Irish Guards
Get Irish Guards essential facts below. View Videos or join the Irish Guards discussion. Add Irish Guards to your topic list for future reference or share this resource on social media.
Irish Guards

The Irish Guards
Irish Guards Badge.png
Regimental badge of the Irish Guards
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (1900-1922)
 United Kingdom (1922-present)
Branch British Army
TypeFoot Guards
Role1st Battalion - Light Mechanized Infantry
Part of11th Infantry Brigade and Headquarters South East
Garrison/HQRHQ -- London
1st Battalion  -- Cavalry Barracks, Hounslow
Nickname(s)The Micks
Bob's Own
Motto(s)"Quis Separabit" (Latin)
"Who Shall Separate Us?"
MarchQuick - St Patrick's Day
Slow - Let Erin Remember
Mascot(s)Irish Wolfhound named Domhnall
Lieutenant Colonel Robert P Money
Colonel in ChiefElizabeth II
Colonel of
the Regiment
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge KG KT
Tactical Recognition FlashGuardsTRF.svg
TartanSaffron (pipes)
PlumeSt. Patrick's blue
Right side of Bearskin cap

The Irish Guards (IG), part of the Guards Division, is one of the Foot Guards regiments of the British Army and, together with the Royal Irish Regiment, it is one of the two Irish infantry regiments in the British Army.[1][2] The regiment has participated in campaigns in the First World War, the Second World War, the Iraq War and the War in Afghanistan as well as numerous other conflicts throughout their history. The Irish Guards claims six Victoria Cross recipients, four from the First World War and two from the Second World War.

The Irish Guards recruit in Northern Ireland and the Irish neighbourhoods of major British cities.[3] Although restrictions in Ireland's Defence Act make it illegal to induce, procure or persuade enlistment of any citizen of Ireland into the military of another state,[4] people from the Republic do enlist in the regiment.[5]

One way to distinguish between the five regiments of Foot Guards is the spacing of the buttons on their tunics. The Irish Guards have buttons arranged in groups of four as they were the fourth Foot Guards regiment to be founded. They also have a prominent St. Patrick's blue plume on the right side of their bearskins.


The Irish Guards regiment was formed on 1 April 1900 by order of Queen Victoria to commemorate the Irishmen who fought in the Second Boer War for the British Empire.[6][7]

First World War

Irish Guardsman in the First World War at the Battle of Pilckem Ridge 1917

Following the outbreak of the First World War, 1st Battalion, The Irish Guards was deployed to France almost immediately, and they remained on the Western Front for the duration of the war. During the early part of the war, the battalion took part in the Battle of Mons and formed the Allied rearguard during the Great Retreat. The battalion then took part in one of the bloodiest battles of 1914, the First Battle of Ypres, which began on 19 October, which left major casualties among the old Regular Army.[8]

The 1st Battalion was involved in fighting for the duration of 'First Ypres', at Langemarck, Gheluvelt and Nonne Bosschen. The 1st Battalion suffered huge casualties between 1-8 November holding the line against near defeat by German forces, while defending Klein Zillebeke.[8]

In May 1915, the 1st Irish Guards took part in the Battle of Festubert, though did not see much action. Two further battalions were formed for the regiment in July. In September that year, the battalion, as well as the 2nd Irish Guards, who had reached France in August, took part in the Battle of Loos, which lasted from 25 September until early October. Both battalions spent the rest of 1915 in the trenches and did not fight in any major engagements.[9]

The Irish Guards going up a communication trench. Elverdinghe, 30 July 1917.

This relative quiet period for the regiment was broken on 1 July 1916 when the Battle of the Somme began. The 1st Irish Guards took part in an action at Flers-Courcelette where they suffered severe casualties in the attack in the face of withering fire from the German machine-guns. The battalion also took part in the action at Morval before they were relieved by the 2nd Irish Guards.[10]

In 1917 the Irish Guards took part in the Battle of Pilckem which began on 31 July during the Third Battle of Ypres. The Irish Guards also took part in the Battle of Cambrai in that year, the first large use of the tank in battle took place during the engagement.[11] In 1918 the regiment fought in a number of engagements during the Second Battle of the Somme, including at Arras and Albert. The regiment then went on to take part in a number of battles during the British offensives against the Hindenburg Line.[12] On 11 November 1918 the Armistice with Germany was signed. The 1st Battalion, Irish Guards were at Maubeuge when the Armistice was signed.[13]

The regiment's continued existence was threatened briefly when Winston Churchill, who served as Secretary of State for War between 1919 and 1921, sought the elimination of the Irish Guards and Welsh Guards as an economy measure. This proposal, however, did not find favour in government or army circles and was dropped. Between the wars, the regiment was deployed at various times to Turkey, Gibraltar, Egypt and Palestine.[14]

Second World War

Guardsmen of the 1st Battalion, Irish Guards, advancing north of Anzio, Italy, 25 January 1944.

During the Second World War, battalions of the regiment fought in Norway, France, North Africa and Italy and following D-Day in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. The regiment first saw combat during the Norwegian Campaign. Following a challenging sea voyage to Norway, the 1st Irish Guards arrived in May 1940 and fought for two days at the town of Pothus before they were forced to retreat. The Irish Guards conducted a fighting withdrawal and served as the Allied rearguard.[15]

The battalion were evacuated along with the rest of the expeditionary force in June. While the 1st Irish Guards were fighting in Norway, the 2nd Battalion was deployed to the Hook of Holland to cover the evacuation of the Dutch Royal Family and Government in May 1940. 2nd Battalion were then deployed to France and ordered to defend the port of Boulogne. The guardsmen held out against overwhelming odds for three days, buying valuable time for the Dunkirk Evacuation, before they were evacuated themselves.[16] In November 1942, during the Second World War, Jean, Grand Duke of Luxembourg joined the British Army as a volunteer in the Irish Guards.[17]

All three battalions of the regiment remained based in the United Kingdom until March 1943 when the 1st Battalion landed, with the rest of the 24th Guards Brigade, in Tunisia, to fight in the final stages of the campaign in North Africa. The battalion saw extensive action while fighting through Tunisia and were subsequently deployed to the Italian Front in December of that year. The battalion took part in the Anzio landings on 22 January 1944.[18] The 1st Battalion participated in the fierce fighting around the Allied beachhead and suffered severe casualties fighting off a German counterattack at Campoleone after which the depleted battalion was returned to the UK in April.[19]

Two Irish Guardsmen and a camouflaged Sherman Firefly guard a section of the Bremen-Hamburg autobahn, 20 April 1945.

The Irish Guards returned to France in June 1944 when the 2nd and 3rd Irish Guards took part in the Normandy Campaign. Both battalions served as part of the Guards Armoured Division and took part in the attempt to capture Caen as part of Operation Goodwood. They also saw action in the Mont Pincon area. On 29 August, the 3rd Irish Guards crossed the Seine and began the advance into Belgium with the rest of the Guards Armoured Division towards Brussels.[20]

The Irish Guards were part of the ground force of Operation Market Garden, 'Market' being the airborne assault and 'Garden' the ground attack.[21] The Irish Guards led the vanguard of XXX Corps in their advance towards Arnhem, which was the objective of the British 1st Airborne Division, furthest from XXX Corps' start line. The Corps crossed the Belgian-Dutch border, advancing from Neerpelt on 17 September but the Irish Guards encountered heavy resistance which slowed the advance.[22] Following the conclusion of Market Garden, the Irish Guards remained in the Netherlands until taking part in the Allied advance into Germany and seeing heavy action during the Rhineland Campaign with Guardsman Edward Charlton winning the final Victoria Cross to be awarded in the European theatre.[23]

Since 1946

Irish Guards Recce Platoon operating a Scimitar Armoured Reconnaissance Vehicle (light tank) in the opening stages of the Iraq War.

After the war, the regiment was reduced to a single battalion. In 1947, the 1st Irish Guards deployed to Palestine to perform internal security (IS) duties there. It was then posted to the Suez Canal Zone in Egypt, remaining there until the British withdrawal in 1956. The regiment continued to serve in troubled regions such as Cyprus and Aden throughout the 1950s and 1960s. During this time they were also part of the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) in Germany on a number of occasions. They also served as the garrison of Hong Kong from 1970 to 1972.[24]

The Irish Guards were one of the few regiments in the British Army exempt from service in Northern Ireland during The Troubles. However, a Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) bomb blasted a bus carrying members of the regiment to Chelsea Barracks in October 1981. 39 people (23 soldiers and 16 others) were wounded and two civilians were killed.[25][26] 1992 saw the regiment finally carry out its first tour-of-duty in Northern Ireland, based in County Fermanagh.[24]

Irish Guards during a training exercise in Belize.

More recently, The Irish Guards were involved in the Balkans Conflicts when they were deployed to Macedonia and Kosovo in 1999 and were the first British unit to enter the Kosovan capital city of Pristina on 12 June. The regiment played a significant role in the initial stages of the Iraq War as part of the 7th Armoured Brigade and they led the British advance into Basra in March 2003.[27] In 2010, the Guards' 1st Battalion deployed on their first tour of duty during the War in Afghanistan.[28] The regiment completed its second and final tour of Afghanistan in 2013.[29]

Following the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing, 1st Battalion, Irish Guards were deployed in London to guard key locations, including the Ministry of Defence building in Whitehall, as part of Operation Temperer.[30]

As a result of the Army 2020 Refine reforms, the Irish Guards are in the process of relocating from Cavalry Barracks, Hounslow to Mons Barracks at Aldershot Garrison.[29][31][32]

Current role and organisation

The 1st Battalion Irish Guards is broken down into five separate Companies; three rifle companies, No.1, No.2, and No.4 Companies, along with No.3 (Support) Company, and the Headquarters Company. The Support Company has a Recon, Anti-Tank, Sniper and Mortar Platoons.[33] In common with the other Guards regiments, the regimental organization also includes the Band of the Irish Guards and the Corps of Drums (a fife and drum band). At a battalion level, there are also the Drum and Pipes.[34]

The Irish Guards and other Guards regiments have a long-standing connection to The Parachute Regiment. Irish Guardsmen who have completed P Company are transferred into the Guards Parachute Platoon, which is currently attached to the 3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment. The Guards Parachute Platoon maintains the tradition established by No 1 (Guards) Independent Parachute Company that was part of the original Pathfinder Group of 16th Parachute Brigade, which has since been designated as the 16th Air Assault Brigade.[35]


Foot Guards, wearing bearskins, march to the Cenotaph on 12 June 2005 for a service of remembrance for the Combined Irish Regiments Old Comrades Association annual parade. Their uniform buttons are in groups of four, identifying these soldiers as Irish Guards

Like the other Guards regiments, the "Home Service Dress" of The Irish Guards is a scarlet tunic and bearskin. Buttons are worn in two rows of four, reflecting the regiment's position as the fourth most senior Guards regiment, and the collar is adorned with a shamrock on either side. They also sport a St. Patrick's blue plume on the right side of the bearskin.[36]

A plume of St Patrick's blue was selected because blue is the colour of the mantle and sash of the Order of St Patrick, a chivalric order,[37] founded by George III of the United Kingdom for the Kingdom of Ireland in February 1783[38] from which the regiment also draws its cap star and motto.[39]

Irish Guards Pipers at Trooping the Colour

In "Walking-out Dress", the Irish Guards can be identified by the green band on their forage caps. Officers and senior non-commissioned officers also traditionally carry a blackthorn walking stick.[40]

Prince William wearing an Irish Guards Tunic and Forage Cap at his wedding to Kate Middleton

Like the other Guards regiments, they wear a khaki beret with the blue/red/blue Household Division backing patch on it. On the beret ranks from Guardsman to Lance Sergeant wear a brass or staybrite cap badge, Sergeants and Colour Sergeants wear a bi-metal cap badge, Warrant Officers wear a silver plate gilt and enamel cap badge and commissioned officers of the regiment wear an embroidered cap badge.[41]

The Irish Guards pipers' uniform is a kilt and tunic, like The Scots Guards, yet is also very different. Bagpipers wear saffron kilts rather than tartan, green hose with saffron flashes and heavy black shoes known as brogues with no spats, a rifle green doublet with buttons in fours and a floppy hat known as a caubeen rather than a feather bonnet.[42]

The regimental cap star is worn over the piper's right eye and is topped by a blue hackle.[43] A green cloak with four silver buttons is worn over the shoulders and is secured by two green straps that cross over the chest.[44]

Prince William wore the uniform of the Irish Guards for his marriage to Kate Middleton.[45]


The regiment takes its motto, "Quis Separabit", or "Who shall separate us?" from the Order of St Patrick.[46]


The Irish Guards are known affectionately throughout the British Army as "the Micks" or "Fighting Micks." An earlier nickname, "Bob's Own", after Field Marshal Lord Roberts has fallen into disuse. The term "Micks", while derogatory if used in civilian life, is embraced if used within the British Army.[7]


Recruits practicing drill on Catterick parade square

Recruits to the Guards Division go through a thirty-week training programme at the Infantry Training Centre (ITC). The training is two weeks more than the training for the Regular line infantry regiments of the British Army; the extra training, carried out throughout the course, is devoted to drill and ceremonies.[47]


Since 1902, an Irish Wolfhound has been presented as a mascot to the regiment by the members of the Irish Wolfhound Club, who hoped the publicity would increase the breed's popularity with the public. The first mascot was called Brian Boru.[48]

In 1961, the wolfhound was admitted to the select club of "official" Army mascots, entitling him to the services of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, as well as quartering and food at public expense. Originally, the mascot was in the care of a drummer boy, but is now looked after by one of the regiment's drummers and his family. The Irish Guards are the only Guards regiment permitted to have their mascot lead them on parade. During Trooping the Colour, however, the mascot marches only from Wellington Barracks as far as Horse Guards Parade. He then falls out of the formation and does not participate in the trooping itself. The regiment's current wolfhound is named Domhnall. His predecessor, Conmael, made his debut at Trooping the Colour on 13 June 2009.[49]

At the end of 2012 Conmael retired and was replaced with the new wolfhound- Domhnall.[50]

Traditions and affiliations

The Pipes and Drums, 2009.

St. Patrick's Day is the traditional regimental celebration.[51] It is customary for the regiment to begin the day's celebrations with the Guardsmen being woken by their officers and served gunfire.[52] Fresh shamrock is then presented to the members of the regiment, no matter where it is stationed.[39]

Except in wartime, the presentation of shamrock is traditionally made by a member of the Royal Family. This task was first performed in 1901 by Queen Alexandra and later by Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. After the latter's death, the presentation was made by The Princess Royal. Starting in 2012, the presentation has been made by the Duchess of Cambridge.[53] Her decision to skip the ceremony in 2016 to spend time with her children sparked some public controversy.[54] Her husband the Duke of Cambridge, who is Colonel of the Irish Guards, replaced her in making the presentation.[55]

In 1950 King George VI marked the fiftieth anniversary of the formation of the Irish guards by presenting the Shamrocks on St Patrick´s Day.[56] This honour was mirrored by King George's surviving wife, Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, fifty years later when she presented shamrocks to the regiment on St. Patrick's Day in their centenary year of 2000.[57]

Battle honours

The Regimental Colour of the 1st Battalion Irish Guards, displaying some of the regiment's battle honours.

The regiment's battle honours are as follows:[58]

Victoria Cross recipients

Notable members

Regimental Colonels

The Duke of Cambridge at Queen Elizabeth II's Birthday Parade, June 2013

British Army regiments typically have an honorary "colonel", often a member of the Royal Family or a prominent retired military officer with connections to the regiment, who functions as a kind of patron or guardian of the regiment's interests in high government circles. Queen Elizabeth II is colonel-in-chief of all Guards regiments.

The Irish Guards colonels have been:

Order of precedence



  1. ^ "The fighting Irish". The Irish Times. 31 July 2010. Retrieved 2015.
  2. ^ "Kevin Myers: However we view war, let's wish our lads a safe return". Retrieved 2015.
  3. ^ "Joining the Army". British Army. Retrieved 2015.
  4. ^ "Defence Act, 1954". Retrieved 2015.
  5. ^ "Lure of combat draws Irish men and women to British army". The Irish Times. 6 September 2008. Subscription required to view
  6. ^ Bartlett, Thomas; Jeffery, Keith (1997). A Military History of Ireland. Cambridge University Press. p. 380. ISBN 0-521-62989-6. Retrieved 2010.
  7. ^ a b Irish Guards Regimental website Archived 8 November 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ a b Kipling, Rudyard. "1914 - Mons To La Bassée". Retrieved 2017.
  9. ^ Kipling, Rudyard. "1915: La Bassée to Laventie". Retrieved 2017.
  10. ^ Kipling, Rudyard. "1916: The Salient to the Somme". Retrieved 2017.
  11. ^ Kipling, Rudyard. "1917: The Somme to Gouzeaucourt". Retrieved 2017.
  12. ^ "World War One". Irish Guards. Archived from the original on 14 March 2016. Retrieved 2016.
  13. ^ Kipling, Rudyard. "1918: Arras to the Armistice". Retrieved 2017.
  14. ^ "Irish Guards 1918-1939". Irish Guards. Archived from the original on 29 July 2003. Retrieved 2016.
  15. ^ Wilkinson and Astley, p. 66
  16. ^ Ellis 2004, p. 157.
  17. ^ "Biography of Grand Duke Jean". Luxembourg government. Retrieved 2016.
  18. ^ "The Anzio Landing 22-29 January". American Forces in action. Retrieved 2017.
  19. ^ D'Este, p. 200.
  20. ^ "Units of the Guards Armoured Division race along the highway to Brussels and liberate the city". Imperial War Museum. Retrieved 2019.
  21. ^ Randel 2006, p. 32.
  22. ^ Ryan 1999, p. 183.
  23. ^ Whiting, p. 87
  24. ^ a b "Irish Guards". British Army units 1945 on. Retrieved 2017.
  25. ^ "Bomb Incidents (London)". Retrieved 2015.
  26. ^ "Britain: Once More, Terror in the Streets". 9 November 1981. Retrieved 2015.
  27. ^ Taylor, Matthew (13 September 2008). "Beginners luck". The Guardian. London, UK.
  28. ^ "Irish Guards on tour of duty in Afghanistan". Retrieved 2018.
  29. ^ a b "The Irish Guards". British Army. Retrieved 2019.
  30. ^ "First Troops Deployed in Operation Temperer". Warfare.Today. Retrieved 2017.
  31. ^ Army Secretariat (10 March 2017). "Response to FOI2017/02130 - Request for information related to Army 2020 Refine" (PDF). Retrieved 2018.
  32. ^ "British Army units from 1945 on - Irish Guards". Retrieved 2019.
  33. ^ "The Irish Guards - The Battalion Layout". 2 March 2008. Retrieved 2018.
  34. ^ "Band of the Irish Guards". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 2016.
  35. ^ "No 1 (Guards) Independent Parachute Company". ParaData. Retrieved 2013.
  36. ^ Taylor, Bryn (2006). "A brief history of the regiment". Archived from the original on 15 April 2009. Retrieved 2009.
  37. ^ Penny cyclopaedia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, Volumes 13. C. Knight. 1839. p. 246.
  38. ^ Statutes and ordinances of the most illustrious Order of Saint Patrick, Dublin 1831, pp. 6-13.
  39. ^ a b "The Irish Guards - A Brief History of The Regiment". Archived from the original on 8 November 2015. Retrieved 2015.
  40. ^ "Ireland's Blackthorn Stick". Tintean. Archived from the original on 2 June 2016. Retrieved 2016.
  41. ^ "Irish Guards officer's embroidered cap badge". Retrieved 2016.
  42. ^ "Story of the Caubeen". London Irish Rifles Association. Archived from the original on 21 May 2016. Retrieved 2016.
  43. ^ "Identify the Guardsmen by their Buttons!". Royal Windsor. Retrieved 2016.
  44. ^ "Everything you need to know about the Changing of the Guard at Windsor". Windsor Express. 10 March 2015. Retrieved 2016.
  45. ^ "Royal wedding: Prince William marries in Irish Guards red". 29 April 2011. Retrieved 2016.
  46. ^ "Cambridge University Heraldic and Genealogical Society - Orders of Chivalry". Retrieved 2010.
  47. ^ "Combat Infantryman's Course - Foot Guards". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 2014.
  48. ^ "Regimental mascots - Irish Guards 1902-1910". Retrieved 2015.
  49. ^ "Irish Guards Mascots 2000 to present day". Retrieved 2015.
  50. ^ Ministry of Defence (3 January 2013). "Playful pup newest recruit to Irish Guards - Announcements". GOV.UK. Retrieved 2014.
  51. ^ "The Irish Guards - St Patrick's Day". Archived from the original on 8 November 2015. Retrieved 2015.
  52. ^ "Prince William fills in for Kate as he presents Irish Guards with St Patrick's Day shamrock". Daily Telegraph. London, UK.
  53. ^ "Kate's Irish charm: An emerald Duchess presents St Patrick's Day shamrocks to guardsmen (and she's a knockout for one soldier)". Daily Mail. London, UK.
  54. ^ "'She probably needs a rest!': Kate Middleton faces online backlash after breaking 115-year tradition by pulling out of presenting St Patrick's Day shamrocks to Irish Guards to spend time at home with her children". Daily Mail. London, UK.
  55. ^ Palmer, Richard. (17 March 2016). Prince William Handed Out Shamrocks at the St Patricks Day Parade as Kate Broke with Tradition.Sunday Express Retrieved 8 January 2019
  56. ^ The Duke of Cambridge Joins the Irish Guards at the St Patrick´s Day Parade. (17 March 2016) Retrieved 8 January 2019
  57. ^ "Queen Mother greets Irish Guards". BBC. London, UK.
  58. ^ a b "Irish Guards". Retrieved 2019.
  59. ^ "Europe's Last VC -- Guardsman Edward Charlton", After the Battle (magazine) No. 49, 1985. Contains additional memoirs of the surviving Irish Guards officers and men and German officers which correct the original citation.
  60. ^ "The Irish Guards - A Brief History, 1980 to The Present Day". Archived from the original on 25 July 2003. Retrieved 2015.
  61. ^ "No. 56020". The London Gazette (1st supplement). 7 November 2000. p. 12480.
  62. ^ "Prince William becomes Colonel of the Irish Guards". The Telegraph. 10 February 2011. Retrieved 2011.


External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



Music Scenes