Why so many Irish Fusilier Regts?

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by Mountain-Monkey, Mar 14, 2007.

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  1. In 1914, Ireland and Ulster had between them the following:
    The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (27th and 108th)
    The Royal Irish Fusiliers (87th and 89th)
    The Royal Dublin Fusiliers (102nd and 103rd)
    The Royal Munster Fusiliers (101st and 104th)

    That's 4 of a total 8 Irish regiments at the time.

    Now I've read something the historical background for the Fusilier name in British Army tradition, with (hopefully) crack troops equipped with flintlock "fuzeels" to give close protection to the artillery train while others still had matchlocks or wheellocks (funny that, burning fuses and wildly sparking mechanisms near powder wagons)

    As I've understood it, the title remained and was bestowed on new units not in anyway related to the original tradition, as a mark of distinction, giving some kind of "we're one step up from the regular line and almost on par with the guards" stamp on the units, a brand that seems to stay on until this day, given a recent discussion about "posh officers" in the Infantry part of arrse.

    But: why were so many of the Irish infantry regiments given fusilier titles between 1815 and 1914? Some of them being recently fresh (and identity-lacking) products of the 1881 reforms, almost without battle honors compared to lower numbered "hardier" battle proven county regiments that were never given a fancy title?

    In the rest of the UK, the trend seemed to be approx one fusilier regiment pro "nation", eg. RHF, RWF, RRF.

    (The Lancashire and Northumberland Fusiliers included in this, but as England had a larger population, it seems logical that more regiments were given a "elite" status)

    That a fusilier regiment also had to have the "royal" title seems automatic, why so?

    Was this a propaganda move to bolster the morale and image of potentially disgruntled "fenians" and recently created history-lacking amalgamamès, or are there other reasons (eg. bravery in some colonial war between 1815 and 1900, or "long and faithful service to the Crown)??

    Any comments on this, or the meaning behind the fusilier title in the UK army in general?

    (As a PS: during the 1700 and 1800s, a fusilier was a bog standard infantryman mk1 in France, while in Prussia it was a propaganda bolstered shortgrown forcibly conscripted peasant of Prussias newly conquered eastern provinces, given a fancy shining tall cap to seem more imposing, later becoming crack line infantry (even wearing green coats for a while), capable of skirmishing but armed with smoothbores,)
     
  2. Don't know if this is a correct answer, but in the time of wellington, fusiliers and the men of grenadier companies in the line regiments were picked for their large height and build, as you needed to have a fair set of shoulders to cob these things at the enemy. Hope this helps.
     
  3. The prefix 'ROYAL' is an award which the regent awards as an honour to a regiment or corps for valorous or meritorious service.

    When amalgamating this can be transferred.
     
  4. Well, Fusiliers were never supposed to lob anything at the enemy, see the first part of my post regarding their original role. Handgrenades had gone out a long while before 1800, so the reason for the size of grenadiers by then was more the logic of "big man = better figher = shock troops".
     
  5. Anybody? With "the contribution of the paddy" being a 10 + thread, I would have thought someone in here has an opinion or knowledge about the subject?
     
  6. Back in the 1950's there seemed to be dozens of Fusilier Regiments knocking around
     
  7. Precisely.. to broaden the question somewhat, if that makes more people able to contribute.. what is the fusilier "ethos"?

    Ethos as in :
    Rifles are supposed to be initiative encouraging, flexible, new-thinking "vanguard and rearguard" types.

    Guards are supposed to be, well, guarding royals and good at standing still, bulling boots, parade marching etc.

    So then, Fusiliers are...what exactly?
     
  8. I walked through the Fusiliers' Arch in St. Stephen's Green, Dublin today. It's a memorial to the Irish Fusiliers who died during the Boer War.
     
  9. The 'Fusilier' name came from the fact that these regiments were the earliest ones given flintlock musket, a new-fangled invention known initially as a fusil in the late seventeenth century.
    Since the rest of the infantry were still equiped with the matchlock (complete with smouldering match) it was reckoned that 'Fusiliers' were the best people to escort the artillery (and its barrels of gunpowder). Because the weapon was new and expensive there was initially a bit of a buzz about fusiliers (shades of the Baker rifle) and they were also used for light infantry work (early eighteenth century).
    By the seven years war the Fusilier regts (then the 7th, 21st and 23rd) were all 'royal' but in all other respects much like the rest of the line redcoat regiments. Even though they were called, respectively English, Scotch and Welch they were not initially territorially recruited. The Scottish regiment was the first one to become territorial. The 5th (Northumberland) and Irish regiments followed later, when recruitment did become far more territorial.
    The large number of Irish fusilier regiments results from the fact that Ireland was a good recruiting ground at the time they were formed.
     
  10. The short reason is that many of the Irish regiments formed after the Cardwell and Childers reforms in 1881 descended from regiments of the old East India Company army that were transfered to the British Army in 1862 after the Indian Mutiny ( the EIC was dissolved and Queen Vic became Empress of India )..
    -The 1st & 2nd Bengal Fusiliers became the 101st & 104th Rgt.'s of Foot and then The Royal Munster Fusiliers
    - The 1st Madras Fusiliers & The 1st Bombay Fusiliers beacme the 102nd & 103rd Rgt.'s of Foot and then The Royal Dublin Fusiliers
    -The Royal Irish Fusiliers were descended from the 87th (Fusiliers) & 89th Foot. George IV granted the 87th the Fusilier titile in 1827
    -The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers received the accolade in the 1881 reforms as neither the 27th & 108th (Madras Infantry) were Fusilier prior.
     
  11. We had six cavalry regiments as well. Nobody raises an eyebrow at that?

    4DG
    5DG
    8H
    5L
    SIH
    NIH
     
  12. Thanks for a thought-provoking thread. England had at least 4 Fusilier regiments at one time, from Lancashire and Northumberland, as you mention, and also Warwickshire and the City of London. I've recently visited the Northumberland Fusilier museum (at Alnwick Castle). Let's just say they had so many 18th-19th Century battle honours on their regimental standard, there seemed to be no room for all their many battle honours in World Wars I and II!!

    Of the Irish fusilier regiments, I've read that the Royal Irish Fusiliers were regarded as an elite unit. They were known as the "Faugh-a-Ballagh boys" from the order given them in Irish Gaelic - "Fag a bealach" (Clear the Way) at the battle of Barrosa (1811) in the Peninsula War. They did clear the way, in an attack on the French line. In World War I they also won a reputation for attacking spirit in Gallipoli, fighting the Turks. All 4 Irish fusilier regiments were involved in this hard campaign.

    The survival of the title Fusilier (after the rifle was invented) also suggests it was upheld as a special honour.