dover, the latter going to France with the 4th Division which was amongst those to be heavily engaged at the Battle of Le Cateau. The 1st Battalion was part of the 29th Division which landed at Helles on the Gallipoli peninsula in April 1915, and later served with them on the Western Front. Nine new battalions were raised during the war, all of which took part in the great battles in France and Flanders between 1915 and 1918, while two of them saw service in Gallipoli, Macedonia and Palestine. During the First World War, men of the Royal Inniskillings Fusiliers were awarded eight Victoria Crosses. All the new battalions were disbanded after the war, and although the 2nd Battalion was reprieved, in 1922 it agreed to disband in order to allow the Royal Irish Fusiliers to retain one battalion.

Between 1919 and 1934 the 1st Battalion was stationed at home and then travelled to India, Iraq, Shanghai and Singapore.

In 1939, the 1st Battalion again found itself in India, and the 2nd Battalion, which had been re-formed in 1937, was based at Catterick. The 2nd Battalion was sent to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force and was amongst the troops to be evacuated from Dunkirk in 1940. In 1942 the 1st Battalion was flown to Burma to help stem the Japanese advance and in 1943 took part in the operations in the Arakan peninsula. After re-fitting, the 2nd Battalion left England as part of the 5th Division in 1942 on a journey that was to include Madagascar, India, Iraq, Persia, Syria, Lebanon, and eventually arrived back in Egypt before taking part in the conquest of Sicily. The war formed 6th Battalion joined the 38th (Irish) Brigade, which landed in November 1942 in North Africa and after the defeat of the German Armies there, went on to join in the invasion of Sicily. After the successful completion of this operation, both the 2nd and 6th Battalions landed in Italy and joined in the advance north of Rome. In July 1944, the 6th Battalion was disbanded, with its place in the 38th (Irish) Brigade being taken by the 2nd Battalion, which then fought with the brigade during the final battles of that campaign. When the war ended, the 2nd Battalion found itself in Austria and remained there on garrison duty, until being disbanded in 1947. Click here for a link to the 6 Skins’ war diaries. Click here for a link to 2 Skins’ war diaries, whilst part of the Irish Brigade.

After the war the 1st Battalion returned to India from Burma and, after a stay in Hong Kong, was engaged for many months in Malaya. After a brief spell at home, in 1949 it was sent to the West Indies returning to the United Kingdom in early 1951. In the next year, it was sent to the Suez Canal Zone and then afterwards was moved to Kenya. The 2nd Battalion had been raised again in 1952 and, after doing duty in the Suez Canal Zone and Cyprus, was finally disbanded in 1956. The 1st Battalion returned to England in 1955, then went off to Germany, being stationed in Berlin and Wuppertal, before half of the battalion was sent back in Kenya in 1960 and a detachment sent to Bahrain. In 1961 the battalion flew into Kuwait, before returning to England in 1962 and was stationed at Gravesend. During 1964, the Inniskillings was based in Cyprus where they became part of the United Nations Peace Force before returning to England and then sent back to Berlin in the latter part of 1965 before returning to Worcester in 1967.

In April 1968, the 1st Battalion had its final operational deployment when detachments were sent to Bermuda, before returning again to Worcester where, at the end of June, the Regimental Flag was lowered for the last time. On 1st July 1968, The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, The Royal Ulster Rifles and The Royal Irish Fusiliers became The Royal Irish Rangers. Click here for a link to the Inniskillings Museum web site.



 

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