6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons



It was by design, and not accident, that when the regiments of light dragoons were re-designated as either 'hussars' or 'lancers', three regiments retained the title 'dragoons' and each represented a country within the 'triple crown' of England, Scotland and Ireland. Thus, the 1st (Royal) Dragoons, the 2nd Dragoons (Royal Scots Greys) and the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons.

The relationship between Ireland and the English crown originated during the reign of Henry II in the 12th Century, at which time Roman Catholicism was the religion universally accepted throughout the kingdom. When Henry VIII subsequently broke from Rome and established the Church of England, a rift occurred between Irish Catholics and English Protestants which resulted in bitter hatred which has existed for four centuries, a hatred exasperated by cruelty and atrocities committed by both sides. Oliver Cromwell's Protestant troops, in particular, were particularly ruthless in subduing the Irish Catholic population after the English Civil Wars (1642-51).

The Protestant religion was forced on Ireland by a policy of ''plantation", whereby Protestants from England and Scotland were awarded land confiscated from Roman Catholic owners. This policy applied particularly in the north of Ireland. In 1660, to protect Protestant interests, an 'Army of Ireland' was raised, which included twenty 'troops of horse' and seventy companies of infantry. The mounted troops were subsequently formed into three regiments of cavalry.

In 1685, the Roman Catholic King James II ascended to the English throne and the chasm between Roman Catholics and Protestants in Ireland grew even wider. In the north, individuals who supported the Protestant cause were organised by Gustavus Hamilton, Governor of Inniskilling, into two troops of horse. For many years, bitter and bloody skirmishes occurred between the two warring factions. Lt. Col. Lloyd, commanding Inniskilling irregular cavalry, was heroic in his defence against an invading army raised to support James II in his bid to regain the English throne.

In 1689, the Inniskilling troops were organised as a Regiment under the patronage of Sir Albert Cunningham (sometimes 'Conyngham'), and thus became Cunningham's Regiment of Dragoons. As James's armies retreated south in the face of strengthened opposition from England, Cunningham's Regiment of Dragoons joined the army of William III and marched south. The Inniskilling cavalry attracted much praise during the campaign, and by Royal Warrant dated 1st January 1690 the Inniskilling Dragoons were formally recognised.

At the Battle of the Boyne (1691), the Inniskilling Dragoons fought shoulder to shoulder with King William III himself, and the Regiment was constantly involved in the skirmishes which followed the battle. On 5th September 1691 Sir Albert Cunningham was murdered by a Roman Catholic soldier whilst a prisoner of war.

Re-organisation of the Army in 1713 saw the Regiment re-named the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons.

Shortly after the turn of the Century, when Ireland was in comparative peace, the Regiment shipped to Scotland at the time of the First Jacobite Rebellion (1715). They were heavily involved in the Battle of Sheriffmuir. Thereafter the Regiment remained on policing and customs duties in Scotland and then England.

In 1742 the Regiment shipped to Belgium to join the army of George II in the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48), where their first major engagement was the Battle of Dettingen (1743). After six years of constant campaigning, the Regiment returned to England in 1748.

Clothing regulations issued in 1751 describe the Regiment's uniform as scarlet with yellow facings. In 1755 a 'light troop' was added to the six conventional troops within the Regiment, and this 'light troop' was engaged in two raids on France in 1758. When the Regiment (under the command of Lt. Col. Edward Harvey) crossed the Channel to join Marlborough's army in Germany for the Seven Years War (1756-63), the 'light troop' remained in England on home duties. The Regiment fought the Battle of Minden (1759). When peace was declared, the Regiment returned to England in 1763, at which time the 'light troop' was distributed throughout the Regiment and in 1779 the 'light troop' soldiers were detached to form the 20th Light Dragoons.

From 1763 to 1793 the Regiment was billeted in numerous locations throughout England and Scotland. The outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars (1792-1802) saw the Regiment cross the Channel in 1793. After campaigning in Holland, France and Germany they returned to England in 1796.

In 1809, after an absence of some hundred years, the Regiment returned to Ireland. At this time, the cocked hats were replaced by brass 'Roman' helmets, and the high boots and breaches were replaced by cloth trousers and short boots.

Napoleon's resurgence saw the Regiment sent to France in April 1815, where they joined General Ponsonby's Cavalry Brigade with the 1st (Royal) Dragoons and the Scots Greys. After six weeks of inactivity, the Brigade was suddenly stirred into action on 16th June. After a fierce thunderstorm on 17th, the Battle of Waterloo was fought on 18th. The nine squadrons of Ponsonby's Brigade charged with success, but an excess of enthusiasm, sometimes referred to (unfairly) as a lack of discipline, saw them decimated as they rode deeper into the French lines. The Regiment suffered 86 officers and men killed, with 164 horses killed and 107 officers and men injured, and 207 horses injured.

Every officer and soldier who fought at Waterloo received a silver medal and was allowed two years' service added to their time in the army. The Regiment returned to England in January 1816 and returned to Ireland in 1819, where they remained for four years, although mainly in the south.

In 1823, the Regiment moved to Scotland and then England where it remained for twenty years. In 1846, the Regiment returned to Ireland with its headquarters in Longford, some fifty miles from Inniskilling.

On the outbreak of the Crimean War (1854-56), the Regiment shipped to the Black Sea with disastrous results. A fire broke out on one of the transport ships killing the Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. Willoughby Moore, sixteen privates and all the horses on the ship. In separate incidents, a further 75 horses were lost at sea, and when they finally landed in the Crimea, cholera ravished the men.

During the war, the Regiment joined the Heavy Brigade under Gen. Scarlett. As was common throughout the army, the Regiment lost more men to disease than to enemy action.

The Regiment served in India in response to the Indian Mutiny of 1857, and in Southern Africa at the time of the Zulu War (1879).

On the outbreak of the Boer War (1899 -1902), the Regiment shipped to South Africa to join General French’s Cavalry Division, where they fought continuous actions, both major and minor, throughout the campaign. One of the Regiment's officers, Lt. Lawrence 'Titus' Oates, was later to become famous as part of Scott's explorations of the South Pole (1912).