Monday, 26 October 2015

Development & History of Irish Flags Pt16: Military flags of 20th & 21st Centuries Post1 UK

2nd Bn Connaught Rangers parading colours
prior to disbandment in 1922
Continuing on from Part 8, Part 13 and Part 14 we look at military flags of the modern era. This post will focus on the development of the colours and flags of the Irish regiments of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of the Irish Defence Forces of the Republic of Ireland. The 20th Century was one of the most important and bloody in Irish History, the effects and feelings still very much felt today. Post 1 will look at the Irish regiments of the British Army.

Irish regiments in service of the UK 

Post World War I

Colours of the Service Battalions of the Royal Munster Fusiliers
being handed over for safe keeping.
 the Tower of London, 1923.  
In the immediate aftermath of the Great War Irish regiments were found in the army of occupation in Germany and Silesia. They were found serving in Turkey, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Palestine, Singapore and India. They were deliberately not involved in the conflict in Ireland in the early 1920s. (infact no regular unit of the British Army was, the government forces were all in the structure of the Royal Irish Constabulary). The Home Service Battalions raised for WW1 were disbanded and their colours were laid up.
 However events in Ireland would effect and eventually catch up on them.  The most direct was the Independance of the Irish Free State, which did not include these experienced regiments in their new army which led to the disbandment of many, some with histories stretching back to the 17th century. The regiments that were disbanded were:
  • Royal Irish Regiment
  • Connaught Rangers
  • Princess of Wales Royal Leinster Regiment (Royal Canadians) 
  • Royal Munster Fusiliers 
  • Royal Dublin Fusiliers 
  • South Irish Horse
other regiments like the 4th Royal Irish Dragoons and 5th Royal Irish Lancers were amalgamated into other Cavalry regiments and lost their Irish identity. In all the above cases the regimental colours were laid up. In the case of the disbanded Irish infantry regiments a special parade took place in Windsor Castle on 12 June 1922 where their colours were laid up.
These flags can still be viewed at the castle and were recently visited by the Irish President during his state visit to the United Kingdom (the first ever state visit of an Irish president to the UK).

The King made the following emotional remarks:
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 Royal Irish Regiment


The Royal Irish Regiment of the British Army was formed in 1992, (not to be confused with the Royal Irish Regiment disbanded in 1922) from the amalgamation of the Royal Irish Rangers and the Ulster Defence Regiment. The Royal Irish Rangers was formed by an amalgamation of three historic regiments: the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, Royal Irish Fusiliers and Royal Ulster Rifles (known as the Royal Irish Rifles before 1922) who being a rifle did not carry colours and won't feature in this post. The colours of the Royal Irish Regiment's Antecedent regiments were:

The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers

The oldest of the antecedent regiments tracing its history back to 1688, the colours of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers were unchanged from 1888, (with the exception of more battle honours being embroidered). In 1888 the Union canton of the regimental colour was dropped. For parts of its existence in the 20th Century the "skins" had two battalions, each with a set of colours. The King's Colour was the Union Flag, The centre of the red cross was defaced with two hollow gold circles. In the centre was the battalion number in roman numerals, the space between the two circles bore the name of the regiment "The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers."
The regimental colour was the colour of the facings, which was buff (a sort of yellow colour), where as for some now unknown reason the colour of the second battalion was blue. The canton of the regimental colour of both battalions  bore the battalion number (in roman numerals) the other corners bore the White horse of hanover. The centre of the flag had a red circle with two gold lines creating an inner and outer section. The inner circle bore the regimental bade (Enniskillen castle flying the cross of St George), the outer bore the text "The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers" Around this was the wreath bearing the flowers of the United Kingdom (Tudor rose, thistle and shamrock) tied with red ribbon and topped with the crown. Below was the battle honour of the Egyptian campaign which unlike the others was a badge of the sphinx. The other battle honours were born on scrolls arranged in a wreath.
The last colours to be carried by the Inniskillings were presented by HRH the Duke of Gloucester on 20th February 1962.  The regiment was stationed in kenya assisting in security during the Mau Mau uprising and the presentation took place there. These colours were only carried until 1968 when the regiment was amalgamated into the Royal Irish Rangers, and are currently laid up in St Anne's Cathedral in Belfast.

The Royal Irish Fusiliers (Princess Victoria's) 

 Being a "royal" regimental the colour of the Royal Irish Fusiliers blue, The King's Colour was of course the Union Flag, The design for the King's Colour was standard throughout the line regiments, The only difference being the inscription on the outer circle. However the Royal Irish Fusiliers were slightly different as they had a royal title (Princess Victoria's). So the inscription on the outer circle read "The Royal Irish Fusiliers" and the inner circle read horizontally "Princess Victoria's." The battalion number in cases like this was in the canton. Battle honours were borne on scrolls embroidered on the St George's Cross.
The detail of the regimental colour as was standard bore the regiment's insignia on a red circle in the centre. The regiment's badge on the colours was badge of the prince of Wales. (three ostrich feathers coming out of a medieval crown with the motto "Ich Dien" meaning I Serve) This reflected the connection to Victoria (who was Princess of Wales when the title was given to the regiment).
The text around the badge read "Princess Victoria's Royal Irish Fusiliers." This was surrounded by the standard union wreath ant the Egypt Battle honour below it. Around that was a wreath bearing the other battle honours.  In the canton was an antique crown below which was the battalion number, In the second corner was an eagle, symbolising the french standard which there antecedent regiment (87th Foot) captured during the Napoleonic wars. The third corner had a crowned harp, and the fourth another antique crown.  On the last set of colours this was replaced with state crown. These colours were presented to both battalions of the regiment by the Duke of Gloucester in March 1937, and was recorded by the news cameras and be viewed here. These colours were carried until 1968 when the regiment was amalgamated into the Royal Irish Rangers.
The old colours of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (farthest from camera) and Royal Irish Fusiliers (closest) being handed
over to the regimental depot Royal Irish Rangers prior to being laid up in St Anne's Cathedral in 1968

Royal Irish Rangers (27th (Inniskilling) 83rd &87th)

Queen's Colour of 5th (Volunteer) Battalion, Royal Irish Rangers
The two Irish Line infantry regiments and the Royal Ulster Rifles (who didn't have colours) were amalgamated in 1968 to form the Royal Irish Rangers. This new regiment tool much of the traditions of its three forerunners and combined them into something quite unique in terms of uniform, drill and music, following both the fusilier and rifles traditions. Fortunately for us they did not follow the rifles traditions of not having colours. Each battalion of the Royal Irish Rangers carried colours.
The Queen's colour was of course a Union Flag, It had the familiar circular design in the centre, with "Royal Irish Rangers" embroidered around on the outer circle, and the battalion number in roman numerals in the centre. This was topped by a St Edward's Crown. The 1st and 2nd World War battle honours of the regiments ancestors were embroidered on the st George's Cross.
Regimental Colour of 5th (Volunteer) Battalion, Royal Irish Rangers
The regimental colour was appropriately rifle green (the colour of the regiment's  No 1 dress uniform). It had the same design in the centre but with a silver made of Erin harp occupying the centre panel.  This was surrounded by the wreath of British national flowers, topped with a crown. Interestingly the regiment's motto did not appear below but the mottos of the Inniskilling Fusiliers; Nec Aspera Terrant (By difficulties undaunted), The Royal Ulster Rifles: Quis Separabit (Who shall separate us?) and the Irish Fusiliers: Faugh A Ballagh (old Irish meaning "Clear the Way"). The non World War Battle Honours (both pre 20th Century and Post WW2) were embroidered on this flag on a wreath. The canton had the battalion number in roman numerals. The corners bore badges of the Antecedent regiments, the first had the heraldic image of Enniskillen castle with the word "Inniskilling" above it, for the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. The second had a crowned harp with a bugle horn below it for the Ulster Rifles, and the bottom two both from the Irish Fusiliers were the captured French  Eagle and crown, and a harp and crown.
   
 newly presented Colours are marched past HRH The Duchess of Gloucester 4th July 1972

Around this time many army regiments and corps started to formally adopt flags to be flown from flagpoles in barracks or bases. These were known as camp flags, and served the practical purpose of identifying which unit was stationed in the base rather than the ceremonial role the colours occupied. The camp flag of the Irish Rangers was simply a green flag with the regimental cap badge (a crowned maid of Erin harp with "Royal Irish Rangers" on a scroll below) in the centre;
Royal Irish Rangers camp flag (left) with Duke of Edinburgh's Regiment flag (right)
In 1992 the Royal Irish Rangers amalgamated with the Ulster Defence Regiment to form the Royal Irish Regiment. Some of the colours continued to be used as some of the Territorial Army battalions (Army Reserve) of this new regiment continued to be designated as Royal Irish Rangers and later just "Rangers." But they were eventually laid up in chapels, churches, cathedrals and city halls throughout Northern Ireland.

Ulster Defence Regiment (Conspicuous Gallantry Cross)

UDR Memorial Window Belfast City Hall
The Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) was a unique regiment in the British Army. It was not part of the Line Infantry and Rifles, or any corps. It bears a closer resemblance to the Irish Militia of the 19th Century than a regular army unit for three reasons:
  1. It had a mix of full time and part-time soldiers but the majority were part-time and all lived in their own homes rather than military barracks.
  2. It was structured on a county basis. 
  3. It could only operate within Northern Ireland and couldn't be deployed overseas.
The UDR was formed in 1970 specifically for security work within Northern Ireland. It was the only Irish regiment operationally deployed in the province during the Troubles period, (like the 1920s Irish regiments were deliberately not involved in the conflict). It's purpose was to support the police by manning checkpoints, road blocks and guard important installations and conduct armed patrols, but not riot or public order duties. The UDR was presented with its first and last stand of colours by HM the Queen in 1991 just a year before amalgamation. 
UDR camp flag
At this time the regiment had seven battalions, each responsibly for one county and the 7th battalion covering the capital, Belfast. As the UDR was not a line regiment the form of its colours were not bound by the 1743 regulations, so these flags are particularly interesting. The Queen's Colour was a Union Flag, with the familiar circular design, but in the centre the regiment's badge (a crowned winged maiden harp) was depicted not the battalion number. This was topped with the St Edward's Crown and the battalion number in roman numerals appeared in the canton. 
The regiment chose green for its regimental colour, with the same design in the centre as the Queen's Colour. This was surrounded by the wreath of national plants and topped with the crown. The UDR never having served overseas was not entitled to any battle honours, except the Northern Ireland honour which may or may not have been embroidered on the colours when they were presented. Before disbandment the regiment was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross in recognition of its service in very difficult circumstances, but this did not appear on the colours. The Roman numeral battalion number appeared in the canton, and uniquely for any stand of 20th century UK colours, a coat of arms appeared in the upper fly. This was the old county arms of the relevant county (or the municipal arms of Belfast in the case of the 7th Battalion.  
After 1992, most of the UDR structure was still in place, but operating as "home service" battalions of the Royal Irish Regiment, who may have unofficially used these colours where numerals and shields were the appropriate ones for the appropriate battalion. I have found no evidence to back that claim and if so it wouldn't have been the case before as the home service battalions were soon reduced to three, and the county structure abandoned. These colours are also laid up in the churches, cathedrals and town halls of Northern Ireland.
The camp flag of the UDR was a green flag with a red horizontal bar running through the centre, The cap badge of a crowned harp was placed in the centre. Often a battalion number in roman numerals appeared in the canton, and the company was also identified (for example if it was 'A' Company the the letters "A COY" flanked the harp).

Royal Irish Regiment (27th (Inniskilling) 83rd &87th and Ulster Defence Regiment CGC)

The Royal Irish Regiment was presented its first colours in 1996. The 1st Battalion were presented their colours by HRH the Duke of York. At the time of the formation in 1992 the regiment was the largest in the British Army with eleven battalions; two regular army (1st and 2nd (General Service) battalions), two Territorial Army (4th and 5th (Volunteer) battalions Royal Irish Rangers) and the rest Northern Ireland Resident (Home Service) battalions. In 1993 the regular army battalions reduced to 1 (1st battalion) and the home service battalions reduced to three (2nd, 3rd and 4th battalions). The Territorial Army battalions continued to use the name (and colours)of the Royal Irish Rangers. Here is a clip about the colours presented in 1993:

video
The Home Service battalions were also presented colours. The Queen's Colour bears the battle honours of 1st and 2nd World Wars, and the Regimental Colour bears all non World War battle honours. As seen in the clip the layout of the colours follow the same uniformed pattern as before. They are very similar to those of the Royal Irish Rangers, but without the historic badges in the corners, and the Royal Irish Regimental badge (which also demonstrated in the clip is not worn anywhere on the uniform). In 2006 security in Northern Ireland became the sole responsibility of the police and civilian authorities as the normalisation set in after the troubles period. The Home Service battalions were operationally stood down and the entire regiment and the former UDR was awarded the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross. This was emblazoned on the top corner of the fly on the regimental colour of all battalions. In 2007 the Home Service battalions were disbanded and the Rangers were redesignated as 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Regiment (Army Reserve). Both 1st and 2nd battalions continue to use their colours. 
Regimental colour of 4th (Home Service) Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment laid up in St Macartin's Cathedral, Enniskillen
Note the colour of 4th (County Fermanagh) Battalion, Ulster Defence Regiment beside it  
Queen's colour of 4th (Home Service) Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment laid up in St Macartin's Cathedral, Enniskillen
Note the colour of 4th (County Fermanagh) Battalion, Ulster Defence Regiment beside it  
The camp flag is green with three red, blue, red stripes going horizontally across the centre, and defaced with the regiments badge. The battalion numbers in roman numerals appear in the canton.
flag of the 1st battalion being raised

Irish Guards

Raised in 1900 by direct order of Queen Victoria, wanted to an Irish regiment of Foot Guards as recognition of the deeds of Irish soldiers. The Irish Guards is the fourth regiment of royal guards.
As a Household regiment it not only has lots of flags but its colours are completely different to the line regiments. The household regiments carry a variety of flags and colours:

Company Colours

Unlike line regiments where only the regiment as a whole bears a badge, each company of foot guards has its own badge, approved by the sovereign, in a tradition reminiscent of the 17th Century. These badges are born on small flags (measuring about 55cm x 47cm) that are used to mark the place for each company to stand on parade. What these flags are called differs for each regiment, but in the Irish Guards they are called company colours. In addition to this there are also personal flags for the senior offices, which are used only when the relevant officer is on parade, usually flanking a saluting dias.
When on parade the colour is on a pike held by a non commissioned officer, usually a sergeant or colour sergeant. Only the colours of the company on parade are used.
The first eight company badges were granted by Edward VII shortly after the regiment was formed:
In the First World War the regiment raised a 2nd and 3rd Battalion, these being temporary were not granted company badges. The 2nd battalion was reformed in 1939 and an application for badges made, however it was not granted until 1945. By this time the 2nd battalion was in suspended animation (meaning that although in practice there was only one battalion, the 2nd battalion still technically exists on paper).

Due to altercations and reorganisation further badges were needed and six more badges were granted by the Queen in 1954, making the total number of badges to 22.

Regimental Colours

Like the line infantry a Guards battalion carries two colours a regimental colour and a Queens/King's Colour. The Queen's Colour is a red flag (not a union flag) bearing the royal cypher in the centre of an interpretation of the color of the Illustrious Order of St Patrick, flanked by battle honours, The Kings colour of the 2nd battalion between 1940-47 bore the regiments badge in the centre and had a Union Jack in the canton:

The regimental colour is a Union Flag (the opposite way from the line), with the battalion number in the canton, battle honours on the St George Cross, and a company badge in the centre. The company badges are born in rotation. The first was the badge of No 1 Coy the chyers of King Edward VII and  Queen Victoria, the  current colours bear the red hand of Ulster:
The previous colour bore the crest of Ireland:
Note an extra battle honour has been added since these colours were used. Both flags are used when mounting the Queen's Guard at Buckingham Palace, however the Queen's Colour is only used when the Queen is in residence.
The camp flag of the Guards follow a standard pattern of three horizontal bars, the top and bottom of which is blue and the centre one red, with the regimental badge in the centre. The symbolism of the colours is said to represent "the seas we have crossed, the sky we've fought under and the blood we've shed" but they are in fact the colours of the royal household. The Irish Guards are also known to fly the cross of St Patrick in camp.
When in their full dress uniform the Irish Guards can be identified from the other Guards regiments by a number of subtle differences. The most obvious is the colour and position of the plume in the famous bearskin cap. The Irish Guards wear a 'St Patrick's' Blue plume in the right side. This is to denote they would stand on the right in an old fashion battle line, and blue being the historic colour of Ireland. However if they substitute the bearskin for the forage cap it has a green not blue band around the centre. The badge on the collar is a shamrock, and a St Patrick's star is worn on the shoulder tab. The buttons are arranged into groups of four as they are the fourth regiment in terms of seniority. Pipers wear the standard garments for Irish pipers in the British Army of a solid saffron kilt, cloak and caubeen bonet, but for the Irish Guards the plume and cap badge is worn over the right eye not the left. (this only applies to pipers other members of the regiment wear their beret with the badge over the left eye).

Royal Dragoon Guards

In 1922 the 5th Dragoon Guards (Princess Charlotte of Wales's) and the Inniskillings (6th Dragoons) amalgamated in Cairo to form the 5th/6th Dragoon Guards later changing their name the the 5th Inniskilling Dragoon Guards and gaining the Royal accolade in 1935. The King's standard followed the 18th century regulations but with some amendments (by know reduced to 1 flag per regiment). On the first and fourth quarters it had the heraldic depiction of Enniskillen castle on a yellow field (the facings colour of the 6th Dragoons and worn on the Full Dress tunic of the new regiment) and the white horse of Hanover on a green field (facing colour of the 5th Dragoons (formally the green horse) and the colour of the breeches of the new regiment) in the second and third.  In the centre is a circle with a monogram bearing the roman numeral 'V' and the initials 'D,G.' Topped by the Tudor crown and surrounded by the Union wreath and flanked with battle honours. In 1992 the 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards were amalgamated with 4th7th Royal Dragoon Guards to form the Royal Dragoon Guards. The Inniskilling standard continued to be used until 2013 when it was laid up in Enniskillen Cathedral. The Royal Dragoon Guards have kept some of there Inniskilling identity with an Irish pipes and drums, the regimental march is "fare ye well Enniskillen" and the cap badge features the heraldic depiction of Enniskillen castle.
camp flag Royal Dragoon Guards

Queen's Royal Hussars

The Queen's Royal Hussars was formed in 1993 with the amalgamation of the Queen's Own Hussars and the Queen's Royal Irish Hussars. The regiment has kept most of its Irish identity, retaining its pipe band and wearing green berets with a harp in the cap badge. The Queen's Royal Irish Hussars was formed in 1958 with the amalgamation of the 4th Queen's Own Hussars and the 8th King's Royal Irish Hussars.
The guidon of the Queen's Royal Irish Hussars was gules (crimson)  In the centre was a crowned harp with the inscription "Queen's Royal Irish Hussars" around it. This was in a union wreath of UK national plants topped with a crown. In the first and fourth corners was the white horse of Hanover. In the second and third was IV QOH (4th Queen's own Hussars) and VIII KRIH (8th Kings Royal Irish Hussars). This design was the same on both sides. The guidon was double sided because it displayed 40 of the regiments 102 battle honors 20 on each side.
After the amalgamation both guidons of the Queen's Own and Queen's Royal Irish were used together until a new guidon was presented.  This new guidon is of the dame design as the one mentioned earlier it has the Hanoverian horse in the 1st and 4th corners and the numbers and initials of the two antecedent regiments in the 2nd and 3rd.The centre design features a garter belt, with a harp above the white horse, symbols of both of the antecedent regiments. This is within a union wreath and topped with a crown. Below this is the regiment's cap badge of a crowned harp placed upon the cypher of the Queen's Own Hussars. 44 battle honours are displayed between the two sides.

3 comments:

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  2. Hi Sam, I love your blog!I'm writing a thesis on symbols used in the Irish nationalism.have you published anything?I would like to quote your work.thank you very much

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    1. No I don't have anything in print at the moment, although I have written a book on flags & emblems in Northern Ireland which local publishers have taken interest in, so hopefully I will have work in print very soon. In the meantime feel free to quote my blog, I got a lot (but not all) of my sources in this series from an old book called "A History of Irish flags from earliest times" by Hayes-McCoy, I personally question some aspects of it but overall a good book and I would recommend it to anyone researching Irish emblems particularly nationalist ones.

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