5th Royal Irish Lancers

The 5th Royal Irish Lancers was a cavalry regiment of the British Army. It saw service for three centuries, including the First World War. It amalgamated with the 16th The Queen's Lancers to become the 16th/5th Lancers in 1922.

5th Royal Irish Lancers
5th lancers.png
Badge of the 5th (Royal Irish) Lancers
Country United Kingdom
BranchFlag of the British Army.svg British Army
RoleLine Cavalry
Size1 Regiment
Nickname(s)The Redbreasts
Motto(s)Quis separabit (Who shall separate us?)
MarchSlow: Let Erin Remember, The Harp That Once Through Tara's Halls
Field Marshal Richard Molesworth, 3rd Viscount Molesworth

General Joseph Yorke, 1st Baron Dover
General Robert Cuninghame, 1st Baron Rossmore
Major General Thomas Arthur Cooke
Major-General Sir Henry Jenner Scobell

Field Marshal Edmund Allenby, 1st Viscount Allenby


Early warsEdit

Bugler Sherlock of the 5th Lancers at Nicholsons Nek Kraal (near Ladysmith, South Africa) in 1899

The regiment was originally formed in 1689 by Brigadier James Wynne as James Wynne's Regiment of Dragoons.[1] It fought at the Battle of the Boyne in July 1690[2] and at the Battle of Aughrim later that month under King William III.[3] Renamed the Royal Dragoons of Ireland in 1704,[1] it went on to fight under the Duke of Marlborough at the Battle of Blenheim in August 1704 during the War of the Spanish Succession.[4] At the Battle of Ramillies in May 1706 the regiment helped capture the entire French "Regiment du Roi",[5] after which it fought at the Battle of Oudenarde in July 1708[6] and at the Battle of Malplaquet in September 1709.[7] In 1751, it was retitled 5th Regiment of Dragoons and in 1756 it became the 5th (or Royal Irish) Regiment of Dragoons.[1] As such, it served in Ireland and had the honour of leading the charge against the rebels at the Battle of Enniscorthy in May 1798 during the Irish Rebellion of 1798.[8] However, its troops were accused of treachery: their accusers claimed their ranks had been infiltrated by rebels.[9] Following an investigation, it was found that a single individual, James M'Nassar, had infiltrated the regiment: he was ordered to be "transported beyond the seas".[10] According to Continental Magazine:

The circumstance was commemorated in a curious way. It was ordered that the 5th Royal Irish Light Dragoons should be erased from the records of the army list, in which a blank between the 4th and 6th Dragoons should remain forever, as a memorial of disgrace. For upward of half a century this gap remained in the army list, as anybody may see by referring to any number of that publication of half-a-dozen years back.[9]

The 5th Royal Irish Lancers were stationed at Mhow between 1888 and 1889 and placed this brass plaque inside Christ Church, Mhow with a small built-in cabinet

The regiment was reformed in 1858, keeping its old number and title, but losing precedence, being ranked after the 17th Lancers.[1] It was immediately converted into a lancer regiment and titled 5th (or Royal Irish) Regiment of Dragoons (Lancers).[1] In 1861, it was renamed the 5th (or Royal Irish) Lancers and then the 5th (Royal Irish) Lancers.[1] The regiment served in India between November 1863 and December 1874[11] and a contingent joined the Nile Expedition in autumn 1884.[12] It then fought against the forces of Osman Digna near Suakin in 1885 during the Mahdist War.[13] The regiment again left for India in November 1888, serving there for ten years until they were posted to South Africa in February 1898. They were stationed at Ladysmith until October 1898, when they went to Pietermaritzburg, where they remained until the outbreak of the Second Boer War in October 1899.[14]

Second Boer WarEdit

The Battle of Rietfontein on 24 October 1899 during the Second Boer War

As one of two cavalry regiments stationed in South Africa on the outbreak of war, the regiment consequently took part in the early fighting. They fought at the Battle of Elandslaagte on 21 October 1899, at the Battle of Rietfontein on 24 October 1899, and was part of the besieged garrison of Ladysmith during the Siege of Ladysmith November 1899 to February 1900.[15] After the relief of that town, they were re-horsed, and formed part of General Sir Redvers Buller′s army, taking part in all his actions until his Natal army joined with the main army at Belfast. They accompanied Buller in his advance into the Lydenburg district, and then, under General John Brocklehurst, made the forced march through the Dulstroom Valley to join General Ian Hamilton. Later they formed part of General Smith-Dorrien′s flying column. In January 1901, still under General Smith-Dorrien, they covered the left of General Sir John French′s big movement down to the Swaziland border. They then served under General Sir Bindon Blood, and operated in the Carolina district until July 1901, when they travelled by rail to Cape Colony. Here they formed part of Colonel Hunter-Weston′s mobile column.[14] The regiment thus stayed in South Africa throughout the hostilities, which ended with the Peace of Vereeniging on 31 May 1902. Following the end of the war, 340 officers and men of the regiment left South Africa on the SS City of Vienna, which arrived at Southampton in October 1902.[16]

The regiment, as part of the 3rd Cavalry Brigade, was also involved in the Curragh incident in March 1914.[17]

First World WarEdit

Sculpture at the town hall of Mons to commemorate the liberation of the city by the 5th Royal Irish Lancers on 11 November 1918

The regiment then returned to England, where it stayed until the outbreak of World War I, when it became part of the British Expeditionary Force, sailing from Dublin to France as part of the 3rd Cavalry Brigade in the 2nd Cavalry Division in August 1914 for service on the Western Front.[18] It saw action during the Battle of Mons in August 1914.[17] During the Battle of Cambrai in November 1917 George William Burdett Clare received the Victoria Cross posthumously.[19] The 5th (Royal Irish) Lancers also has the grim honour of being the regiment of the last British soldier to die in the Great War. This was Private George Edwin Ellison from Leeds, who was killed by a sniper as the regiment advanced into Mons a short time before the armistice came into effect.[20]

The regiment was renamed 5th Royal Irish Lancers and disbanded in 1921, but a squadron was reconstituted in 1922 and immediately amalgamated with the 16th The Queen's Lancers to become the 16th/5th Lancers.[1]

Regimental museumEdit

The regimental collection is held at The Royal Lancers and Nottinghamshire Yeomanry Museum which is based at Thoresby Hall in Nottinghamshire.[21]

Battle honoursEdit

The regiment was awarded the following British battle honours:[1]

Victoria CrossesEdit

Regimental ColonelsEdit

Colonels of the Regiment were:[1]

James Wynne's Regiment of Dragoons
  • 1689–1695: Brig-Gen. James Wynne
Royal Dragoons of Ireland (1704)
5th (or Royal Irish) Regiment of Dragoons
5th (or Royal Irish) Regiment of Dragoons (Lancers)
5th (Royal Irish) Lancers

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "5th Royal Irish Lancers". Regiments.org. Archived from the original on 9 June 2007. Retrieved 10 August 2016.
  2. ^ Willcox, p. 23
  3. ^ Willcox, p. 39
  4. ^ Willcox, p. 93
  5. ^ Willcox, p. 105
  6. ^ Willcox, p. 115
  7. ^ Willcox, p. 121
  8. ^ Willcox, p. 145
  9. ^ a b "Continental Magazine". Project Gutenberg. April 1863. Retrieved 10 June 2016.
  10. ^ Willcox, p. 149
  11. ^ Willcox, p. 162-164
  12. ^ Willcox, p. 171-188
  13. ^ Willcox, p. 189-198
  14. ^ a b "The Army in South Africa - The return of the 5th Lancers". The Times. No. 36906. London. 23 October 1902. p. 5.
  15. ^ "5th (Royal Irish) Lancers". Anglo-Boer War. Retrieved 10 August 2016.
  16. ^ "The Army in South Africa - Troops returning home". The Times. No. 36887. London. 1 October 1902. p. 8.
  17. ^ a b "5th Royal Irish Lancers". National Army Museum. Archived from the original on 12 August 2016. Retrieved 11 August 2016.
  18. ^ "The Lancers". The Long, Long Trail. Retrieved 10 August 2016.
  19. ^ "No. 30471". The London Gazette (Supplement). 8 January 1918. p. 724.
  20. ^ "Casualty details—Ellison, George Edwin". Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Retrieved 4 February 2010.
  21. ^ "Charge of the Light Brigade bugle stars at new museum". BBC. 26 July 2011. Retrieved 5 June 2018.


External linksEdit