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The Presentation of New Colours to the 2nd Battalion The Royal Dublin Fusiliers, 1911.

By Phil Carter

 

 

This is the story of the  Colours of one battalion of the Irish Regiments of the British Army, the 2nd. Battalion,  Royal Dublin Fusiliers, of the music associated with their presentation and their laying up and of the 50 year association with a member of the British Royal Family. In the 41 years of its existence the Battalion only received one stand of Colours emblazoned with its Name, its Battle Honours and  its regimental devices. These Colours  were presented by H.R.H. Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, Royal Colonel of the Regiment,  on the 1st July 1911 and laid up in his presence on 12th. June 1922.

 

The 2nd. Battalion , The Royal Dublin Fusiliers, could trace its history back to 1661 when a European Corps was formed to claim  the territory around Bombay that had come to the English crown as part of the dowry of Catherine of Braganza on her marriage to King Charles II.  In 1668  these crown troops transferred to the service of the Honourable East India Company as the Bombay European Regiment. This small corps of 5 officers  and 139 European troops garrisoned the factory or trading station of the Honourable East India Company and its fortress in Bombay. The original corps must have fought well under difficult climatic conditions to justify their sobriquet of the "Old Toughs".  Members of the corps joined forces with troops of the Madras European Regiment ( later to become the 1s. Battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers) to take  part in Clive's campaigns against the Nawab of Bengal and  both corps were present at the Battle of Plassey where, on 23rd. June 1757, Clive with just 1,100 European troops, 2,100 sepoys and 9 field pieces defeated the 70,000 native troops and 53 guns of the Nawab's army, winning for both Regiments the Battle Honour Plassey.

In 1844 the Regiment was listed in the Army  of the Bombay Presidency as the 1st. Bombay (European) Fusiliers, a distinction they were to retain when, in 1862 they were taken back into Royal Service in the British Army as the 103rd. Royal Bombay Fusiliers. In 1870 the Regiment was posted to England for the first time in its 209 years of  existence and in the following year, on the 19th August 1871,  at Pankhurst on the Isle of Wight, H.R.H. Prince Arthur, the third son of Queen Victoria, presented them with their first stand of Colours as a Regiment of the British Army.[1]

 

In 1881, as a result of the Childers' Reforms, the 102nd Royal Madras Fusiliers and the 103rd Royal Bombay Fusiliers, sharing their Plassey Battle Honour,  were amalgamated to form the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers with their depot at Naas in County Kildare.  The older unit, the Royal Bombay Fusiliers, assumed the junior place as the 2nd Battalion in the new Regiment because the Royal Madras Fusiliers, although formed in 1748, 87 years after its Bombay counterpart, took seniority, regiments of the Madras Presidency taking precedence over those of Bombay in the John Company army  lists.

The Battalion fought with some distinction in the South African Wars  and returned to England at the turn of the new century.

The Accession of George V  in 1910 gave an opportunity to replace the old colours of the 103rd Regiment which were still being carried by  the Battalion. The Old Colours were by then  in a very poor condition, especially the King's Colour which had been reduced to the vertical and horizontal arms of the St George's Cross and the surrounding fringe.  The  provision of New Colours meant that King George's Crown,  the Regimental devices of the tiger and elephant, symbols of the service of the regiment in India,  as well as the Honours won in the South African Wars could  now take their proper place on the Colours

The presentation ceremony took place on 1st. July 1911 on the Queen's Parade in Aldershot. The ground was enclosed by the 2nd. Battalion, Grenadier Guards and by the 1st. Battalion Queen's Own Cameroon Highlanders. The parade was commanded by the Commanding Officer of the Battalion,  Lieut. Col. W. Bromilow.

Music for the ceremony was provided by the Band, the Corp of  Drums and the Pipers of the Battalion, some 90 musicians in all. The 50 members of the band paraded in the full dress red serge tunic with blue collar and cuffs as befitted a Royal Regiment. The tunic was adorned with musicians' wings. The head dress was a fusilier cap made of  black bear or racoon skin with a plume on the left side, blue above, green below. The front of the cap carried the regimental badge, a grenade with a tiger above an elephant on its ball. The trousers were of  blue serge with a red welt up the outer seam. The bandmaster was Warrant Officer William Scragg who had enlisted in West Yorkshire Regiment in 1894 aged 18 and transferred to the 2nd. Royal Dublin Fusiliers in June 1906. He retired from the Regiment in 1917.

The thirty members of the Corps of Drums marched at the front of the band and were led by the Sergeant Drummer who carried a mace on the top of which was a silver representation of Dublin Castle. The drummers  wore a uniform similar to that of band with drummers' wings but  with the addition of drummers' lace stitched to the outer seam of each arm and to the back of the tunic. The  battalion pipers, who were still unofficial at this time and were carried on the battalion's strength as rank and file,  wore the unadorned uniform of a private soldier. The pipers played the two droned Irish Warpipe and  it is thought that they marched at the rear of the band.  In 1911 the members of the Band, the Corps of Drums and the Pipers were still carried on the strength of the 8 companies of the Battalion and pictures of the companies taken on the day of the parade show each with its allocated musicians and drummers.

 

The Parade began with the arrival of H.R.H. Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, by motor car,  a matter of some note in 1911.  His Royal Highness wore the uniform of the Regiment and the Sash and Order of Saint Patrick to honour the Regiment's Irish connections.  He was received by a Royal Salute and then the Duke, accompanied by Lieut. Col. Bromilow, inspected the Battalion. The ceremony then proceeded as follows;

  1.           Trooping of the Old Colours

              March of the Drums                           Wearing of the Green

              Slow March of Band and Drums            Let Erin Remember

              Quick March                                                St. Patrick

              Drummer's Call

              March of Escort                                 British Grenadiers

              March of Old Colours                          Come Back to Erin

              Farewell March of Old Colours            Auld Lang Syne

2             Formation of three sides of a square

3             Consecration of the New Colours by Rt. Rev. Bishop Taylor Smith, Chaplain                  General

4             Presentation of the New Colours by His Royal Highness

5             Address by His Royal Highness

6             Reply by Lieut. Col. Bromilow

7             Reformation of the Line

8             Salute to the New Colours.

9             Formation of Column

10           March Past

11           Reformation of the Line

12           Royal Salute

13           March of the Battalion with Old and New Colours to the Officers' Mess

 

After the return to the Officers' Mess  the officers of the Battalion entertained friends and past officers to an "at Home" in the mess garden when the band played for the remainder of the afternoon.[2]

The New Colours were carried by the Battalion  on  street lining duties for the Coronation of George V on 22nd. July 1911 and for the Royal Progress through London on 23rd July.  Both the coronation procession and the royal progress consisted entirely of mounted units and the infantry regiments were confined to street lining duties.[3]

The 2nd Battalion fought throughout the First World War on the Western Front where three sergeants of the Battalion, Sgt. R. Downie, Sgt. J. Ockendon and Sgt. H. A. Curtis were awarded the Victoria Cross. After the war the Battalion was posted to Multan in India.

 

With the formation of the Irish Free State in 1922 the five Irish Infantry Regiments that had traditionally recruited in the territory of the new state, The Royal Irish Regiment, The Connaught Rangers, The Prince of Wales' Leinster Regiment, The Royal Munster Fusiliers, and The Royal Dublin Fusiliers, were disbanded. The Colours of these Regiments were paraded for the last time on 12th. June 1922[4] when they were taken by train to Windsor Station. In the station forecourt the Colours of the 10 infantry battalions, two battalions from each Regiment,  were  saluted by an escort found by 3rd. Battalion Grenadier Guards.  A contingent of the South Irish Horse, a Yoemanry Regiment which had been raised in 1903 and recruited in Dublin, Cork and Limerick  was also present although it  had no standard or guidon on parade.  Led by the Band of the Grenadier Guards the parade set off and marched  through the streets of Windsor to St. George's Hall in Windsor Castle where the King was waiting. The band first played the Grenadiers' own slow march "Scipio" and then broke into the quick marches of the regiments whose colours were carried behind it, "Garyowen," for the Royal Irish Regiment " St. Patrick's Day", for the Connaught Rangers, The Royal Munster Fusiliers and the Royal Dublin Fusiliers,  "Come Back to Erin", for the Leinster Regiment  and  "The Wearing of the Green", and "Killaloe" as generic Irish marches.

In Saint George's Hall the Regimental Colour Parties formed ranks in order of their precedence in the Army Lists, The South Irish Horse to the right of the line, then The Royal Irish Regiment, The Connaught Rangers, The Prince of Wales' Leinster Regiment, The Royal Munster Fusiliers, and, on the left, The Royal Dublin Fusiliers. The deputation from the Royal Dublin Fusiliers included the king's uncle,  H.R.H., The Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, their Royal Colonel, who wished to mark his long association with the Regiment. It was he  who had presented the first Colours to the 103rd. Royal Bombay Fusiliers some 51 years earlier in  1871 and then to both Battalions of the Dublins, the 1st Battalion in 1908 in Alexandria, Egypt, and the 2nd. Battalion  in Aldershot in 1911.

King George V  entered the Hall accompanied by his consort, Queen Mary.  As the band,  which had remained outside the hall,  played the slow marches of the Regiments , "Oft in the Stilly Night",   "Let Erin Remember"  and  "The Harp that once through Tara's Halls",  each Colour Party marched forward in turn and presented their Colours to the King. The Colours were then hung in the Hall where they remain to the present day.

The 2nd. Battalion, The Royal Dublin Fusiliers was finally disbanded in 1923. Many of its bandsmen transferred to other regiments of the British Army whilst others joined the Defence Forces of the Irish Free State and helped to form its new band service.

The memory of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers is kept alive by its Regimental Association[5] and its archives are housed  in The Royal Dublin Fusiliers' Association Archive at Dublin City Archive and Library, 138-144, Pearse Street, Dublin 2.

 

 

Bibliography

 

Presentation of Colours to The 2nd Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers  (The Old Toughs), 1911,  Gale &  Polden Ltd., Aldershot, England

 

W.Y. Carmen, Indian Army Uniforms, Infantry  1969  ( Morgan-Grampian Books Ltd.,   London, England)

 

R.G. Harris. The Irish Regiments, A Pictorial History,  1989, (ISBN 1-571876-00-1, Nutshell Publishing Co Ltd, Tunbridge Wells, England)

 

Tom Johnstone, A Memory of disbanded Irish Regiments, in Sabretache, June 2004.

 

Boris Mollo, The Indian Army, 1981,  ( ISBN 1 85079 085X,   Blandford Press Ltd., Poole, England)

 

Sound the Trumpet, Beat the Drum, Editors C. Dean & G. Turner, 2002 ( ISBN 1-898594-72-4,            Parapress Ltd, Tunbridgr Wells, England)

 

Gordon & Alwyn Turner, The History of British Military Bands, Volume 3,  1997,  ( ISBN 1-873376-28-6, Spellmount Ltd, Staplehurst, England)

 

The Royal Dublin Fusiliers Regimental Association    rdfa@eircom.net



[1] R.G. Harris. The Irish Regiments, A Pictorial History,  1989, page 224, (ISBN 1-571876-00-1, Nutshell Publishing Co Ltd, Tunbridge Wells, England)

 

 

[2] Presentation of Colours to The 2nd Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers  (The Old Toughs), 1911,  (Gale &  Polden Ltd., Aldershot, England)

 

[3] Sound the Trumpet, Beat the Drum, Editors C. Dean & G. Turner, 2002 page 8 ( ISBN 1-898594-72-4, Parapress Ltd, Tunbridgr Wells, England)

 

[4] Tom Johnstone,  A Memory of disbanded Irish Regiments, in Sabretache, June 2004.

 

rdfone.jpg

Above, the pipe band. They are not wearing kilts or pipers uniform because in 1911 pipers had not been made an official part of the army. It would be another 10 years before they became official army position. Until then they wore standard musician's uniform.
 
Below, the military band of the Dublin Fusiliers.

rdftwo.jpg