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Reorganisation of the 36th (Ulster) Division February 1918


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Hopefully this might be of use to some members  plus hopefully get some feedback 


So how did Major General Nugent select the Infantry Battalions to stay and the Battalions to go in the reorganisation of the 36th (Ulster) Division?


The British Army prior to 1918 had four infantry Battalions per Brigade and with heavy casualties, lack of new soldiers and plus a rethink on tactics they followed the German Army to reduce Brigades to three Battalions.

Already the 36th (Ulster) Division has seen some changes in the 107th Brigade the 8th & 9th Battalions emerge into the 8/9th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles and the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers joined the Division in August 1917

Very similar in the 108th Brigade as the 11th & 13th Battalions emerge into the 11/13th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles, who gain the 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles in November 1917 and not forgetting the 7th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles who joined October 1917 and emerged into the 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles in November 1917

General Nugent had always been impressed by the 109th Brigade, one just needs to look at Battles up to 1918 to see why but he always wanted a Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers Brigade. He also thought in December 1917 that the 14th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles had lost the will to fight (in one day 118 men reported Sick in December 1917). In a letter to Adjutant General GHQ dated 11th December 1917 he asked can anything be done to make up the strength of the 3 Battalions of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in the 109th Brigade as they are “first rate fighting Battalions”. The 14th Battalion (YCV) Royal Irish Rifles fate was sealed as he stated” This Battalion should in my opinion be broken up in any case”. (To make up numbers in the other Royal Irish Rifle Battalions)

He had made a decision on who would stay and who would go, it was simple and in a letter dated 28th February 1918 to the Lord Mayor of Belfast he explains his thinking. 

“As General Officer Commanding the Division, I had the most unpleasant duty of selecting 2 Battalions of Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and 4 Battalions of Royal Irish Rifles for disbandment”

He continued 

“I decided that the Battalions to remain in the Division should be those which were composed of the men who first came forward to form the Ulster Division”

So it was clear it would be the most senior Battalions

“I therefore selected the senior of the 3 Battalions of Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers to remain”

That decision guaranteed that the 9th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers who remain, but as to the Royal Irish Rifles 

“I selected the senior Battalion to remain, this was the 15th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles, a Belfast Battalion originally raised as the 7th Battalion”

The 15th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles was to remain but there would be a twist

“The senior of the original Battalions of the Ulster Division would been 10th Royal Irish Rifles. This was also a Belfast Battalion and I decided that it would be unfair the the Counties of Down and Antrim that they should no representation amongst the original units of the Division. I therefore selected the 12th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles as the other Battalion to remain”

In a sudden twist of fate the 10th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles would be disbanded but ironically they would be the last Battalion to be disbanded to man the frontline. 

February 1918

107th Brigade 
1st Battalion Royal Irish Rifles
2nd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles
15th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles

108th Brigade 
1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers 
9th Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers 
12th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles 

109th Brigade 
1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers 
2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers 
9th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers

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The symbolism in Irish history is always interesting. I see you use the correct left red had for the Ulster Division in your avatar


Even the Ulster Tower on the Somme uses the incorrectly the right red hand. See below



There is an interesting article in the Belfast Newletter - click. on the confusion between the two versions, left and right.


Somme Association director Carol Walker told the News Letter: “The Ulster Division hand was a left hand, different to the red hand that’s on the Northern Ireland flag or the Ulster flag as we know it today.


I have found it impossible to get a definitive, rather than speculative, statement as to why the Ulster Division used a left hand


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  • 3 months later...

Ulster Div,


Perhaps Carol needs to have another look at the history of the Ulster Division.

The original 'Dixie' cap badges were right handed. As issued to the first volunteers.

I would hazard a guess the change from right to left was to differentiate the Division as part of the British army rather than part of the UVF who's badges were mainly right handed.

So possibly one of Nugent's ideas to de-politicise it.

There is no correct way.

Regarding the break up of the Battalions, the 9th Inniskillings was not the senior battalion, they all were given the approval to form on the 14th September if I am not mistaken [Inniskillings] and the only thing that perhaps defines which is senior is that the 9th probably was filled first.

But 109th Brigade was the best in both action and general discipline.

What makes the 10th RIR senior? again I would have thought the 9th RIR West Belfast as being so, having been filled quickest.


I wouldn't put too much store in what Nugent says without cross checking as he was known for firing off from the lip.

I don't think he ever understood the Division mentality being more Anglo than Ulster.



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  • 11 months later...


        The senior Battalion was the 15th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles, with the 8th & 9th Irish Rifles being amalgamated the next in line for seniority was the 10th South Belfast Royal Irish Rifles. Like you, I would agree that the Dixie badge was replaced for political correctness. Hopefully, a post soon will explain a bit more as the research continues. 


The 109th was the best fighting and discipline in the eyes of General Nugent, and he always admired them. He always chose them for the attacks, and others would have done as good if given a chance. When the 107th Brigade got sent to the 4th Division in November 1915, when it was time to return the 4th Division wanted to keep the 107th Belfast Brigade. 


I have really enjoyed the chat.



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If there is an answer to your question about disbandments it may well be mentioned in this book if you can get a copy.  The Prince Consort's Library in Aldershot had a copy; otherwise inter-library loan or Abebooks.







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Dear All,

Apropos the 36th (Ulster) Division:-

The Asst. Provost Marshal in 1917-18 was the decorated and twice-Mentioned Capt George Barrett Goyder, General List and IARO (a member of the Indian Finance Dept.).

Here is what he looked like, ca. 1910 (any wartime group photograph including Capt Goyder would be gratefully received!), and I attach his cased medal group, etc1050059344_GoyderinNineofClubsattireca1910.jpg.3e5c4f09bbc83672d9bae31d25bfd437.jpg229143183_CaptG.B.GoyderVD.JPG.d7f2f9a38e737dc3fabd9c90563d6b38.JPG778395205_1917MiDCaptGoyder.jpg.6ac59ef078a02d7f5bb70e080db5e02d.jpg1542964974_1919MiDCaptGoyder.thumb.jpg.9e6e6ebadb6a8bdc2030b620461573de.jpg326952760_1918ArmyListCaptGoyder.jpg.88a4857dfbb8054fe8bc710ac2542eac.jpg1197901254_CaptGoyderFr.CroixdeGuerre.jpg.2b8abef0ee30a44050e178d6a888ee44.jpg85609422_MICbothsides.jpg.4fc1f8f943a079b2bc33a572508f8ded.jpg....

Kindest regards,


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Dear All,

Can any 36 (Ulster) Div aficionado tell me how Capt Goyder would have fitted into the scheme of things, within that famous Division?

Perhaps there may be some documentary evidence of his efforts...?

At least I have been able to put a face to the list of names. Goyder broke his leg badly at the Front when he 'slipped on the ice', and was evacuated to an Officers' hospital and operated on by a well-know surgeon (Sir Abuthnot XXX)...

Kindest regards,


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