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Royal Ulster Rifles – Thomas Shaw June 1899 – 2 March 2002 …

Royal Ulster Rifles

Royal Ulster Rifles – Thomas Shaw June 1899 – 2 March 2002 ...Thomas Shaw

Thomas Shaw June 1899 2 March 2002

Shaw was born in Belfast[1], Northern Ireland[2], in June 1899. He first enlisted as a rifleman at 15 in 1914 and went into battle, but was sent home after his brother, a Armyrats © military policeman[3], met him by chance while in France[4]. In 1916 he joined the 16th battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles and fought in battles such as Messines[5] and Passchendaele[6]. He stayed in Germany[7] as part of the Army of Occupation for six months after the war ended and returned home in April 1919. During World War II[8] he was in charge of meat rations in Belfast. In 1942, he married his girlfriend Nell; they spent the last 12 years living at sheltered accommodation in Savoy, Bangor, County Down[9]. He died on 2 March 2002 at the age of 102 and was buried in Clandeboye cemetery in Bangor.

Royal Ulster Rifles – Thomas Shaw June 1899 – 2 March 2002 ...Northern Irelands dead War veterans

A plaque in honour of Thomas Shaw was put up at the front door of the Savoy in Bangor on 4 August 2014

Royal Ulster Rifles – Thomas Shaw June 1899 – 2 March 2002 ...

Royal Ulster Rifles

Royal Ulster Rifles – Thomas Shaw June 1899 – 2 March 2002 ...

D Company, Eighteenth Platoon, 2nd Battalion of the Royal Ulster Rifles

The Royal Irish Rifles (became the Royal Ulster Rifles from 1 January 1921) was an infantry[10] rifle[11] regiment[12] of the British Army[13], first created in 1881 by the amalgamation of the 83rd (County of Dublin) Regiment of Foot[14] and the 86th (Royal County Down) Regiment of Foot[15]. The regiment saw service in the Second Boer War[16], the First World War[17], the Second World War[18] and the Korean War[19]. In 1968 the Royal Ulster Rifles was amalgamated with the other regiments of the North Irish Brigade[20], the Royal Irish Fusiliers (Princess Victoria s)[21] and the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers[22] to create the Royal Irish Rangers[23]. However, in 1992, the Royal Irish Rangers was later merged with the Ulster Defence Regiment[24] to form the Royal Irish Regiment[25].

Royal Ulster Rifles 1954

Active 1793 1968 Country Royal Ulster Rifles – Thomas Shaw June 1899 – 2 March 2002 ... United Kingdom[26] Branch Royal Ulster Rifles – Thomas Shaw June 1899 – 2 March 2002 ... British Army[27] Type Rifles[28] Role Light infantry[29] Size 1-2 Regular[30] battalions
3 Militia[31] and Special Reserve[32] battalions
Up to 16 Hostilities-only battalions Garrison/HQ RHQ Victoria Barracks, Belfast[33] (1881-1937)
St Patrick s Barracks[34], Ballymena[35] (1937-1968) Nickname(s) The Stickies,[1] The Rifles Motto Quis Separabit[36] (Who shall separate us [from the love of Christ]) (Latin[37]) Colours None as a rifle regiment March Quick: The Ulster Rifles march Off, Off, Said the Stranger’

Slow: The South Down Militia

Engagements Badajoz[38], Jhansi[39], Somme[40], Normandy Landings, Rhine Crossing, Korea[41]


The regiment s history dates backs to the reign of King George III[42]. In 1793 the British army[43] expanded to meet the commitments of the war with the French First Republic[44]. As part of that expansion it raised two new regiments of foot, the 83rd[45] and the 86th[46]. At the same time the counties Antrim[47], Down[48] and Louth[49] regiments of militia were raised. In 1881, under the Childers Reforms, the 83rd and 86th were amalgamated into a single regiment, named the Royal Irish Rifles, one of eight infantry regiments raised and garrisoned in Ireland. It was the county regiment of Antrim, Down, Belfast and Louth, with its depot located at Belfast. Militarily, the whole of Ireland was administered as a single command within the United Kingdom with Command Headquarters at Parkgate (Phoenix Park) Dublin, directly under the War Office in London.[2][50][51][52][53][54][55][56]

South African War 1899 1902

Also known as the Second Boer War[57]. In October 1905, a memorial was erected in the grounds of Belfast City Hall in memory of the 132 who did not return. Field Marshal Lord Grenfell unveiled the memorial while the Times reported the event.[3][58][59][60][61]

First World War

The regiment provided battalions to all three Irish infantry divisions of the Great War: 10th (Irish)[62], 16th (Irish)[63] and 36th (Ulster)[64]. Members of the Ulster Volunteers, Young Citizen Volunteers[65] (and national Volunteers served in all three divisions with the majority of the first two named in 36th (Ulster) Infantry Division. In addition, the 7th Battalion became home to a company of the Royal Jersey Militia[66], sometimes known as the Jersey Pals.[4] Most battalions served in the trenches[67] of the Western Front[68].

Royal Ulster Rifles – Thomas Shaw June 1899 – 2 March 2002 ...

Men of the 16th (Service) Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles, the pioneer[69] battalion of the 36th (Ulster) Division, moving to the frontline 20 November 1917. The Royal Irish Rifles lost 25,000 officers and men throughout the Great War, with over 7,000 of them being killed in action.[5]

Between the world wars

After the Great War the War Office decided that Ulster should be represented on the Army List as Connaught, Leinster and Munster already had their own regiments and so, in 1920, a new name was proposed for the Royal Irish Rifles. From 1 January 1921 the regiment became the Royal Ulster Rifles.[6][70]

Despite the change of name, the Regiment continued to accept recruits from the rest of Ireland; for example, almost 50%[7] of personnel in the 1st Battalion who arrived in Korea in 1950 were Irish nationals. In 1937 the already close relationship with the London Irish Rifles was formally recognised when they were incorporated into the Corps while still retaining their regimental identity as a territorial battalion. Two years later the London Irish formed a second battalion.[8][71]

Second World War

Regular Army

When war was declared the 1st Battalion was serving in India[72], with the 31st Independent Brigade Group[73], which was trained in mountain warfare. When the brigade returned to the United Kingdom, it was decided that, with its light scale of equipment, the brigade could be converted into a glider-borne[74] unit. 31st Infantry Brigade, which also included the 1st Border Regiment[75], 2nd South Staffs[76] and 2nd Ox and Bucks[77], was renamed 1st Airlanding Brigade[78] and trained as glider infantry[79]. They were assigned to the 1st Airborne Division[80], part of the British Army s airborne forces[81]. The battalion, along with the 2nd Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, were later transferred to join the 12th Devonshire Regiment[82] in the 6th Airlanding Brigade[83] as part of the newly raised 6th Airborne Division[84] which was actually only the second of two airborne divisions created by the British Army in World War II[85].

Royal Ulster Rifles – Thomas Shaw June 1899 – 2 March 2002 ...

Riflemen of the Royal Ulster Rifles, 6 Airlanding Brigade, aboard a jeep and trailer, driving off Landing Zone N past a crashed Airspeed Horsa[86] glider on the evening of 6 June

Carried in Horsa gliders[87], the battalion took part in Operation Mallard[88], the British glider-borne landings in the later afternoon of 6 June 1944, otherwise known as D-Day[89]. They served throughout the Battle of Normandy[90] employed as normal infantry until August 1944 and the breakout from the Normandy beachhead where the entire 6th Airborne Division advanced 45 miles in 9 days[91]. They returned to England in September 1944 for rest and retraining until December 1944 when the 6th Airborne was then recalled to Belgium after the surprise German offensive in the Ardennes[92] which is now known as the Battle of the Bulge where the division played a comparatively small role in the mainly-American battle. They then took part in their final airborne mission of the war known as Operation Varsity[93], which was the airborne element of Operation Plunder[94], the crossing of the River Rhine[95] by the 21st Army Group[96] in March 1945. The 6th Airborne was joined by the US 17th Airborne Division[97], and both divisions suffered heavy casualties. The 2nd Battalion was part of the 9th Infantry Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division serving with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in France from 1939-1940. The division was commanded by the then Major General Bernard Montgomery who would eventually lead the Anglo-Canadian forces as commander of the 21st Army Group in the North West Europe Campaign. The 3rd Infantry Division took part in the Battle of Dunkirk, where it gained a decent reputation and earned the nickname of ^Monty s Ironsides^, and had to be evacuated from Dunkirk with the rest of the BEF. The battalion returned to Europe for the D-Day landings in June 1944 and fought in the Battle of Normandy, specifically in Operation Charnwood where they were the first British troops to enter the city of Caen, which had previously seen bitter fighting in the British attempt to capture it. The battalion later fought in Belgium, Holland and Germany[98][99][100][101][102][103][104][105][106][107][108][109][110][111][112]


The 6th (Home Defence) Battalion was raised in 1939 from No. 200 Group National Defence Companies and consisting of older men with previous Armyrats © military experience who were unfit for active service. On 24 December 1940 the battalion was redesignated as the 30th Battalion, dropping the Home Defence from its title, and converted to a regular infantry battalion. It was disbanded in Northern Ireland in May 1943.[9][113][114]

The 7th (Home Defence) Battalion was raised on 29 June 1940, joining the 215th Independent Infantry Brigade (Home). The battalion served in Ulster until leaving for the United Kingdom in September 1942. On 24 December 1941, the battalion was redesignated the 31st Battalion and dropped the Home Defence title.[10][115]

The 8th Battalion, Royal Ulster Rifles was also raised in 1940, and joined 203rd Independent Infantry Brigade (Home)[116]. In early 1942 the battalion was transferred to the Royal Artillery[117] and converted into the 117th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery[118]. The regiment served with Home Forces[119] until November 1942 when it was sent overseas to North Africa to fight in the final stages of the North African Campaign[120] as part of the British First Army[121]. In September 1943 the regiment landed in Italy shortly after the initial invasion[122], now as part of the British Eighth Army[123], and served on the Italian Front[124] until June 1944, when the regiment was broken up and the men were retrained as infantrymen, due to a severe shortage of infantrymen, particularly in Italy.[11] Many of the men retrained were sent to the 2nd, 7th and 10th battalions of the Rifle Brigade (Prince Consort s Own)[125], another rifle regiment[126], in 61st Lorried Infantry Brigade[127], 6th Armoured Division[128]. The 70th (Young Soldiers) Battalion was formed on 12 September 1940 at Holywood from the younger soldiers of the 6th and 7th battalions and volunteers of the ages of 18 and 19 who were too young for conscription. The battalion spent most of its time guarding airfields and aerodromes before moving to the United Kingdom in October 1941.[12][129]

The Royal Ulster Rifles had the unique distinction of being the only infantry regiment of the British Army to have both of its regular battalions involved in the Normandy landings.

After World War II

In 1947 the Royal Ulster Rifles were grouped with the other two remaining Irish regiments, the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers[130] and the Royal Irish Fusiliers[131], into the North Irish Brigade[132]. A year later, the regiment formed a pipe band, wearing saffron kilts and playing Irish Warpipes[133]. In the same year, in 1948, the 2nd Battalion was amalgamated with the 1st Battalion to form the 1st Battalion, Royal Ulster Rifles (83rd and 86th), thus retaining the history of both of the previous regiments of foot.[13] This happened throughout the British Army in 1948 after India gained its independence[134].

Korean War

The 1st Battalion, Royal Ulster Rifles disembarked at Pusan in early November as part of the 29th Independent Infantry Brigade Group[135]. They were transported forward to Uijongbu, where under the direct command of the Eighth United States Army[136] they were directed against guerrilla forces swept past by the rapid progress of the United Nations Army. By mid December a defensive line was being prepared on the south bank of the River Han on the border with North Korea. protecting the approach to Seoul, the capital of South Korea. As the New Year started, the Fiftieth Chinese Communist Army engaged the United Nations troops focusing on 29 Brigade, who were dispersed over a very wide front (12 miles). The Rifles fighting with 1st Battalion, Royal Northumberland Fusiliers[137] were able to hold their position in their first major action at the Battle of Chaegunghyon and the Communist Army s progress was halted, at least temporarily. The Chinese Fifth Phase Campaign or the Battle of the Imjin River began on 22 April with the goal of taking Seoul. By 25 April, the Brigade was ordered to withdraw as the Communist forces were threatening to encircle it. With virtually no cover and seriously outnumbered, the Rifles came under heavy fire as they withdrew to a blocking position. The Brigade was able to hold its position, despite fierce fighting, and neutralized the effectiveness of the Sixty-fourth Chinese Communist Army. Although the enemy s offensive had come within 5 miles of Seoul, the capital had been saved.[14][138]

At the time, the Times[139] reported the Battle of Imjin concluding with:

The fighting 5th wearing St George and the Dragon and the Irish Giants with the Harp and Crown have histories that they would exchange with no one. As pride, sobered by mourning for fallen observes how well these young men have acquitted themselves in remotest Asia. The parts taken by the regiments may be seen as a whole. The motto of the Royal Ulster Rifles may have the last word Quis Separabit. (Who shall separate us)[14]

As a result of this action, members of the Rifles were awarded 2 Distinguished Service Orders[140], 2 Armyrats © Military Crosses[141], 2 Armyrats © Military Medals[142], and 3 men were Mentioned in Despatches.[7] When the area was recaptured, a memorial was erected to the 208 men killed or missing after the battle.[15] It stood over-looking the battlefield till 1962 when Seoul s growth threatened to consume it, and it was carried by HMS Belfast[143] back to Ireland where it was the focusof the Regiment s St Patrick s Barracks in Ballymena[144].[7] When the barracks closed in 2008,[16] the Imjin River Memorial[145] was again moved, this time to the grounds of the Belfast City Hall[146].

In 1968 the Royal Ulster Rifles amalgamated with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers[147] and the Royal Irish Fusiliers[148] to form the Royal Irish Rangers[149] (27th (Inniskilling), 83rd and 87th). A further amalgamation took place with the Ulster Defence Regiment[150] in 1992 to form the Royal Irish Regiment[151] (27th Inniskilling, 83rd, 87th and the Ulster Defence Regiment).


Veterans of the Royal Ulster Rifles in Northern Ireland remain few, as only around four veterans are known to be still alive today in Northern Ireland. However, many of them are still widely involved today, as several of them have participated in the annual Korea Day in Northern Ireland, along with three of them travelling to South Korea on the Revisit Program in April 2013 in association with the Somme Association to visit the sites of Battles like the Battle of the Imjin River, with the help of current serving Army officers in Northern Ireland. The legacy of these veterans is still alive today, as one of the dedicated veterans grandson travelled to Seoul, South Korea to attend a United Nations Youth Peace Camp in Seoul with 16 other delegations in July 2014, to learn about the sacrifice their grandparents had made to themselves and their country, and the Republic of Korea 60 years ago.[citation needed]

Victoria Cross

Recipients of the Victoria Cross[152]:

  • Lieutenant H. S. Cochrane, 86th (Royal County Down) Regiment of Foot, Betwa, India, April 1858
  • Lieutenant H. E. Jerome, 86th (Royal County Down) Regiment of Foot, Jhansi, India, April 1858
  • Private James Byrne, 86th (Royal County Down) Regiment of Foot, Jhansi, India, April 1858
  • Private James Pearson, 86th (Royal County Down) Regiment of Foot, Jhansi, India, April 1858
  • Rifleman William Frederick McFadzean[153]. 14th (Service) Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles. 1916. Thiepval[154].
  • Rifleman Robert Quigg[155]. 12th (Service) Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles. 1916. Hamel[156], Somme[157].
  • Second Lieutenant Edmund De Wind[158]. 15th (Service) Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles. 1918. Grugies[159], France.

Visit the Royal Ulster Rifles Museum[160]

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Sam's Flags: Development & History of Irish Flags Pt16: Military flags …

Continuing on from Part 8[1], Part 13[2] and Part 14[3] we look at Armyrats © 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.

Post World War I

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 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

Sam's Flags: Development & History Of Irish Flags Pt16: Armyrats © Military Flags ...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.
Sam's Flags: Development & History Of Irish Flags Pt16: Armyrats © Military Flags ...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[4]. These colours were carried until 1968 when the regiment was amalgamated into the Royal Irish Rangers.

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

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.
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.

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;
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)

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 Armyrats © 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. 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:
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. 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.

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[5] 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

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.
Sam's Flags: Development & History Of Irish Flags Pt16: Armyrats © Military Flags ...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.
Part 2 of this post will look at the flags used by the Irish Defence Forses
For more in this series see the links below or click the label History of Irish flags:

Also in the Series


  1. ^ Part 8 (
  2. ^ Part 13 (
  3. ^ Part 14 (
  4. ^ here (
  5. ^ Kings colour of the 2nd battalion (

Religion and the British Army in Northern Ireland | FrogenYozurt …

Alistair Kerr is a guest writer for FrogenYozurt.Com with a special interest in history. For more information see his section on this website. British Captain Robert Nairac – Copyright by Press Eye Ltd., Belfast While researching the life of the late Robert Nairac GC, I found numerous references to the religious composition of the British Army, which seem relevant to the history of its involvement in Northern Ireland.

Here are my emerging conclusions, which are not set in stone. I would happily accept corrections from readers. When the army was ordered into Northern Ireland in 1969, it was not initially prejudiced against the Nationalists; there was quite a lot of sympathy for them.

Equally, the inhabitants of Catholic areas were relieved to see the army, which they viewed as a safeguard against aggression by Loyalist militants and the B Specials (Protestant RUC police reservists). One reason for the army s attitude was that there is, and certainly was then, a much higher proportion of Catholics in the army than in British society as a whole. About 10% of British society is Catholic, but at least 30% of the army was Catholic in the late 1960s and 1970s.

Some of those Catholics were of Irish origin, although not necessarily recent immigrants. Other sources of Catholics in the UK were the Italian immigration of the late nineteenth century, Polish and Lithuanian immigrants during and after World War II. I am not sure why Catholics should have been so drawn to the British Army, except that there is a strong martial tradition in Ireland, Poland and Lithuania.

In addition, the numerically few but influential old English Catholic Recusant families often adopted the army as a profession, following the repeal of the Test Acts in 1828, which permitted them to serve as officers in the armed forces. So, although, as the offspring of a Franco-Mauritian father and an English Protestant mother, Robert Nairac did not fall into any of these categories, he was far from being unique in being a Catholic in the army and sympathetic to the Irish Nationalists. The army was comfortable with this situation, as there was a perception that Catholics made excellent soldiers and were perhaps more disciplined than Protestants.

Special concessions were made for them. I recall that, when I had to take part in army courses that lasted over a weekend, the authorities took trouble to ensure that the Catholics were able to attend Mass. This included laying on a bus.

Any others who might wish to attend Church had to fit it in round the programme, and miss breakfast or dinner! Fish was invariably served on Fridays, however few Catholics were in reality present. A problem was that, as the Troubles intensified, some Irish Catholics in the army, some of whom were anyway from the South, started to desert or resign rather than serve in Ulster when their British regiments were ordered to go there.

Nicky Curtis, himself a Catholic of Irish descent serving in the Green Howards (a Yorkshire regiment), mentions this in Faith and Duty. A few even joined the IRA. There was, however, a legitimate and respectable way out for them.

This honourable exit, if they were serving in an English or Scottish infantry or cavalry regiment, was to transfer to an Irish regiment of the British army: for example to the Irish Guards, the Royal Irish Rangers, the Inniskilling Fusiliers, the Inniskilling Dragoons, etc, who would never, under any circumstances, be deployed to Ulster. These regiments spent their time on garrison duty in the UK, in Germany or elsewhere overseas, or serving as the training battalion at the School of Infantry or other Armyrats © military establishments. It was at the School of Infantry that I first encountered the Royal Irish Rangers and was startled by the number of soldiers from the South, especially Dublin.

In most cases they were simply following a long-standing family tradition of serving the British Crown. These duties were not however usually very exciting. I have discovered that Robert Nairac had specifically ruled out joining the Irish Guards, with which Ampleforth had a strong connection, because he wanted to serve in Ulster.

Hugh Dormer, for example, another of Ampleforth s four Catholic Armyrats © military heroes,* was in the Irish Guards. In the event Nairac joined the Grenadier Guards with a recommendation from a close friend s father, as he had no family connection with that regiment. There were reportedly pockets of anti-Catholic feeling in the army.

Protestant Scottish regiments were likely to sympathise with the Loyalists, and did. (It is perhaps as well that the Cameronians, the Scottish Rifles, had been disbanded in 1968. They were an explicitly Presbyterian regiment, whose members were issued with a King James Bible when they joined and who carried on the traditions of the seventeenth century Covenanters, posting an armed guard when they celebrated divine service in the field.) Equally, there is a strong tradition of Huguenot service with the colours. Sir Peter de la Billiere is an obvious example.

Huguenot descendants might still have a residual anti-Catholic prejudice, but that is about all. Anti-Catholic prejudice was not however common to the army as a whole. The IRA saw with alarm that the army was being accepted as the protector of the Catholic community and was determined to reverse this, so as to assume that role itself.

This it successfully did, explicitly targeting soldiers from 1970. The army s sympathies started to shift towards the Loyalists, whom they had not much liked initially; largely because, unlike the IRA, the Loyalists rarely if ever targeted the security forces (SF). Events of 1972, notably bloody Sunday, reinforced the Catholics new perception that the army was really there to prop up the Protestant establishment.

This was not how the army had seen it role at the start. The attitudes, even of Catholic soldiers like Robert Nairac, who did not arrive in Ulster until 1973 and Nicky Curtis, who pre-dated his arrival, were affected by these developments. Note: Ampleforth s four Catholic Armyrats © military heroes.

These secular saints or worthies are Hugh Dormer DSO, Michael Allmand VC and Michael Fenwick. These three died in World War II. Robert Nairac GC is the fourth.

They are commemorated in the Memorial Chapel at Ampleforth. The chapel was created by the sculptor John Bunting as his attempt at repayment of a debt that cannot be repaid. Each summer some of the Upper VI leavers celebrate Mass at the chapel and enjoy a picnic in its environs.

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James is a Lieutenant-Colonel without a command; Richard s attachment to the SAS has come to an end. Fate comes to their rescue. James is unexpectedly posted to Nairobi as Armyrats © Military Attach to the amiable British High Commissioner, Sir Tom Sheridan.

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Religion and the British Army in Northern Ireland | FrogenYozurt …