A Forgotten Campaign

The 5th and 6th Inniskillings arrive in Salonica, Greece, October 1915

The 5th and 6th Battalions of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers were in 31 Brigade, 10th Irish Division.  Their sister battalions in the Brigade were 5th and 6th Royal Irish Fusiliers.

In October 1915, the Division was sent to Greece with a view to defending Greece from a Bulgarian attack and to go to the assistance of Serbia. It arrived in Salonica much under strength after its three month campaign in Gallipoli. The men were in poor physical condition for the trying climate of the Gallipoli Peninsula had sapped their strength. An eye witness said, the faces of most of the men were yellow and wizened and their bodies thin.  The 5th Inniskillings’ roll recorded 21 officers and 676 Other Ranks.  (the normal OR roll would be around 1000).

British warship, Salonica (Inniskillings Museum)

British warship, Salonica (Inniskillings Museum)

The Inniskilling Battalions arrived on board HMT Aeneas on 16th October 1915. An officer of the 6th Battalion wrote his impressions: As one enters the harbour of Salonica the scene is very impressive – a fine looking town surrounded by mountains in rear, and on either side; but upon landing and having a closer observation of the town and its human and material contents, one is immediately struck by the tawdry squalor of the whole place, with the possible exception of one street and a few respectable houses on the sea front.

Disembarking the hard way, Salonica (Inniskillings Museum)

Disembarking the hard way, Salonica (Inniskillings Museum)

After about two weeks in camp, re-equipping and receiving some new drafts, the Battalions entrained on 8/9th November to move north to cross the Greek frontier into Serbia.

Greek peasants, Salonica (Inniskillings Museum)

Greek peasants, Salonica (Inniskillings Museum)

An example of the many tasks being undertaken is that on 15th November, 125 men and one officer of 5th Inniskillings were detached to guard and assist French cavalry clearing inhabitants from five villages 

Map (Inniskillings Museum)

Map (Inniskillings Museum)

The Bulgarians drive the 10th (Irish) Division back.

The defensive line the Division was to take up was in the mountains between Serbia and Bulgaria. It was wild hill-top country broken by deep ravines, barren rock and scree with little vegetation.

As they marched to their first defensive positions in these mountains the Battalions could hear artillery and rifle fire to their front and left as the French engaged the Bulgarians near the frontier. Francis Ledwidge of 5th Inniskillings commented: Being a mountainy country, we suffer much from rain and cold. A goodly few of us have rheumatism badly —.  It poured on us all the 90 miles we had to march and, what with sleeping in wet clothes, sweating and cooling down I got an attack of bad back —-.

Francis Ledwidge (Inniskillings Museum)

Francis Ledwidge (Inniskillings Museum)

On 16th November the 6th Inniskillings received instructions on improving their defensive positions: emphasis was placed on concealing trenches, and if trenches were impossible, stone Sangers were built, faced with earth. A few days later this Battalion was ordered to a new position forward of the front line.  It was on an isolated mountain, called Rocky Peak, 700 ft above the surrounding ravines. On the first few days there was occasional action by Bulgarian snipers and artillery and a trickle of Bulgarian deserters crossed over.

Irish soldiers in stone sangers on Kosturino ridge (Inniskillings Museum)

Irish soldiers in stone sangers on Kosturino ridge (Inniskillings Museum)

Then, on 27, 28 and 29 November, a severe blizzard hit the lines. Temperatures dropped to 30 degrees below; three feet of snow covered the ground, which soon froze. An officer wrote: The drenched skirts of greatcoats stood out stiff like a ballet dancer’s dress It was impossible to go down to the bottom for our dinners or have them brought to us.  All our belongings were buried in the snow and the cold and the wet were intense. The Bulgar occupied a similar mountain, not more than a stone’s throw away, but it was too cold for either him or us to shoot, and both armies were too much occupied in trying to keep the circulation of the blood in their bodies. Fires at night were not allowed, so sleep was impossible. When woollen underwear arrived the cold was such that the men would not undress to put it on but instead wrapped it round their necks like scarves.

Bulgarian Cigarette Card (Inniskillings Museum)

Bulgarian Cigarette Card

When the Battalion was relieved on 28th from this exposed position (by 5th Royal Irish Fusiliers) four officers and 65 men were admitted to hospital suffering from frostbite.

The Battle of Kosturino 6th – 12th December

Although the High Command had decided to withdraw from these exposed positions as soon as the French forces on the left had completed their withdrawal, the Bulgarians pre-empted this by launching a full scale attack, in overwhelming numbers, on the whole Division on 7th December.

Irish soldiers engage in hand to hand fighting with Bulgarians.

Irish soldiers engage in hand to hand fighting with Bulgarians.

Fusilier Ledwidge’s description epitomised the experiences of all the Battalions in the front line. The Bulgars came on us like flies and though we mowed them down line after line, they persisted with awful doggedness and finally gave us a bayonet charge which secured their victory. We only had about 200 yards to escape by and we had to hold this until next evening and then dribble out as best we could. Another soldier commented that, in the mist and fog, it was difficult to distinguish friend from foe because the Bulgarians’ head gear was so similar to their own.  The 5th Battalion, Connaught Rangers had particularly heavy casualties, with 138 killed and 130 taken prisoner.  The Inniskilling Battalions were in reserve and lost 11 killed.

Bulgarian Infantryman

Bulgarian Infantryman

The Division’s fighting withdrawal took account of the need to keep in touch with the hard- pressed French on the left and allow them the time to get their men and supplies back into Greece.

At the height of the fighting,  Brigadier King-King of 31st Brigade, which was on the right flank of the Division, fearing that his men were about to be outflanked, on his own initiative, ordered a withdrawal to begin. The Divisional Commander, Brigadier General Nicol, had little alternative but to order a further withdrawal of the whole Division back south and eventually across the frontier.

Bulgarians relax

Bulgarians relax

By 10th December the 31st Brigade was back on Greek territory and by 17th the Division was back in Salonica.   Men were so exhausted by the gruelling fighting and the forced marches that many of them could not eat the hot food supplied.   However, it was said that the 6th Inniskillings arrived back in Salonica as if they had only been on an ordinary route march!

Casualty Clearing Station, Salonica (Inniskillings Museum)

Casualty Clearing Station, Salonica (Inniskillings Museum)

Posted in News

FESTUBERT: NEVER TO BE FORGOTTEN

In the Spring 1930 edition of The Sprig of Shillelagh, covering the period of April, May, and June, the unveiling of the “Le Touret Memorial”, at the Military Cemetery in Richebourg, was reported. According to the article, there were 13,479 names on the memorial. Today a total of 245 Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers are listed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission as appearing at Le Touret. The majority of these men were lost on one night – the night of the 15th/16th May 1915 at the Battle of Festubert. The “Sprig” article reads “the Never to be Forgotten 15th of May, 1915, when, at Festubert the 2nd Battalion The Royal Inniskillings Fusiliers, had 700 casualties out of a strength of 1,000, and covered itself with glory”.  Now, 100 years on, it is a battle we hear little about despite it being the single worst day for losses for any Battalion of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers throughout the entirety of the First World War.

2nd Bn Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in trenches at Cuinchy

2nd Bn Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in trenches at Cuinchy

The 2nd Battalion, having been part of the British Expeditionary Force, was stationed in Dover at the outbreak of the First World War. After receiving drafts of some 700 men from the reserve battalions based in Ireland, they embarked for service on 23rd August 1914. The Battalion War Diary starts two days later, on 25th August, reporting the men detraining at Bertry at 4:30pm and by 7:45pm they were engaged in battle. And so began the First World War for the Inniskillings.

By the end of April 1915 the battalion had suffered 292 men killed and hundreds more wounded and missing. Drafts were coming in from the Reserve battalions “back home”, but it was a constant struggle to keep numbers up. In early May they were in and around the small village of Richebourg, taking part in various attacks on the German lines that CAM Alexander said could “only be classed … as a failure”. On 10th May they went into billets at Richebourg. It was at this time that some of the most well-known photographs of the 2nd Battalion were captured. Men seen in these photos such as 2/Lt JJL Morgan, Lt J H Stewart, Lt RWG Hinds and Lt E Crawford were all amongst the 392 men killed in the month of May 1915.

2nd Bn Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers at Richebourg 3 days before the attack

2nd Bn Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers at Richebourg 3 days before the attack

After daylight attacks had failed on 9th May, a night attack was deemed to be the best option for a successful break through the German lines. The offensive of the 1st Army was to be resumed on the night of the 15th/16th May. The 2nd Battalion had taken over the front line breastworks on the night of the 12th, and before the offensive commenced had already lost 6 men with forty more wounded. Amongst these was 2/Lt VES Mattocks.

At 11:30pm on the night of the 15th May, the 2nd Battalion attacked to the right of the 2nd Worcestshire Regiment, supported by the 2nd Oxford & Bucks and the 9th Highland Light Infantry. “A” and “D” Companies attacked to the left and right, respectively, of a cinder track bordered by two deep ditches on either side. Both gained significant ground. “D” Company penetrated the 1st and 2nd Lines of the German trenches, but “A” Company were cut off after having taken the 1st Line Trench due to lack of support from the failed attack to their left flank and severe losses. “B” Company, who were in support of “A” Company, also suffered grevious losses and were unable to provide the much needed assistance in order to ensure success.

In trenches at Cuinchy; Crawford, Hinds, Cox, Daniels and Lyons

In trenches at Cuinchy; Crawford, Hinds, Cox, Daniels and Lyons

“D” Company would hold the Second German Line until the night of the 16th when they were ordered to retreat to the Reserve Breastworks. The following night they were relieved by the 1/1st Gurkhas.

In total 252 Officers and Men of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers are recognised as having lost their lives on the 15th and 16th May 1915. In the following months, reports of the battle appeared in the Sprig of Shillelagh, such as one from Sergeant R Langford who said, harrowingly, “Many of our wounded were buried by shells in dug-outs where they had been placed for safety”. In other issues, wives searched for their husbands, and others supplied photographs where their husbands were known to have died for obituaries.

Officers before the battle; JH Stewart, EEJ Moore, CC Hewitt, VES Mattocks (all killed or wounded)

Officers before the battle; JH Stewart, EEJ Moore, CC Hewitt, VES Mattocks (all killed or wounded)

The men who peer out at us from these photographs knew not what they were to face just days later. Their faces bear testimony to the courage demonstrated by both the Inniskilling Regiments throughout the First World War, and remind us of the youth that was lost. As we approach the centenary this year we endeavour, at the Inniskillings Museum, to ensure that, as noted 85 years ago, the Battle of Festubert will never be forgotten.

Posted in News

The Death of Innocence – The Gallipoli Campaign








Posted in News

Imperial Duties, 1903 -1914

Playing the tourist! Egypt 1903 - 1908

A far flung Empire before the First World War. 

Egypt. Even before the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, Egypt, a part of the Turkish Empire, was the land bridge for communication with Britain’s possessions in India and the Far East. The Inniskillings had been part of an army sent in 1801 to expel French occupying forces.  The opening of the canal in 1869 increased Egypt’s importance a hundred fold.  In 1875 the British government bought the ruler of Egypt’s shares in the Suez Canal Company and then, in 1888, the canal was declared a neutral zone under the protection of the British.

From 1903 to 1908 the 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers was part of that protection force.

Presentation of Boer War medals - Egypt

Presentation of Boer War medals – Egypt

Funeral of Private Muir, 2nd Bn - 18 Aug 1904

Funeral of Private Muir, 2nd Bn – 18 Aug 1904

Malta. The island of Malta is situated in a strategic position in the Mediterranean half way between the Straits of Gibraltar and Egypt.  The island became a part of the British Empire in 1814 and served as a fleet headquarters and shipping way station. The opening of the Suez Canal further increased the island’s significance for Imperial commercial and naval communications.

In 1908 the 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers served as garrison there for a year on its way to India and the Far East.

Crete and Cyprus. The Mediterranean island of Crete, largely Greek speaking, was a part of the Turkish Empire but, as the 19th century progressed, uprisings by Greek nationalists gradually weakened Turkish government. To control outbreaks of violence on the island and maintain peace between Greece and Turkey the island was garrisoned by an international military force in 1897. In 1913 Turkey formally conceded the island to Greece.

Both Inniskilling Battalions provided companies for the international force in 1906 and 1907.

Guard of Honour for His Excellency, The High Commissioner - Candia, Crete Oct 17 1907

Guard of Honour for His Excellency, The High Commissioner – Candia, Crete Oct 17 1907

The 2nd Battalion also sent a company from Egypt to Cyprus which was, at that time, a British Protectorate from the Turkish Empire.

Cretan Militia - Crete

Cretan Militia – Crete

China – Tientsin (now Tianjin). This northern Chinese city was one of about 80 Treaty Ports and concessions in China. These were cities and territories forced from the Chinese government in the 19th century by some European powers (and Japan) to obtain trading rights in the Chinese Empire. They were garrisoned by European armies, had their own police forces, legal jurisdictions and separate laws.

Between 1909 and 1912 the1st Battalion served in Tientsin to protect British commercial interests and citizens as Chinese nationalism became increasingly active and violent and Chinese central control of the whole country weakened.

(Corporal James Hutchinson kept a unique photographic record of his time in China 1909-1912. The Corporal and the Celestials).

India. British India was called the jewel in the Imperial Crown. Large numbers of regular British regiments served in India alongside the British Indian Army.

The 1st Battalion served in India from 1912 to 1914. This was one of many such postings of both Inniskilling battalions to India between 1856 and 1947.

Officers - India 1914 - Notice the impact of the First World War (under names)

Officers – India 1914 – Notice the impact of the First World War (under names)

Posted in Gallery

Anglo-Boer War – 1899-1902

Cavalry vs Boer

Many decades of suspicion, mistrust and outbreaks of fighting in South Africa marked relations between the British and the Boers (Dutch Afrikaans word for farmer). In 1842 a detachment of the 27th Inniskillings was involved in an engagement near Durban.

In October 1899, full scale war broke out between the two Boer Republics of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal, and the British Empire.

In a pre-emptive strike, Boer armies invaded the British colonies of CapeColony and Natal and laid siege to the towns of Ladysmith, Mafeking and Kimberley. Huge numbers of British reinforcements were sent to South Africa and armies advanced on the BoerRepublics. In Black Week, December 1899, the armies sent to relieve the towns suffered severe defeats.

The 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers arrived in Durban from Ireland in December 1899 to join the army advancing to relieve Ladysmith.  At the river Colenso the British lost over 1100 casualties to minimal Boer losses. The Inniskillings lost 117 men.

On the fourth attempt, in February 1900, the Boer defences were breached on the TugelaHeights and the advance to lift the siege was successful. The Inniskillings achieved great fame for their courageous attack, in spite of heavy casualties, up the hill which became known as Inniskilling Hill.  During this engagement their medical officer, Lt. Inkson, was awarded the Victoria Cross for his rescue of an injured officer at great personal risk.

Winston Churchill, correspondent to The Morning Post, wrote:

“The Inniskillings had almost reached the goal, but they were too few; thus confronted, the Irish perished rather than retire”.

Such were the casualties, a further 250 men killed or wounded, that it was six months before the battalion was back at full strength. Though involved again in some severe fighting, most of the rest of the war was spent in keeping open the lines of communication and on guard duties.

The 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons arrived in Cape Town from Ireland in October 1899 and were entrained north to join General French’s Cavalry Division for the invasion of the Orange Free State and the relief of Mafeking.  The regiment had some sharp encounters with the Boers and, in common with the cavalry in general, provided reconnaissance, escorts and despatch riders.   One of its officers was to achieve fame later on Scott’s failed expedition to Antarctica, Lieutenant Lawrence Oates. The regiment’s second in command was Major Edmund Allenby, later to command the British army in Palestine in 1917 – 1918.

The 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers arrived from India in January 1902 and was employed on guarding supply trains and manning the blockhouses erected on the veldt to inhibit the movement of Boer commando units.

A close view of a Blockhouse. Pte John Keown, (2nd Soldier from right), was killed in action on 24 Aug

A close view of a Blockhouse. Pte John Keown, (2nd Soldier from right), was killed in action on 24 Aug

The Inniskilling Fusiliers lost 14 officers and 182 Other Ranks, the Inniskilling Dragoons, 5 Officers and 78 Other Ranks. In the campaign as many men died from diseases like Typhoid, as from enemy action.

An eight page booklet giving more details of the two regiment’s campaign is available for sale from the Books section in our online shop.

Photographs copyright Inniskillings Museum

Posted in Gallery

1914 End of Peace Exhibition

1914 End of Peace Exhibition Panel 6
1914 End of Peace Exhibition Panel 1

1914 End of Peace Exhibition Panel 1

 

1914 End of Peace Exhibition Panel 2

1914 End of Peace Exhibition Panel 2

1914 End of Peace Exhibition Panel 3

1914 End of Peace Exhibition Panel 3
1914 End of Peace Exhibition Panel 4

1914 End of Peace Exhibition Panel 4

1914 End of Peace Exhibition Panel 5

1914 End of Peace Exhibition Panel 5

1914 End of Peace Exhibition Panel 6

1914 End of Peace Exhibition Panel 6

 

1914 End of Peace Exhibition Panel 7

1914 End of Peace Exhibition Panel 7

1914 End of Peace Exhibition Panel 8

1914 End of Peace Exhibition Panel 8

1914 End of Peace Exhibition Panel 9

1914 End of Peace Exhibition Panel 9

1914 End of Peace Exhibition Panel 10

1914 End of Peace Exhibition Panel 10

1914 End of Peace Exhibition Panel 11
1914 End of Peace Exhibition Panel 11

1914 End of Peace Exhibition Panel 12

1914 End of Peace Exhibition Panel 12 

1914 End of Peace Exhibition Panel 13

1914 End of Peace Exhibition Panel 13

1914 End of Peace Exhibition Panel 14

1914 End of Peace Exhibition Panel 14

1914 End of Peace Exhibition Panel 15

1914 End of Peace Exhibition Panel 15

Posted in News

Ensign Robert Bakewell

Ensign Robert Bakewell (part 1) – Introduction 

Robert Bakewell served with the 3rd Battalion, 27th (Inniskilling) Regiment of Foot in the Duke of Wellington’s army in Portugal and Spain from June 1810 to September 1811, and again in 1815.

He was from Castle Donington in Leicestershire.  As a young man he spent some time, unsuccessfully, in London. While there he had enlisted in a militia regiment, 5th Loyal London. On returning home he found, to his surprise, that his father had purchased a commission for him in the 27th.

Officer's cross belt plate

Officer’s cross belt plate

He travelled to the regiment’s depot in Ballyshannon in September 1810, and then marched with a detachment to Cork for passage to Lisbon.  He served with the regiment in Portugal and Spain for 11 months before his health broke down and he returned to England. He resigned his commission soon after the purchase of a lieutenancy.  However he rejoined the regiment in 1815 and, although missing Waterloo, he served in the occupation army in Paris.

His account of his experiences in Ireland, Spain, Portugal and France has recently been published from manuscripts in the Inniskillings Museum. The book is called ‘The Exploits of Ensign Bakewell’ edited by Ian Robertson and can be purchased from the Books section of our website shop http://www.inniskillingsmuseum.com/shop/books/

The Exploits of Ensign Bakewell

The Exploits of Ensign Bakewell

In the run up to our Waterloo exhibition in June 2015, we shall be serialising excerpts from the book in our newsletter.

Ensign Robert Bakewell (part 2) – An Irish funeral

We then set off to Cahir, where there are ruins of an old castle

Cahir Castle, Co Tipperary

Cahir Castle, Co Tipperary

…..After about fivemiles we met the largest Irish funeral I have ever witnessed, led by almost 80 women, the front row carrying what appeared to be a large kite, placed on the top of a staff 12 or 13 feet in length, decorated all over with military plumes. The rest walked in pairs, each with an olive branch. Behind them came some 80 or more men in their shirt sleeves and with white muslin handkerchiefs tied round their hats. Then followed the coffin (which bore the name of a Miss Stapleton) and a crowd of men, women and children, who made a most hideous sound, which they term the Irish cry: the whole party must have consisted some four or five hundred.

Cahir Castle, Co Tipperary

Cahir Castle, Co Tipperary

Ensign Robert Bakewell (part 3) – On meeting the locals in Portugal and Spain 

I was provided next morning with a billet in a private house. The owner showed me into the parlour in which were his wife and daughter, and welcomed me according to their custom, by kissing my cheek repeatedly, and hugging me by throwing his right arm under my left and slapping me on the back.  This kissing and hugging and slapping is their habitual way of salutation rather than what we are used to, when shaking hands is the friendly way of introduction.  I thought possibly this hugging system might be the convention with the ladies also, but when I approached them, the owner stepped forward and said ‘No signor’, explaining it was not the practise to clap and kiss with females.

Spanish Ladies

Spanish Ladies

The Spanish ladies have generally good and genteel figures, but they are not as fair as the British ones: the climate being so much hotter, the sun darkens their complexion.  As side-saddles are not used here at all, they ride astride as do the men, and wear drawers of a kind of calico.  They dress expensively, and are great people for wearing feathers.

Ensign Robert Bakewell (part 4) – In Action

Badajoz, Bakewell was at the first siege.

Badajoz, Bakewell was at the first siege.

Bakewell actually saw little action: his most notable occasion was when his company was surprised at night by French troops.

At about 3.0 Coppinger, pulling at my coat, awoke me to say that the enemy was in the street, where firing as thick as hail was soon heard.  Grabbing our hats, we sallied forth to regain our regiment some quarter of a mile distant, by then forming up under General Cole himself, who as we came up thundered out ‘For God Almighty’s sake men form yourselves or it will be all over with us.’ 

Sir Galbraith Lowry Cole who commanded the 4th Division in Wellington's army.He was a younger son of the Earl of Enniskillen

Sir Galbraith Lowry Cole who commanded the 4th Division in Wellington’s army.He was a younger son of the Earl of Enniskillen

Balls were flying around us in all directions, and Captain Dobbin, commanding the company says, ‘Bakewell, we must now either bite the dust or be dragged to a French prison: damn a pin if I was given to choose.’There was a lucky escape. Though outnumbered disciplined volleys drove off the French.

Cole's monument in Enniskillen

Cole’s monument in Enniskillen

Most of Bakewell’s time was spend as liaison officer looking after arrangements for the sick and wounded and arranging for the burial of the dead.

Amongst our duties was to get coffins made for officers, for the inhabitants had never made one, and it was only with difficulty we could make them understand their shape and construction.  The first they ran up was for Lieutenant Castile. We placed him within, nailed down the lid, and a fatigue party started to carry him downstairs but, on the descent, his feet pushed out one end and his body slipped through and fell to the bottom, leaving the empty coffin on their shoulders!

Officer 1805

Officer 1805

Bakewell refers to wearing the cocked hat when in action, though the shako had become popular with officers when on campaign

1810 Shako

1810 Shako

Ensign Robert Bakewell (part 5) – Normal daily rations.

Each man, from the colonel down to the private, would receive 1lb of beef, pork or mutton: 1.5lbs of bread and a pint of wine.

Bread, meat and wine. Also included are a 1803 pattern sword, favoured by the officers of the flank battalions, the knapsack, water bottle, mess tin and dirk made from a bayonet, belonging to an Inniskilling officer killed in Spain in 1813.

Bread, meat and wine. Also included are a 1803 pattern sword, favoured by the officers of the flank battalions, the knapsack, water bottle, mess tin and dirk made from a bayonet, belonging to an Inniskilling officer killed in Spain in 1813.

A little extra!

We noticed several bullocks approaching apparently from the enemy lines: nine of them strayed through the centre of our regiment. Three of us took our men’s muskets and cartouche boxes and pursued the herd across open country for at least three miles, when after repeated firing at them, eight bite the dust: indeed a providential supplement to our rations.  Our regimental butchers, who cut them up for us, claimed their hearts for their trouble, which together with the kidneys and tongues are always allowed them.   The officers selected some of the best cuts and gave the men the rest.  The following week an officer with a flag of truce came to claim their restitution at which request the Field Officer commanding the Light Division returned one quarter of one of the beasts, together with a few bottles of spirits, telling the Frenchman that they were all cut up and largely consumed, but hoped he would accept the part sent back, on receipt of which he was observed to doff his hat and retire.

At about 2 o’clock I saw a sergeant of the 40th stopping a peasant with a large jug in his hand, who made some resistance.  I went to see the cause of the fuss, at which the sergeant decamped.  However I seized the vessel myself, and finding it full of sweetened milk, mixed with fruit, I took my fill without a second thought.

Ensign Robert Bakewell (part 6) – An Execution

We were ordered to parade to witness the execution of Private James Mulligan of the 27th, sentenced to be shot for desertion and attempting to join the enemy.  The culprit, under escort, and dressed in white from head to foot, now approached us, on ground set as a square, the Division forming three sides of it.  After the solemn procession had marched in slow time along the whole line, Mulligan was left standing in the centre on a pile of earth already dug for his grave.  

When a priest approached to ask whether he had anything to say that might mitigate his punishment, he answered in the negative.  The guard of a dozen or so rank and file then marched twenty paces in front of him and, at the drop of a white handkerchief, discharged a volley. As the muskets had been charged with bolt, his body was mangled in a most shocking manner.  

Before returning to quarters, the Division was deliberately marched past the corpse to let each soldier see the awful spectacle, which would have been sufficient deterrent to any prospective deserters.

Re-enactment group firing squad

Re-enactment group firing squad

Ensign Robert Bakewell (part 7) – Football (not Association Football!)

Football was much played. Captain Smith, who commanded the Grenadier Company, challenged other captains in the regiment that 20 of his men would play the best of three games with 20 chosen men from any other company for a bet of 100 dollars (Portuguese). Captain John Pring, who commanded the Light Company accepted. 

Two poles, about six feet in length were placed about two yards apart at each end of the field which was about one mile in length.  A ball was thrown up in the centre and the contending parties had to kick it between one of the goals before either could claim to win the game.  The 5ft 8 inch men were too fast for the 6ft ones and the two games were won with ease by the Light Company.  

The two companies then united, with 40 men proposing to play 40 of any selected from the remaining eight companies.  This was accepted and a great game it was, but neither side could claim victory: after playing for two days, twelve hours each day, both sides gave it up, neither of them able to kick the ball between the posts. So they agreed to a draw.

Football (not Association Football!)

Football (not Association Football!)

Ensign Robert Bakewell (part 8) – The Duke of Wellington

His Lordship arrived about 11.00, accompanied by his staff, when the Division was first put through the manual, platoon and the usual manoeuvres, after which he complimented us on the precision in which they were undertaken.  It was generally believed that whenever an inspection by our Commander-in-Chief took place, an engagement was in contemplation. (His Lordship appears to be about the middle stature: from 5ft9 to 5ft10 inches: a little corpulent and of rather fair complexion.)

An original sketch of Wellington by Woodeville who was a prolific 19th century painter of military scenes.

An original sketch of Wellington by Woodeville who was a prolific 19th century painter of military scenes.

Ensign Robert Bakewell (part 9) – In The Field

We encamped in fields…..  A line was fixed where the men’s muskets were to be piled, and we were ordered to sleep within five paces of them.  The officers were allowed to settle down further away, but still near enough to join instantly in case of surprise.  Our habit was to throw a blanket over our shoulders and take our rest at the root of a tree or under some hillock that would secure us from the wind.

Re-enactment group's piled muskets and packs

Re-enactment group’s piled muskets and packs

Ensign Robert Bakewell (part 10) – Booty

400 prisoners had just surrendered and were drawn up about ten yards in front of us.  They were ordered to drop their packs and, leaving them open, turn to the right about and halt ten yards away. Our men then paced forward and having been told to take what they wanted from the bulging packs, found a deal of plunder, notably sheets, table cloths and other linen, apart from valuables and curiosities.  We helped ourselves to most of the contents, found very seasonable: for the linen served to make plenty of pantaloons and gaiters; and the knives, spoons, etc were of good quality.

Ensign Robert Bakewell (part 11) – In Paris

While there Bakewell did a lot of sightseeing and enjoyed the good food and wine.  He also found the attentions of young ladies impossible to resist. 

Lots of French girls visited our tents, offering fruits of various kinds, which we could buy at a very reasonable price: others came to make assignations…… On returning to our tent at about 11.00 and just as I was about to fling myself down between my blankets on my bed of straw, I heard a female voice from outside murmur that she was lost. Naturally, I replied

‘Entre Mademoiselle’. But as soon as daylight appeared, I found she wanted no instruction about which way to go: but similar incidents occurred on most days.

Bakewell's diary. While he just missed Waterloo, he records the fate of his fellow officers.

Bakewell’s diary. While he just missed Waterloo, he records the fate of his fellow officers.

This concludes the serialisation of Ensign Robert Bakewell’s Diaries. The book, ‘The Exploits of Ensign Bakewell’ edited by Ian Robertson, can be purchased from the Books section of our website shop:

http://www.inniskillingsmuseum.com/shop/books/

Posted in News

A French Cuirassier’s Sword

This sword was re-discovered in a chest of bayonets, sabres and other swords in the Inniskillings Regimental Museum and was considered worthy of a little restoration and research as we approach the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo on 18th June 2015.

Sword and Scabbard

Sword and Scabbard

The French Cuirassier’s derived their name from the cuirasse, the iron and brass breast and back plate they wore.  They were the heavy cavalry and had a fierce reputation in battle – said to ‘eat cannonballs for breakfast’.  They were recruited for their big, strong physique, mainly from farming stock. A popular myth emphasised their manliness.  Officers were given 3 horses, 3 bottles of champagne and 3 willing girls.  They had 3 hours to kill the champagne, cover the girls and ride a 20 mile course.  (Of course they could choose their own schedule of events.)

Cuirassier Charge

Cuirassier Charge

In battle they formed up in two ranks abreast.  The front rank moved forward at a trot, breaking into a canter and then a full gallop with their swords extended forward like lances.  They struck terror in the front line of infantry and, before the foot soldiers could reload, the second rank charged. Infantry would form squares, three or four ranks deep, and successfully fend off such charges.

Manufacturing the Cuirassier Sword began in 1800 in the village of Klingenthal in the east of France near Strasbourg.  By 1815 there were over 600 workers in the factory and by 1817, some 70,000 blades had been forged.

Sword

Sword

The straight spear pointed blade was double fullered and measured 38 ¼” x 1 3/8”. The sword and scabbard weighed 5 lbs 4 ozs. It was made to a very high uniform standard and each blade was checked by a government Reviseur overseen by a Controleur. They stamped the blades with their marks or poincons.

Two Stamps

Two Stamps

On completion the back of the blade was engraved with cursive writing.

 “Manufacturie Imperiale du Klingenthal, Janvier 1814.”

“Manufacturie Imperiale du Klingenthal, Janvier 1814.”

In 1802, it was decided that 50% of the blades would be sent to the Nicolas Boutet Arms Factory in Versailles, Paris to have the hilts fitted.

The Hilt

The Hilt

The hilt was wrought from a mixture of arco (mixing copper, coal and zinc) and bronze from cannons.   The grip handle was made of wood, covered in leather and bound with 12 spirals of twisted brass wire.  A white leather strap or ‘knot’  was attached to the hilt. This knot went round the cuirassier’s wrist and secured the sword in battle.

Versailles

Versailles

Individual rack number 715

Individual rack number 715

Inspecteur Chateaubrun’s poincon

Inspecteur Chateaubrun’s poincon

The scabbard was made from sheet iron with a mouth piece designed to focus the blade and secure it in place. The drag or foot of the scabbard was lyre shaped.

Scabbard

Scabbard

Each scabbard was stamped with an individual rack number  (639).  This number would normally be the same as the sword rack number.

Scabbard Number

Scabbard Number

This sword will be on display in the regimental museum as part of an exhibition of the Battle of Waterloo. 

 

Posted in News

Fermanagh War Memorial Book of Honour 1914-1921

A major publication launched by the Inniskillings Museum

 Fermanagh War Memorial Book of Honour 1914-1921

One of the most significant publications in Co Fermanagh for many years was launched on 07 November 2014. This 672-page book is the story of the Fermanagh War Memorial in Belmore Street, Enniskillen and tells of the events of the First World War and the lives of the 581 men and one woman whose names are recorded on the Memorial. The book was produced by a team of volunteers, mainly from non-military backgrounds, who work at the Inniskillings Museum.

Fermanagh War Memorial Book of Honour 1914-1921

Fermanagh War Memorial Book of Honour 1914-1921

We are into the first year of the commemorations which mark significant events of that war. The great battles had casts of hundreds of thousands of men. Fermanagh men played their part, whether in the enormous battles in Belgium and France like the Somme or Passchendaele, or in faraway places like Turkey, Iraq, Palestine or Africa, or at sea or in the air.

The soldiers commemorated on the Memorial mostly died in these events. Some are in marked graves in cemeteries near where they died, in Europe, Asia or Africa. Many have no known grave and their names are inscribed on huge and impressive structures, some of which are familiar like the Thiepval Memorial near the Somme or the Menin Gate at Ypres. Other memorials, no less impressive, but not so well known are at Cape Helles in Turkey, or Basra in modern Iraq or Doiran in northern Greece, and they carry the names of Fermanagh men.

The Somme Battlefield 1916

The Somme Battlefield 1916

The young men and women volunteered for the war for many reasons: some saw it as a moral crusade in defence of small nations, some as a patriotic duty, some were joining in a great adventure, others out of economic hardship, some because their friends were going. Whatever the reason or mixture of reasons – the outcome for those commemorated on the Memorial was the same.

11th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers at Cambrai, 1917

11th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers at Cambrai, 1917

What this book does is transform each name which is inscribed in bronze on the Memorial into a real person, a person who had parents, brothers and sisters, who lived in the villages and towns of the county, who had a job and often his own family. Some were teenagers, (the youngest, 17) others middle aged (the oldest, 54) but most were in their twenties and thirties. Each now emerges from the cold format of a name in bronze into a person of flesh and blood, maybe whose photograph looks at us and whose family, the family that grieved, is known to us. The book also records the different political and religious backgrounds of many of the men, once divided, but now united in death. One third were from Roman Catholic backgrounds, two thirds Protestant.

Some of the names on the Memorial are of brothers – there are 31 sets of two brothers and two sets of three. There is also a father and son. They are no longer a statistic and we can now appreciate their families’ compounded grief.

In the work to research this book it was discovered that some 200 men, who originated in Fermanagh, died in the war but their names are not on the Memorial. The book records their names.

The editorial committee of the Fermanagh War Memorial Book of Honour 1914-1921 are (from left): Clive Johnston, David Parker, Sarah McHugh, Mark Scott, Beverley Weir, Jack Dunlop, Neil Armstrong, John Deering and Richard Bennett.

The editorial committee of the Fermanagh War Memorial Book of Honour 1914-1921 are (from left): Clive Johnston, David Parker, Sarah McHugh, Mark Scott, Beverley Weir, Jack Dunlop, Neil Armstrong, John Deering and Richard Bennett.

The publisher of this book, the Inniskillings Museum, hopes that this book is a fitting and permanent tribute to the men and one woman from this county who died in the Great War. Speeches at the Book launch were given by Neil Armstrong, curator-manager of the Inniskillings Museum, Richard Bennett, chair of the Editorial Committee of the book, Clive Johnston, researcher, Father Brian D’Arcy, whose grandfather is recorded in the book and Her Majesty’s Vice Lieutenant, Mr Roland Eadie.

Copies of the Fermanagh War Memorial Book of Honour 1914-1921 are available from the museum shop at Enniskillen Castle.

Contact

For further information please contact Neil Armstrong, curator-manager The Inniskillings Museum – telephone 028 66323142 or email curator@inniskillingsmuseum.com

Posted in News

The Tirah Expedition

A Lighter Moment

The Tirah Expedition – 1897 – 1898

In 1897 the whole of the North West Frontier region of British India rose in revolt.

Bara Fort Khyber Pass

Bara Fort Khyber Pass

2nd Battalion the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers was part of a column in the east, the Peshawar Column, which was sent to restore British control in the Khyber Pass region between Afghanistan and India (now Pakistan).

This is the first time the Regiment wore khaki in action.

The local tribes, the Afridis, had closed the pass to all traffic, attacked the garrisons of Indian Army troops and destroyed forts in the area.

The Peshawar Column burnt their villages, blew up village watchtowers and captured the tribes’ winter forage.

During the campaign Lance-Corporal McClelland was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for bravery (the highest award below the Victoria Cross).

Arithmetic on the Frontier

A scrimmage in a Border station

A canter down some dark defile

Two thousand pounds of education

 Drops to a ten-rupee jezail* 

The Crammer’s boast, the Squadron’s pride

Shot like a rabbit in a ride!

 

With home-bred hordes the hillsides teem,

The troopships bring us one by one,

At vast expense of time and steam,

To slay Afridis where they run.

The “captives of our bow and spear”

Are cheap, alas! as  we are dear.

 from a poem by Rudyard Kipling

*(A jezail was a long,very accurate, muzzle loading musket – see photograph of tribesmen)

A Lighter Moment

A Lighter Moment

A four page booklet about the Inniskillings campaign (350 words and seven photographs) can be purchased in our Books section in the online shop.

Posted in Gallery