4th (Royal Irish) Dragoon Guards



In 1685, troops were raised throughout England, Scotland and Ireland to support the monarchy at a time of religious unrest which threatened the succession of James II.



A Scottish nobleman, the Earl of Arran, was appointed to form a regiment composed of mounted soldiers previously recruited from divers parts of Scotland and England including London, Grantham and Lichfield. The Regiment, subsequently known as The Earl of Arran's Regiment of Cuirassiers, was under the practical command of Captain Charles Nedby, an experienced cavalry officer who had previously served with distinction against the Moors in North Africa from 1680 to 1683.

The Regiment wore white facings to their red coats. The years 1685 and 1686 saw them quartered in southern England, where they remained until 1691.

In common with the majority of James's army, the Regiment transferred allegiance to the Protestant contender for throne William of Orange in 1688, at which time Col. Charles Godfrey was appointed Colonel (Godfrey had previously served as an officer in the forces raised against James by the Protestant Duke of Monmouth).

In 1691 Godfrey's Regiment of Cuirassiers was ordered to France to fight the French in the Nine Years' War (1688-97). With King William III himself commanding the British forces, the Regiment was re-designated the 5th Regiment of Horse. Returning from the Continent in 1698, the Regiment was ordered to Ireland, where they were quartered near Dublin. In 1715 the facings on the uniform changed from white to pale blue, and then later to dark blue.

Re-organisation of the army in 1746 saw the Regiment re-named the 1st Irish Regiment of Horse, in recognition of its long service in Ireland. Throughout the 18th Century the Regiment was kept busy quelling riot and enforcing English rule. The Regiment had no depot as such but moved all over Ireland, often spending time at Tullamore and Dublin.

Another re-organisation in 1788 saw the Regiment re-named 4th Royal Irish Regiment of Dragoon Guards and shortly thereafter, in 1796, a French invasion fleet arrived off the coast of Ireland, near Bantry Bay, but the French declined to land. At this time, with threats from Roman Catholics in Ireland and abroad, the Regiment's strength was augmented to 700 men by recruitment.

On 22nd May 1798 the Irish rose in open rebellion and the Regiment suffered many casualties in brutal and cruel engagements. The brief but bloody fighting lasted until July, the deaths being estimated at 50,000 Irish nationalists and 19,000 royalists.

In 1804 the Regiment returned to England and took part in policing duties to quell civil unrest and rioting in the Manchester and the north. At this time the men's' hair, which had been worn long, was ordered to be cut short. The Regiment travelled throughout the north of England, billeting in towns such as York, Leeds, Newcastle and Sheffield in quick succession.

In 1811 the Regiment was ordered to Spain (Peninsular War 1808-14), where they joined Wellington's army and General Le Merchant's brigade of heavy cavalry. Decimated by disease, the men were ordered to give their horses to other regiments and, unmounted, they returned to England in 1813 and thence back to Ireland in 1814. In a time of comparative peace (Napoleon having been defeated at Waterloo in 1815), the strength of the Regiment was reduced to 400 men. At about this time the troops of horse, which had previously been segregated into black troop, bay troop and chestnut troop, became mixed.

Civil unrest in England saw the Regiment shipped back to England in 1818, where they served in the north until 1822, when they returned to Ireland. This year saw the introduction of the bearskin-crest helmet. Four years later, in 1826 the Regiment again shipped to England in the face of civil unrest, serious rioting having broken out in Dudley, Wolverhampton and Lichfield.

In 1832 the Regiment returned to Ireland. Like England, Ireland was also in a state of civil unrest - in one month alone the Regiment answered fifty-one calls for help, quelling riots and dispersing illegal meetings.

The Regiment served in the Crimean War (1853-56) as part of Gen. James Scarlett's Heavy Brigade. When Urabi Pashar led a revolution in Egypt (1881-82), the Regiment served there and fought in the battle of Tel-el-Kebir (1882).

The Regiment returned to England from Egypt in late 1882. In 1886 the regiment was moved to Ireland, and back to England in 1891, embarking for India on 7 September 1893. They spent the next fourteen years, until 1908, at the large British base at Rawul Pindee in Bengal.