• CLOSED
  • FREE
  • Chelsea, London
National Army Museum
  • CLOSED
  • FREE
  • Chelsea, London

The Irish Wars: The Irish Against Napoleon (Lecture 3/3)

Detail from 'A view of the Engagement at Vinegar Hill, June 21st 1798'

Detail from 'A view of the Engagement at Vinegar Hill, June 21st 1798'

'The Irish Regiments at War, 1806-15'

Whatever political tensions existed in Ireland in the wake of the 1798 and 1803 Rebellions, Irishmen were never slow to join the British Army in the fight against Napoleon.

It's hard to characterise Georgian regiments as being wholly English, Welsh, Scots or Irish, because each and every one of them recruited across Britain and often close to where they were posted. Thus, an 'English' regiment on the Irish establishment would be full of local recruits and every other regiment had its share of their countrymen.

But, by the turn of the 18th century, most infantry regiments had a county name, while several cavalry regiments were honoured with an Irish title. And it was these units which were always to be found in the thick of the fighting.

The 87th (Prince of Wales's Irish) epitomised the Irishman at war. In 1807, they took the Montevideo Flag while fighting the Spanish in South America. In 1811, at Barossa in Southern Spain, Ensign Keogh and Serjeant Masterson captured one of the few French eagles - from the 8th Regiment - ever to be taken, while at Vitoria in 1813, Bugler Shannon relieved Marshal Jourdan of his baton!

These are the achievements of only one regiment, though. Through the great sieges of Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz, the 88th (Connaught Rangers) fought and bled. At Salamanca, the famous Irish horsemen of the 5th Dragoon Guards and the 12th Dragoons broke the centre of the French line, while the Dublin-raised 89th Foot saw desperate fighting in America in the War of 1812.

Another regiment raised in Dublin, the 83rd, initially had no territorial title, but its men were ironically known as Fitch's Grenadiers due to their lack of stature. But, 2nd Battalion took on an Irish life of its own when it was separated from the 83rd to become the 134th (Loyal Limerick) Regiment.

Patrick Mercer OBE will take us through more Irish triumphs than there's room to write about. He has one last twist in this great story, though. If you want to find out about the Irishmen fighting for rather than against Napoleon, come to the lecture!

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