Jump to content
Great War Forum

Remembered Today:

British Battalion Establishments in Ireland, 1919-1922


Recommended Posts

In 1914 there were at least three different manpower scales for a regular British army battalion, viz;

- Home service, around 700 IIRC

- Overseas garrison service, ??

- Active service, "war establishment", of just over 1,000.

 

By 1918, the war establishment had, I think decreased, though I don't recall the number.

 

My question is, what was the manpower establishment of the British battalions serving as occupation troops during the 1919-1922 period in Ireland?

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 18/03/2021 at 23:41, Wexflyer said:

My question is, what was the manpower establishment of the British battalions serving as occupation troops during the 1919-1922 period in Ireland?

 

   Removed by poster

Edited by Guest
Moderation
Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Wexflyer said:

 

By 1918, the war establishment had, I think decreased, though I don't recall the number.

 


open to be corrected by more knowledgable posters, but my thoughts are:


A regular infantry battalion still contained circa 1,000 men. The 1918 reorganisation reduced the number of battalions in a brigade but not the number of men in a battalion. 
 

As per Vs comment, Ireland would not have been regarded as overseas, so the overseas garrison strength is probably not relevant. 

Not exactly sure what you mean by home battalion. (Irish special reserve battalions ?)


All the regular Irish battalions were posted outside of Ireland at this time, as they were not trusted by the British. I assume the same was true of any remaining Irish special reserve battalions. Although I imagine the regimental depots were retained.  

The troops that were posted to Ireland were non-Irish and I am guessing regular battalions rather than special reserve or TF


 


 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
HERITAGE PLUS
Quote

The troops that were posted to Ireland were non-Irish

 

The Regiments  were but they had Irishmen serving in them.

 

Dave

Link to post
Share on other sites
Airshipped

Hi WexFlyer,

 

The term 'occupying troops' will be a contentious description, e.g. although for the majority of Irish people in 1918 the General Election was fought on the decision or otherwise for the elected representatives to leave Westminster and to establish Dáil Éireann, for many others it remains disputed (i.e. notwithstanding the tumbleweed blowing through the benches at Westminster in 1919 where the Irish MPs would have been previously).

 

With regard to the troops stationed in Ireland in the 1919-1922 conflict, it'd appear from most returns that the battalions were well under strength. This does not necessarily imply that there was any political dimension to the matter.

 

I'm just taking two examples from the deserters' returns (WO 35/173/5).

 

Both date to March/April 1922, i.e. after the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty. In one case, it's an Irish regiment of what was then still the UK army, the Royal Irish Fusiliers. The chap is apprehended outside the recently-established Northern Ireland, where his regimental depot was based, and notwithstanding the moves towards the establishment of the Irish Free State in the jurisdiction in which he's apprehended. In the other cases it's miscellaneous British regiments of what was then still the UK army of GB & Irl. (The Treaty duly gave rise to the disbandment of the Irish regiments south of the border).

 

1009886068_2017-Kew(308).JPG.018455e8c2d1ea886be1ff1ba4c383c2.JPG

2140807670_2017-Kew(311).JPG.4342a2a683bfa2ad265ba0f154afad6b.JPG

 

As may be noted, the desertions cover a wide range of service branches. Depending upon the time-frame in the 1919-1922 period, the monthly returns can be read to show anything from of frustration with the pace of demobilisation right through to difficulties with serving in Ireland. 

 

The Irish Civil War broke out in June 1922, so there would be that added complication of the so-called 'Republic' beginning to square off against what it considered to be the collaborationist 'Free State' and 'Northern Ireland'. This would be all far beyond the scope of the Great War Forum.

 

However, from the material to hand, it'd appear that regardless of which areas were under martial law and which had Auxiliaries and/or 'Black and Tans' to support the police (their auxiliary label was theoretically to the police rather than the army), the overall picture is of under-strength battalions.

 

I'm sure someone could cross-check with regimental depot establishment figures in GB or overseas and come up with a figure as to the extent to which illness, desertion etc affected their strength but it'd appear that the bulk of the pressures to demobilisation would have fallen into those early stages of the 1919/1922 conflict, and that anything after that is open to endless speculation, bearing in mind that it was supposed to be 'home' service for those regiments.

Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Airshipped said:

 

With regard to the troops stationed in Ireland in the 1919-1922 conflict, it'd appear from most returns that the battalions were well under strength. 

 

the overall picture is of under-strength battalions.

 

 


Sorry maybe I missing something here; Why do you say that the battalions in Ireland 1919 - 1922 were under strength? 
 

What returns are you referring to? 
 

I am failing to see the link between the handful of desertions cited and the assertion that the British battalions were under strength? 

 

Edited by Jervis
Link to post
Share on other sites
Airshipped

Jervis,

The monthly returns show the loss - on average - of 5+ men per month to desertion. Some of this takes place prior to deployment in Ireland. Somewhat ironic example below from the Loyal Rgt losing 14 in Feb 1921.

644545160_2017-Kew(464).JPG.c2abd13c2551401eb4c1ecf51cab991a.JPG

 

Of course there's the issue of 'on average', e.g. on average the troops would have less than four limbs each if we were to take into account frostbite or the loss of a few digits, i.e. it'd be a meaningless statistic. However, that's not to say that regular spikes in desertion prior to Ireland aren't worth considering when contrasting with the attrition rate through desertion when stationed in Ireland.

 

Another, example of 10 deserting from the North Staffordshire Regiment prior to deployment in Ireland in August 1921. By that stage a truce was in place.

1273548145_2017-Kew(419).JPG.4d0c42350880f52bafa065949e0130cf.JPG

 

We could go on and on. Here's a figure for desertions in October 1921, with the bulk of the 63 taking place in Ireland but a noticeable 16 in England.

957124997_2017-Kew(358).JPG.98c7bc35e6bcebb695877c1a0046776a.JPG

 

It'd be important for WexFlyer to establish which regiments were of interest to him/her. For example this month marks the centenary of the Crossbarry ambush. Tom Barry's memoirs refer to over a thousand British troops, which is considerably in excess of what was deployed in the engagement. Which would be of greatest interest? The Essex Rgt? The Hampshires? Or the (R)ASC drivers etc?

 

There are plenty of contributors to the forum who have a good deal of detail on the strength of each regimental battalion at this particular time period. A more focused request might yield the information sought. 

 

Just a final example of the double-digit desertion from England, here's an example of the 6th Dragoon Guards in April 1921. They lose 14 to desertion but the complication here is that the 3rd Dragoons are being attached to the carabiniers, this still being prior to their merger. 1684971769_2017-Kew(400).JPG.8bcb58128ab5fe9a1b962e1a1bb1020c.JPG

 

A desertion rate ranging from 50 to 70 per month per division might not seem significant but the point is that they don't arrive in Ireland at full strength. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
Muerrisch

If agonising over desertion is to be considered, a useful bench-mark is that the annual peacetime 1913  count for the infantry was about 800 out of 132000 [almost twice as many deserted for a short while and returned to the colours].

 

E & OE.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the very detailed response. 

 

My gut instinct was these desertion rates were not that unusual. But I have made a crude comparison to desertion rates of some Irish regiments both before and during the war - and yes by comparison they do seem relatively high. 

 

It is an interesting point. 

 

I am sure serving in Ireland was not a particularly enjoyable posting for a British Solider at that time, and many war veterans may have been suffering PTSD - but it is still surprising that there was a high desertion rate. 

 

In the context of the high rates of unemployment for ex. Soldiers, you would think there was still a lot of demand for soldiers pay. Certainly there was no shortage of applicants for the ADRIC and Black & Tans. Although I think the pay and conditions was much better in these roles than in the Army - certainly the ADRIC were very well paid. 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
corisande

When I last looked at it

 

A 2nd Lt in the Army would have got 16/- a day in comparison. The pay in the ADRIC for a Cadet was  21/- a day

 

The majority of ADRIC Cadets had been a full Lt or higher. Depending on your viewpoint you could argue that they were just on about the same pay as they had in the army, or on the other hand argue that as unemployed officers, it was more than they could have hoped for in civilian life

Link to post
Share on other sites
corisande

To return to desertions, a particularly important point is that as the War of Independence wore on, deserters were likely to be summilarly executed by the IRA (in case they were spies)

 

I have a couple of web pages . This one with some high profile cases on this

https://www.cairogang.com/deserters/deserters.html

 

and this with the detail on

https://www.cairogang.com/missing/missing-alphabetical.html

 

I have found it almost impossible to get any replies from British Army regiments on the subject, and there is a lot still to be "uncovered" on these 160 or so cases

Link to post
Share on other sites

The concept of British troops in Ireland being in "occupation" is misleading for the period 1919-May 1922.  All of the island of Ireland was still part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, thus regardless of the political situation, then garrisons and barracks would still have been dotted around as per "normal".  As far as I am aware, none of the main barrack centres used in Ireland BEFORE the war were not also in use AFTER the war. 

   As part of the "home" garrison then no battalion was likely to be up to "overseas" strength.  There appear to be at least 3 other considrations (there are others)

 

1) Irish regiments not being "trusted".  It would seem to me to be commonsense to avoid trouble if possible, so the placement of Irish regiments is no surprise. Why make a tense situation worse? The notion that a battalion that was not Irish was "occupying" -even within the borders of the existing state does not really stand up. If, for the sake of example there was a battalion of an Irish regiment stationed near Scunthorpe would that then be the Irish "occupying" Scunthorpe?  Irish regiments continued to have a strong presence of mainland UK manpower, especially at the war's end. Local research for London suggest to me that many of the "Irish" regiments were anything but that in the latter stages of the war, being propped up with large drafts from elsewhere. In addition, Irish recruitment continued from 1918-1922, vide the muster registers held by the National Army Museum (online at the NAM site). Thus, "Irish" regiments were not wholly Irish, while (with Irish recruitment), "British" regiments were not wholly British

 

2) Depots.  As far as I am aware, each of the Irish regiments continued to have a home depot on the island of Ireland, so a distinction must be made as to "garrison" strengths and "depot" strengths.  Anecdotally and from casual reading across the years, ALL regimental depots were busy, especially through 1919 and into 1920 as the wartime armies were disbanded and reorganized. In effect, the year or so after the war was a busy time for any depot as the powers-that-be tried to reconstruct a "Regular" British army out of the wartime army. This involved very extensive culling and transfers.  One has only to read the biographies,say, of the senior officers of the next war to see how transfers, demotions, reversion to substantive rank, etc. meant that regimental depots must have been busy places after the war. Even in Ireland.

 

3) Meeting the problems-  Yes, violence increased from all parties involved.  Your Humble is of the view that the situation in Ireland from 1918-1922 has for too long been in the thrall of a generation post- independence nationalist historians and that this is only recently been wearing off (See, for example, the excellent essays by the late Brendan Bradshaw on this- especially in "And thus began the Irish nation"- Bradshaw was as nationalist in background as they come- a Marist father from Limerick, son of a IRA man imprisoned in the troubles) The recent historical  about the untidy and violent leftovers of the Great War should also be applied to Ireland-it seems to have a commonalty with other areas of Europe in the post-war years- a large number of militarised (and armed) men returning to areas with nationalist agitation before the war and, thereafter, an escalation of violence. 

    Here, in any analysis, of "British" manpower in Ireland I think a couple of matters must be borne in mind-  a)  The use of force by state, using military forces as an "aid to the civil power"- which continued after May 1922.  b) Whether similar increasing unrest was met by extra use of  British arms- the obvious example here is Red Clydeside and St. George's Day 1921.  The period 1918-1922 in Ireland is not uniform- when and where, for example, does agrarian violence become banditry? (And for which in Ireland there is a very long tradition- Ribbonmen, Fenians, Peep O'Day Boys,etc,etc.etc.). And when does agararian violence become insurgency?

 

         Accurate figures for the strength of British arms in Ireland is curiously hard to come by (as indeed, are accurate figures of how many Irish were involved in paramilitary activity-the famous quote by Jacques Lang about how many resistants there were in France should also be applied to Ireland.)   Thisis where we miss Martin Gillott- I am pretty sure he had this covered in his extensive work on the "Irishness" of the British Army-  Oh to be able to come on to GWF and find a long, thoroughly researched and sparkling essay on the matter that would enlighten us all. Happy days

Edited by Guest
Link to post
Share on other sites
corisande
12 minutes ago, voltaire60 said:

the situation in Ireland from 1918-1922 has for too long been in the thrall of a generation post- independence nationalist historians and that this is only recently been wearing off

 

You have given a very fair summary of the deployment of the army in Ireland

 

And I too am delighted that Ireland is gradually emerging into a world where the "truth", whatever that might be, of the War of Independence can be rationally discussed

 

And yes, I too miss MG. He did a lot of fantastic work on the Irishness of the British Army

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 21/03/2021 at 09:05, corisande said:

When I last looked at it

 

A 2nd Lt in the Army would have got 16/- a day in comparison. The pay in the ADRIC for a Cadet was  21/- a day

 

The majority of ADRIC Cadets had been a full Lt or higher. Depending on your viewpoint you could argue that they were just on about the same pay as they had in the army, or on the other hand argue that as unemployed officers, it was more than they could have hoped for in civilian life


Agreed. I was comparing OR’s pay to ADRIC pay - but you are correct I should really have compared to officer pay. (Although as I recall the ADRIC got very generous leave allowance)

 

The key point I was making, was there was great demand for the available roles. 

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 22/03/2021 at 08:21, voltaire60 said:

 

1) Irish regiments not being "trusted".  It would seem to me to be commonsense to avoid trouble if possible, so the placement of Irish regiments is no surprise. Why make a tense situation worse? The notion that a battalion that was not Irish was "occupying" -even within the borders of the existing state does not really stand up. If, for the sake of example there was a battalion of an Irish regiment stationed near Scunthorpe would that then be the Irish "occupying" Scunthorpe?  


I said the Military authorities  did not trust the Irish Regiments in this period. That was not in connection with the original “occupation” statement but in connection with the fact that - post the 1916 Rebellion- Irish regiment were posted outside of Ireland. 

I agree It was very pragmatic and sensible - However there is no denying the decision was made because the units were not wholly trusted. 
 

Jervis

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...