The Forgotten Regiment: Enniskillen’s Third Regiment

The Forgotten Regiment: Enniskillen’s Third Regiment

In 1688, people of Enniskillen and the surrounding countryside banded together to defend the town from attack by forces loyal to the Catholic King, James II.

1690-91 - Inniskilling Horse, Dragoons and Foot

1690-91 – Inniskilling Horse, Dragoons and Foot

They declared their loyalty to the Protestant King William III. After successfully defending the town, these units of volunteer soldiers were enrolled in 1689 in the army of William. Six regiments were formed, commanded by professional soldiers who had arrived on the relief fleet at Londonderry: three of Foot, (Hamilton’s, Lloyd’s and Tiffin’s), one of Horse (Wolseley’s), and two of Dragoons, (Conynham’s and Whynn’s).  At this time, till 1751, regiments were known by the name of their commanding officer.

(Regiments of Horse fought as cavalry, the ‘shock’ troops on the battlefield and also were used for reconnaissance and pursuit. Regiments of Dragoons were infantry, mounted on horses for speedy movement, but they generally fought on foot.  When the definition of Horse was dropped, these regiments became known as Dragoon Guards.  However, the distinction between Dragoon Guards and Dragoons was fairly fluid.)

Of the six regiments raised in 1689, three, not two, were to survive and became regular regiments in the army from the 1690s.

The town of Enniskillen takes pride in the fact that two of these regiments in the British army carried the name ‘Inniskilling’, and had their origin in these events in 1689.  These two regiments were eventually to be called the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (infantry) and the 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards (cavalry).  However what is less well known is that a third regiment also dates from this time. It has largely disappeared from history because it was disbanded in 1799.  It was reborn 59 years later under a different name.

The Three Regiments from Enniskillen

Tiffin’s Foot.  Tiffin’s Foot fought at the Boyne in 1690 and Aughrim in 1691, and then in Flanders with King William’s army in the 1690s. After a short period in Ireland, the Regiment was sent to the West Indies from 1701 to 1706. In 1751, it was named the 27th (Inniskilling) Regiment of Foot. In 1881, this regiment amalgamated with the 108th Regiment of Foot to become the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.  Lloyd’s and Hamilton’s Regiments of Foot were disbanded in 1692.

Conynham’s Dragoons.  This regiment fought at the Boyne in 1690 and Aughrim in 1691. It remained in Ireland in the 1690s and early 1700s.. It left Ireland in 1708 and was not back for 100 years. The regiment was named the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons in 1751.  In 1922, the regiment amalgamated with the 5th Dragoon Guards to become the 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards.

Whynn’s Dragoons.  James Whynn’s Enniskillen Regiment of Dragoons was named the Royal Dragoons of Ireland in 1704, and in 1751 re-named the 5th Regiment of Dragoons of Ireland, then the 5th (Royal Irish) Dragoons.  It was disbanded in 1799.

Irish Dragoon

Irish Dragoon

The Horse regiment, Wolseley’s, was broken up in 1697 and its troopers directed to join Conynham’s Dragoons on pain of confiscation of their horses.

The story of Whynn’s Irish Dragoons, 1689-1799

In 1689, James Whynn, a captain in one of the English infantry regiments sent to the relief of Londonderry, was one of the officers selected to command the regiments of Enniskillen volunteers which were being brought under the establishment of the British army of King William III.  Whynn’s regiment fought at the battle of the Boyne in 1690 where it consisted of 260 men and officers.  It later fought at the battle of Aughrim and the siege of Limerick in 1691.

In 1694, the regiment was sent to Flanders to fight in King William’s army in the latter years of the Nine Years’ War, 1688-97. James Whynn died of wounds on campaign in 1695 and was succeeded by Lt Colonel Charles Ross.

In 1697, the regiment returned to Ireland with an establishment of 362 men. It was based in Connaught.

1704 - Irish Dragoons

1704 – Irish Dragoons

In 1702, the regiment was sent to join the Duke of Marlborough’s Allied army in Northern Europe, which was fighting against France in the War of the Spanish Succession, 1701-1714.  It fought with great distinction in the Duke’s four great victories, the battles of Blenheim, 1704; Ramilles, 1706; where it helped in the capture of an entire French regiment, Oudenarde, 1708; and Malpalquet, 1709.  It was awarded these four Battle Honours.  At Blenheim, the regiment captured three French Kettle drums which had pride of place on the Dragoons’ ceremonial occasions. It was also awarded the title, The Royal Dragoons of Ireland.  After Ramilles, the regiment was granted the distinction of being able to wear grenadier mitre caps. Grenadiers were elite infantry.

Grenadier Mitre c1740 (by permission of QRLNY Museum)

Grenadier Mitre c1740 (by permission of QRLNY Museum)

In 1713, the regiment returned to Ireland, where it was to remain for the rest of the century, billeted in small units in various parts of the country. It was involved in security duties, suppressing agrarian unrest and chasing smugglers and highwaymen.  Unfortunately, only coming together once or twice a year for Annual Review, its dispersal around the country led to a decline in discipline, operational effectiveness and morale, as the frequency in courts-martial suggests.

Irish Dragoon c1740

Irish Dragoon c1740

In 1751, in common with all other regiments in the army, the Royal Dragoons of Ireland were given a number, 5, and in 1756 it was named the 5th (Royal Irish) Dragoons.

In 1798, at the time of the outbreak of the United Irish rebellion, it was stationed in Dublin.  It fought in the engagements at New Ross, Enniscorthy and Vinegar Hill and in a number of lesser skirmishes.

However, in 1799 it was reported that some recent recruits had rebel sympathies and the decision was taken by King George, in order to set an example, that the regiment should be disbanded. It was sent to England and disbanded at Chatham. The loyal men were dispersed among other regiments.

A new name and new regiment: from Dragoons to Lancers

In 1858, at the height of the Indian Rebellion, the regiment was re-formed in Ireland as the 5th Royal Irish (Light) Dragoons (Lancers). It moved to England with 660 officers and men in 1861.  Shortly afterwards it was renamed 5th (Royal Irish) Lancers. This regiment campaigned in India and South Africa in the 19th century and in the First World War. It went to France in 1914 with the British Expeditionary Force.

In 1922, it was amalgamated with the 16th (the Queen’s) Lancers into a new regiment, 16th/5th Queen’s Royal Lancers.

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