The Connaught Rangers ("the Devil's Own") was an Irish Regiment of the British Army, formed by the amalgamation in 1881 of the 88th Regiment of Foot (Connaught Rangers) and the 94th Regiment of Foot. It was disbanded in 1922.
The 88th Foot or Connaught Rangers were raised in 1793 by the Earl of Clanricarde to help counteract the threat from Napoleonic France. They formed part of the expeditions to Egypt in 1801, South America in 1806 and the short campaign in Holland against France. The 94th, formally known as the Scotch Brigade had fought in India (earning the Army of India Medal with three clasps) prior to joining the 88th in General Picton's, 3rd Light Division in the Peninsular Wars against France. Wellington used the 88th effectively as his Storm Troopers in the Iberian Peninsula where they were given the honour of providing the Forlorn Hope at Cuidad Rodrigo. The men of the 88th earned up to 12 battle clasps to the Military General Service Medal for services in Egypt and the Peninsula and the 94th, 10 clasps. After the Battle of Toulouse, the 88th departed to Canada while the 94th moved to Ireland and became over the next 50 years effectively an Irish Regiment. The 88th fought in the Crimean War 0f 1854-56 and during the Indian Mutiny of 1857-59. The 94th sent small detachments with the 18th Royal Irish Regiment to the Crimea and to Egypt in 1882 .
In 1881, the 88th (Connaught Rangers) Regiment of Foot (which formed the 1st Battalion) and the 94th Regiment of Foot (which formed the 2nd Battalion) were amalgamated. The amalgamation of the two regiments into one was part of the British government's Childers Reforms of the British Armed Forces which was, in turn, a continuation of the Cardwell Reforms implemented in 1879. At that time five infantry battalions were given Irish territorial titles.
Militarily, the whole of Ireland was administered as a separate command with Command Headquarters at Parkgate (Phoenix Park) in Dublin, directly under the War Office in Lon-don. The regiment recruited mainly in the province of Connacht: its garrison depot was located in Galway.
The 88th were based in Bengal, British India, when they were amalgamated into the new regiment having deployed to India in 1879. The 94th were also abroad when they became the 2nd Battalion. They had deployed to South Africa in 1877 from Armagh, where they had taken part in the Zulu War and in 1880 the first Boer War where in January 1881 Lance-Corporal James Murray of the regiment won a Victoria Cross. Private Fitzpatrick and Private Danagher of the 94th also won the VC in South Africa. Major Hans Garret Moore won the VC with the 88th during the Zulu War. In total the Regiment won four Victoria Crosses between 1877 and 1881.
The 2nd Battalion returned home the following year when they were stationed in Ireland and in 1887 moved to England. The new 2nd Battalion sent a small detachment on the Gordon Relief Expedition in 1884 as Camel Mounted Infantry.
In 1889 the 2nd Battalion deployed to Malta. The 1st Battalion departed India in 1890 for Aden and returned home in 1891. In 1892 the 2nd Battalion remained in the Mediterranean and deployed to Cyprus and then in 1895 to Egypt. The following year the 2nd Battalion, as well as the machine-gun section of the 1st Battalion, deployed to the Sudan as part of the Dongola Expeditionary Force under the command of Lord Kitchener as part of the reconquest of the Sudan.
The 2nd Battalion departed for India the following year, while the 1st Battalion deployed to Ireland. In 1899 the 2nd Battalion deployed to Malta.
The 1st Battalion deployed to South Africa as part of 5th (Irish) Brigade which was commanded by Major-General Fitzroy Hart. The Rangers took part in numerous engagements during the Boer War.
The regiment took part in the Battle of Colenso on 15 December, part of the attempt to relieve the town of Ladysmith, besieged by Boer forces. The Rangers and the rest of the 5th (Hart's) Brigade, who were on the left flank, had been forced to perform over 20 minutes of drill before the advance. The Brigade suffered heavily during their participation in the battle, the Boers inflicting heavy casualties. The advance was met with a fire from three sides that forced them to withdraw. The battle ended in defeat for the British. That battle and two previous defeats at Magersfontein and Stormberg became known as 'Black Week'.
The Rangers fought at Spion Kop and the Tugela Heights during further attempts by General Sir Redvers Buller to relieve the besieged town of Ladysmith. In late February the siege of Ladysmith finally came to an end after it was relieved by British forces. The regiment was awarded the battle honour Relief of Ladysmith in addition to South Africa 1899-1902.
The 5th Brigade subsequently deployed to Kimberley and took part in further operations against the Boer guerillas.
The Rangers finally departed South Africa for Ireland after the Boer War ended in 1902, and were also awarded the theatre honour.
In 1908 the 1st Battalion arrived in India while the 2nd Battalion returned home to Ireland. The 1st and 2nd battalions of the regiment were given new Colours by HM King George V in 1911. The 2nd Battalion had left Ireland and was in England when the "war to end all wars", the First World War, began in August 1914.
First World War:
In August 1914 the 1st Battalion, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Hurdis Ravenshaw, was stationed in Ferozepore, India. It was part of the Ferozepore Brigade, 3rd (Lahore) Division of the Indian Army. It arrived in Marseilles, France on the 26 September 1914.
The 2nd Battalion was part of the 5th Brigade, 2nd Division which was, in turn, part of the British Expeditionary Force. It arrived in Boulogne in August 1914, the month in which war was declared. Its marching song It's A Long Way To Tipperary became famous.
The 3rd (Reserve) Battalion was based in Galway upon the declaration of war and would remain in Ireland until November 1917 when it moved to England. The 4th (Extra Reserve) Battalion had been based in Boyle in August and would remain there until November 1917 when it relocated to Scotland. In May 1918 the 4th Battalion was absorbed into the 3rd Battalion. The battalion ended its war at Dover.
The 5th (Service) Battalion was a battalion of Kitchener's Army. The 5th Battalion was part of the K1 Group, the first New Army to be formed, and it was formed in Dublin in August 1914. It subsequently joined the 29th Brigade, 10th (Irish) Division at County Cork and in 1915 it was dispatched to Gallipoli, where it fought alongside the Royal Dublin Fusiliers and the Royal Munster Fusiliers.
The 6th (Service) Battalion was another Connaught battalion of Kitchener's Army. It was part of the K2 Group and was formed at County Cork in September 1914 and joined the 49th Brigade, 16th (Irish) Division. On the 18th December 1915 the battalion landed in Le Havre.
Some 2,500 Connaught Rangers were killed in World War I. Their graves lie in France, Belgium, Germany, Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, Egypt, Palestine, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, and England. In just over a week's fighting in the Battle of the Somme (September 1916), the 6th Battalion lost 23 officers and 407 other ranks. On 21 March 1918, the same Battalion was "practically annihilated" during the German Spring Offensive breakthrough at St. Emilie in France. In one week the battalion lost "22 officers and 618 other ranks", the latter figure including the 407 quoted by Denman. On the first day of the Spring Offensive the 6th Battalion found, following the opening bombardment, that the order to withdraw had not reached them so that they were left alone to face the onslaught of two fresh German divisions. Approximately 222 men were left standing after this. The Regiment lost over 300 men killed or wounded in action or missing on that day, following five weeks in the line. As a result of these heavy losses, the survivors were transferred into the 2nd Battalion, The Leinster Regiment, and the 6th Battalion, Connaught Rangers ceased to exist. Private Martin Moffat from Sligo, later a winner of the Victoria Cross, was one of the men transferred.
Mutiny in India, 1920:
When news of the Irish War of Independence, and the reprisals taken in Ireland by the Black and Tans and the Auxiliary Division reached the 1st Battalion at Jalandhar the mutiny began. On 28 June 1920, five men from C Company refused to take orders from their officers, declaring their intent not to serve the King until the British forces left Ireland. The Union Flag at Jalandhar, in the Punjab, was replaced by the flag of the Irish Republic.
Within three days, the mutiny ended and the mutineers imprisoned at Dagshai. At Solan, rumours began in the Rangers detachment there that the prisoners had been executed. Led by Private James Daly, about 70 Rangers joined the mutiny and stormed the armoury. The loyal guard successfully defended it: Privates Sears and Smyth were shot dead while other mutineers were taken prisoner. In all, about 400 men joined the mutiny, of whom eighty-eight were court martialled. Fourteen men were sentenced to death and the rest given up to 15 years in gaol. A few were acquitted. Thirteen of the men sentenced to die had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment.
The 21-year-old Daly was shot by a firing squad in Dagshai prison on November 2, 1920; he was the last member of British Forces to be executed for mutiny. Pte Sears and Pte Smyth were buried at Solan; Daly and John Miranda (who died in prison) were buried at the Dagshai graveyard (until 1970).
James Daly had served in the Great War earning the British War Medal & Victory Medal and had volunteered to serve in India.
Regimental Colours and other memorabilia:
The regiment was disbanded in 1922 upon the formation of the Irish Free State and the regimental colours were laid up at Windsor Castle. An earlier set of colours can be found in the 14th century Collegiate Church of St Nicholas in Galway city centre along with several stone memorials to fallen members of the regiment. The Regimental HQ was in Renmore Barracks, Galway (now Dún Ui Maoilíosa, Mellows Barracks, an Irish Army base) a few miles from the city centre. The barracks has a small museum of Rangers memorabilia which can be viewed by appointment with the curator.
As a result of the foundation of the Irish Free State under the terms of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, the Connaught Rangers and five other Irish infantry regiments of the British Army (from the territory of the new state) were disbanded in 1922. On 12 June the Rangers Colours, along with those of five other Irish regiments, were laid up in a disbandment ceremony at St. George's Hall, Windsor Castle in Berkshire in the presence of King George V and the five other disbanding regiments. The Rangers detachment included the commanding officers of the 1st and 2nd Rangers, Lieutenant-Colonels W. N. S. Alexander and H. F. N. Jourdain. The regiment was formally disbanded on 31 July, after which there was no regular regiment of rangers in the British Army until 1968 (The Rangers (12th London/9th Kings Royal Rifle Corps) existed as part of the Territorial Army). Many of the Irish officers and men of the Connaught Rangers helped form the Western Command of the new Irish Army (then called the "National Army").
The Rangers after 1922:
In 1936, the Oireachtas (Irish Parliament) passed the CONNAUGHT RANGERS (PENSIONS) ACT, 1936 An Act to provide for the payment of pensions, allowances, and gratuities to or in respect of certain former members of the 1st Battalion, the Connaught Rangers, and to make provision for other matters connected with the matters aforesaid. August 1936. The effect of the Act was to give the Mutineers parity of esteem with veterans of the Anglo-Irish War.
In 1970, the remains of Sears, Smyth and Daly were repatriated to Ireland by The National Graves Association and given a military funeral with full honours. A special monument in their honour was erected at Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin.
Today, the Irish Army Rangers are the Special Forces unit of the Irish Defence Forces and the Royal Irish Rangers are a regiment of the British Army. However, these connections are a coincidence of name only; the Connaught Rangers name and traditions irrevocably came to an end in 1922 when the colours were laid up.
In 1966 a stained glass memorial window to the Connaught Rangers was included in the new Galway Cathedral, which renders honour to a regiment so long associated with that part of Ireland, the rolls of which bore the names of every family in Connaught. The cost of the window was covered by subscriptions collected by The Connaught Rangers Regimental Association via The Regimental Journal - "The Ranger" which was still being published twice yearly.