The Chris Murphy Collection of Medals to the Royal Munster Fusiliers

Chris Murphy

Royal Munster Fusiliers

The origins of the Royal Munster Fusiliers, formerly the 101st and the 104th Regiments of Foot, are deeply rooted in the military history of India. Given their numerical titles in 1861, both the 101st and 104th belonged originally to the Honourable East India Company. The 101st dates its formation under the title of The Bengal European Regiment to the age of Clive. By 1800 the corps already had a distinguished history of war service against both European and Asian foes and had established a formidable reputation as the far reaching arm of British authority in the Bengal Presidency. Over the course of the next twenty years its activities were synonymous with the Company's wider ambitions -being present at the occupation of Macao in 1808, the capture of Amboyna in 1810, and, during the Napoleonic Wars, in possession of the Dutch Moluccas and Celebes Islands. After service with the grand army under the Marquis of Hastings against the depredations of the Pindarries in 1817-19, the regiment greatly distinguished itself at the Capture of Bhurtpore in 1825. In 1839-40 it gained further laurels in Afghanistan and on its return from Kabul was formed into a corps of Light Infantry in recognition of its past services. At this same date a 2nd Bengal European Regiment was formed at Hazeerabagh, consisting of volunteers from the 1st Bengal Regiment, and it was this corps that ultimately became the 2nd Battalion Royal Muntser Fusiliers.

Both the 1st Bengal European Light Infantry and 2nd Bengal European Regiment bore distinguished parts in the Sikh Wars -the former at Ferozeshuhur and Sobraon -and the latter at Chillianwallah and Gujerat. In recognition of these services both were made Fusilier Corps, before serving through the Burma War of 1851-53. On the outbreak of the Indian Mutiny both corps fought in the Delhi Field Force, the 1st afterwards going on to the Relief and Capture of Cawnpore, and the 2nd to participate in operations in the Maywatta district. With the demise of the East India Company the 1st and 2nd Bengal Fusiliers were transferred to the Queen's service as the 101st (Royal Bengal Fusiliers) and 104th (Bengal Fusiliers) in the British line, and subsequently saw service in the Umbeyla Campaign, Malta, Nova Scotia, and Bermuda, as well as various parts of India and the U.K. Under the Cardwell territorial reforms of the British Army in 1881, the 101st became the First Battalion, Royal Munster Fusiliers, and the 104th the Second Battalion.

In the First World War, the Royal Munster Fusiliers raised a total of 11 Battalions from the existing two regular and two reserve battalions. The regiment won 51 battle honours and three Victoria Cross's, but suffered some 3070 casualties. Of the regular battalions, the First were in Burma at the outbreak of war, and as part of the 86th Brigade helped form the 'Immortal 29th Division' which so distinguished itself at Gallipoli. It reached France in 1916 and absorbed officers and men from the disbanded 9th (Service) Battalion and later the disbanded 8th (Service) Battalion. In April 1918 it absorbed the surplus of the 2nd Battalion which was reduced to cadre, having commenced the war at Aldershot and having originally been assigned to the 1st (Guards) Brigade, 1st Division, I Corps. Following its historic rearguard action at Etreux the remains of the Battalion were remustered absorbing officers and men of the disbanded 9th Battalion in 1916. Of Service Battalions the 6th and 7th as part of Kitchener's First New Army both served in the Dardanelles and Salonika -while the 8th and 9th of the Second New Army served in the renowned 16th (Irish) Division on the Western Front. In common with other Irish Regiments of the British Army, the Royal Munster Fusiliers were disbanded in 1922 with the creation of the Irish Free State.