Royal Munster Fusiliers Association
A SHORT HISTORY OF THE ROYAL MUNSTER FUSILIERS
In 1652 a small force, consisting of an Ensign and thirty
men, was allowed to be employed by the Honorable East India Company, as a �Guard
of Honor�, for the protection of their factory near Calcutta, which little band
became the nucleus of the Bengal Army.
About 22nd December 1756 Clive formed the different companies of the Bengal Military Force - which had existed for eighty years - and the various detachments, then at Fulta, into one Regiment, which was called the BENGAL EUROPEAN BATTALION. Their first service was at �Plassey,� where on 23rd June 1857 Clive, with a force of 1,000 Europeans and 2,000 Sepoys, with 10 guns, defeated the enemy numbering over 60,000 with 53 guns, manned by French artillerymen. This victory laid the foundation of our Indian Empire.
They were next engaged against the French, and beat them at �Condore,� 9th December 1758, and �Masulipatam,� 8th April 1759 and all hopes of Dutch supremacy in Bengal were destroyed at �Badara,� 25th November, 1759, where the Regiment greatly distinguished itself. In 1764 the Regiment finally defeated Shah Alum at �Buxar,� on 23rd October, when the British force of about 7,000, under Hector Munro destroyed the allied army of between 40,000 and 50,000 capturing 172 guns. The Regiment lost 37 killed and 58 wounded.
In 1774 they were engaged in �Rouhilcund,� and on St. George�s Day defeated the Rohillas at Kutra. In this action Serjeant Littelus Burrell of the Regiment greatly distinguished himself; he was afterwards promoted in 1779, and ultimately reached the rank of Major General, and was one of the most distinguished officers in the Company�s Army.
On the outbreak of war in the �Carnatic� in 1780, the Regiment again took the field, and served under Sir Eyre Coote in all the principal actions of the three years campaign, including the battle of �Sholinghur, 27th September 1781. They were again engaged in �Rohilcund� in 1794. In the Mahratta War the Regiment took part in the battle of �Deig� on 13th November 1804 and the subsequent siege and capture of that fortress on the following 24th December.
Then in 1805, they marched with Lake to �Bhurtpore,� where they suffered heavily in the four unsuccessful assaults, in one of which on the night of 21st-22nd January, in an attempt by the advanced party to swim the ditch, the gallantry of Serjeant Allen of the Grenadier Company, should ever be remembered with pride by the Regiment. It was during this siege, on an occasion when the Commander-in Chief was inspecting their work in the trenches, that they had not found time to change their shirts for weeks, to which General Lake replied that their dirty shirts were an honor to them: and his Excellency frequently addressed the Regiment as his own �Dirty Shirts� a name which had been cherished with pride by the Regiment ever since. They were again at Bhurtpore, at the final assault, on 18th January 1826, where the cool courage of two of the officers, Captain Davision and Lieutenant George Warren, who led the storm of the Jungeena Gate, was beyond all praise. The Regiment lost one officer, 10 rank and file, killed; and 2 officers 40 rank and file wounded.
The Regiment formed part of the Army of the Indus during the campaign in �Affghanistan, 1839,� when they marched with Keane to Kandahar, 1,005 miles, under circumstances of the greatest difficulty and privation, with great scarcity of water. At the storming of �Ghuznee,� 23rd July 1839, they formed the bulk of the assaulting column, under Colonel Orchard, of the Regiment: who was wounded, as were also 8 other officers and 51 rank and file, only one man being killed. In November 1840, the Court of Directors rewarded the services of the Regiment in this campaign by forming it into Light Infantry, to be designated the 1st BENGAL EUROPEAN LIGHT INFANTRY.�
On 29th July 1839 a General Order was published by the Government of India, ordering the formation of the 2nd EUROPEAN REGIMENT, volunteers from the 1st European Regiment being called for to form a nucleus. A 2ND Bengal European Regiment had been raised in 1765 and disbanded in 1803; another was raised in 1824 and was amalgamated with the 1st Bengal European Regiment on 1st January 1830.
The 1st European Light Infantry next, served in the Sutlej Campaign, and was present at �Ferozeshah, 21st December 1845. During this battle, after a charge, it was realized that the Regimental Colour was missing, but an officer dashed forward and found it under the dead body of Ensign Moxon, who had carried it. This Colour, stained with his blood, now hangs in Winchester Cathedral. In this action the Regiment lost 51 killed and 164 wounded, including 8 officers. On the 10th February in the following year the Regiment was at �Sobraon,� where, owing to its heavy losses at �Ferozeshah�, it went into action only a little over 400 strong; of this number 197 fell, including 2 officers killed and 10 wounded (3 mortally). Before this campaign the 1st European Light Infantry had been a magnificent battalion, over 1,000 strong; on the 11th February there were only 6 officers and 230 rank and file left fit for duty with the Regiment. In March 1846 the Government of India created the 1st Bengal European Light Infantry a Fusilier Regiment as a reward for its distinguished services, its title becoming the 1st EUROPEAN BENGAL FUSILIERS.
In 1848, the 2nd European Regiment saw its first service in the Punjab campaign, being present at the battle of �Chillianwallah,� 13th January 1849, and the victory of �Goojerat� on the 21st February, losing in the latter fight 143 officers and men. On the 18th January 1850 the Government of India created the 2nd Bengal European Regiment a Fusilier Regiment for its gallant conduct in this campaign its title being the 2ND EUROPEAN BENGAL FUSILIERS.
During the Burmese War of 1852-3, both Regiments were present at the capture of �Pegu,� 21st November 1852, and the subsequent operations in that country. For his gallant conduct during the storming of Pegu, Serjt-Major Hopkins of the 1st Bengal Fusiliers was promoted Ensign; he afterwards reached the rank of Lieut-Colonel.
Both Regiments played a conspicuous part in the memorable Indian Mutiny of 1857-58; besides numerous other actions, they were both present at the siege and capture of �Delhi,� June to 14th September 1857, where Colour Serjeant Hardy of the 1st Bengal Fusiliers, was promoted to the rank of Ensign, for distinguished gallantry in the field. The 1st Bengal Fusiliers were present at the siege and capture of �Lucknow,� March 1858. During two years of as severs and arduous campaigning as any Regiment ever experienced, the 1st Bengal Fusiliers one; viz: Lieut. T. Cadell, 2nd Bengal-for bringing in wounded men on two occasions before Delhi.; Serjeant J. McGuire and Drummer M. Ryan, 1st Bengal - for conspicuous gallantry in throwing burning boxes of ammunition over the parapet on 14th September 1857; Lieutenant F. D. M. Brown, 1st Bengal - for having, at the imminent risk of his own life, carried off a wounded soldier from the enemy, who were within 50 yards, at Narnoul, on the 16th November 1857; and Lieutenant T.A Butler 1st Bengal - for swimming the Gumtee River at Lucknow on 9th March 1858, and reconnoitering the enemy�s position.
On the 28th May 1861, in consequence of the Crown having in 1858 taken over the Government of India from the Honorable East India Company, a notification appeared in the London Gazette, publishing a Dispatch, in which it was stated that, �Her Majesty�s Government have expressed an anxious desire to preserve the proud recollections of distinguished service, which belong especially to the older Regiments of each Presidency, and to incorporate with Her Majesty�s Army, corps which have so greatly contributed to the acquisition and maintenance of Her Majesty�s Dominions in the East�; and further, �Her majesty having graciously determined to mark her estimation of the services of her Indian Armies by conferring the distinction of �Royal� upon three Regiments,� the 1st Bengal Fusiliers was one of those selected for this honor. A Royal Warrant was accordingly issued directing the amalgamation of the 1st and 2nd Bengal Fusiliers with the Infantry of the Line in Her Majesty�s Service; and they became respectively the 101st ROYAL BENGAL FUSILIERS and the 104th BENGAL FUSILIERS. Two years after being incorporated in the Queen�s Service, the 101st Fusiliers took part in the �Umbeyla�, Campaign, 1863. For its services it received the marked thanks of the Brigadier, and 10 non-commissioned officers and men gained the medal for Distinguished Conduct in the Field.
On the 1stApirl 1873, under the Localization of the Forces scheme, the two Regiments were linked as the Line Battalions of the 70th Sub District, with a Brigade Depot at Tralee; and the following Militia Regiments were affiliated, viz: the South Cork Light Infantry (raised in 1793), the Clare, the Kerry (formed as the Kerry Regiment in 1793, the force of the County being previously the 1st Munster Volunteer Regiment of Foot), the North Cork Rifles, and the Limerick County (raised in 1793). On 1st July 1881, under the Territorial scheme, the two Regiments were amalgamated into one and became respectively the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the ROYAL MUNSTER FUSILIERS, the South Cork Light Infantry, the Kerry, and the Royal Limerick County Regiments of Militia being incorporated with the Regiment as the 3rd, 4th and 5th Battalions respectively; the Regimental Depot remaining at Tralee. All three Militia Battalions were engaged in the suppression of the Irish Rebellion in 1798, and were embodied during the Long Napoleonic Wars, and again during the Crimean War. The Clare Militia was converted into Garrison Artillery, and the North Cork Rifles became the 9th Battalion King�s Royal Rifle Corps. The 2nd Battalion formed part of the force engaged in the �Burma 1885-87� and �1887-89� campaigns.
In the war in �South Africa, 1899-1902,� the 1st Battalion was one of the Regiments sent out to reinforce the garrison at the Cape and served throughout the whole war. The 2nd Battalion volunteered and served from February 1900 to March 1902. During the War the Regiment lost 6 officers and 75 rank and file killed or died of disease, and 4 officers and 79 rank and file wounded. In addition to the honors conferred on officers, 18 non-commissioned officers and men gained the medal for distinguished conduct in the Field, and 6 were specially promoted for gallantry.
As regards the history of all Battalions of the Regiment during the European War of 1914 � 18: suffice it to record here that the 2nd Battalion went to France on the 13th August 1914 in the 1st Brigade of the Expeditionary Force - the �Old Contemptibles� - and a fortnight later suffered almost total annihilation at Etreux, on 27th August, where 9 officers and 113 other ranks laid down their lives; after holding up the advance of a whole German Army Corps for twelve hours. At the outbreak of war the 1st Battalion was scattered from Rangoon to the Islands in the Indian Ocean, and could not reach home with the other troops from India. They however later formed part of the �Immortal 29th Division,� and took part in the landing at Gallipoli, from the steamer �River Clyde� on the disastrous Easter Sunday of 1915. Here they also met with annihilation, many being drowned ere they could reach the shore, while those who did, were shot down by a murderous fire from which there was no cover. The losses were 4 officers killed and 13 wounded, and about 600 other ranks killed and wounded. By A.O. 324 of 1914, issued on the 21st August, the 6th and 7th (Service) battalions were raised. These Battalions formed part of the 10th (Irish) Division, which took part in the operations against the Bulgarians, in the Balkan Theatre of War. These two Battalions were later amalgamated into one - the 6th Battalion - which after serving in Palestine, was transferred to France and absorbed into the 2nd Battalion. On the 11th September 1914, A.O. 352 ordered the formation of the 8th and 9th (Service) Battalions. These Battalions went to France and added to the laurels of the Regiment, but owing to the difficulty in getting recruits from Ireland after the Easter Rebellion of 1916, they were disbanded and absorbed into the 1st and 2nd Battalions. No attempt can be made to record the numerous honors and distinctions earned by all ranks of the Regiment, beyond the Victoria Crosses awarded to the following: - Corporal W. Cosgrove, 1st Battalion, Gallipoli, 1915; Captain A.H. Batten-Pooll, 3rd Battalion � France, 1916; and Co. Serjt, Major M. Doyle, 1st Battalion - France 1918.
With the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922, the Royal Munster Fusiliers was disbanded on 31st July, having previously handed over the Regimental Colours at Windsor Castle to King George V on 12 June 1922. Such is the very briefest outline of the glorious history of a Regiment, which, owing to an unfortunate coincidence of the �Geddes Axe� and the political crisis, in Ireland by Army Order 78 published on 11th March 1922, has ceased to exist, save in the undying memories of all who served in it and of their families.
� Tadgh Moloney 2006