British Foreign Policy 1815-65

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The Connaught Rangers: the 88th

I am grateful to Willie Whelan for permission to reproduce this information and image, which appear on the Waterford Museum web site.

The 88th or Connaught Rangers was raised under an order dated 25th September 1793, by Colonel the Hon De Burgh afterwards Earl of Clanricarde. It was chiefly recruited in Connaught, and was therefore styled "The Connaught Rangers". When the newly-levied regiments were numbered shortly afterwards it took rank as the 88th Foot. The facings were yellow, and the Irish Harp and Quis separabit motto were adopted as the regimental device, although direct authority to bear them does not seem to have been given until. twenty-seven years later, by a Horse Guards Order dated 30th December 1830.

With other new regiments the Connaught Rangers embarked under Lord Moira, and subsequently joined the Duke of York's army in Flanders. It was first under fire at Alost. After serving at Bergen-op-Zoom and Nimegen, it joined the army on the Waal, and made the winter retreat from Deventer to Bremen. Under the command of Colonel William Carr Beresford, afterwards Viscount Beresford, the regiment embarked in Admiral fleet for the West Indies late in 1795, but was dispersed by the memorable December storm. Running before the gale, the headquarters' ship was blown through the Straits as far as Carthagena, but afterwards put back into Gibraltar, where the troops were landed. Two companies only reached the West Indies, saw much hard service in Grenada and St Lucia, and were subsequently drafted.

The 88th was afterwards re-formed in Jersey, and embarked in 1799 for India, reaching Bombay early in 1800, except two companies landed at Madras. The regiment was for a time in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), awaiting embarkation for Java, but, instead, it went up the Red Sea with Baird, and crossed the Desert and descended the Nile, remaining in Egypt until 1802, when it returned home, and was stationed for nearly three years on the Kentish and Sussex coast, then in danger of invasion.

During this period the 88th raised a second battalion in Ireland. The first battalion went to the Cape in November 1806, and thence to South America, where it took part in Whitelock's unsuccessful attempt on Buenos Aires. Having returned home in November 1808, it was sent to Cadiz in December 1808. But the Spaniards refusing to admit British troops into that garrison, it was brought back to Lisbon, and subsequently joined the army under Sir Arthur Wellesley, and fought in the campaigns of 1809-10, including the battles of Talavera and Busaco, and the defence of Torres Vedras.

The second battalion had also its share of Peninsular service. It was sent from Lisbon to Gibraltar in 1809, and from Gibraltar to Cadiz the year after, serving in that city during the attack on Fort Matagorda. But the battalion returned to Lisbon before Graham's victory at Barossa. Joining Wellington's army, it was present at the combat of Sabugal, and in subsequent operations down to the capture of Badajos, after which it transferred its effectives to the first battalion and returned home, and continued as a home battalion until disbanded at Clare Castle in January 1816.

Meanwhile the first battalion remained in the peninsula, most of the time in Picton's division, and won high distinction in many fields. It was at Fuentes d'Onor, at the capture of Ciudad Rodrigo, at the successive sieges of Badajos, where at the final assault it was engaged, by a curious coincidence, with the French 88th of the Line in the desperate conflict in the Castle. The 1st battalion was at the battle of Salamanca, at the siege of Burgos and the subsequent retreat, at Vittoria, in various, actions in the Pyrenees (which name, by some official misconception, has been omitted from the regimental honours), in the battles on the -Nivelle, at Orthes, and Toulouse.

At the peace the 88th proceeded to Quebec, and served in the unsuccessful expedition against Plattsburg, on Lake Champlain. [1] Returning to Europe, it landed at Ostend just a month after the battle of Waterloo had been Fought, and marched to join the army at Paris. It remained with the Army of Occupation in France - most of the time in garrison at Valenciennes - until 1817.

The regiment served in the Ionian Islands from 1825 to 1836. It again served in the Mediterranean, West Indies, and North America (Canada) from 1841 to 1851. It was amongst the first regiments to leave England for the East in 1854, and landing with the army in the Crimea, fought at the Alma and at Inkerman, and served throughout the siege of Sevastopol. It went to India in 1857, and was actively employed in Central India during the Mutiny. It remained in India until 1870, when it returned home.

The 88th went out to the Cape in 1877, and served in the Kaffir War of 1877-8, and in the Zulu War of 1879. From South Africa it went on to India in 1880, and returned home in 1891.

After the 1881 Cardwell territorial reforms of the British Amy, the battalion was entitled The 1st Battalion The Connaught Rangers, with the former 94th Foot providing the 2nd Battalion.

[1] My thanks to Thomas Moffatt for pointing out a fairly substantial geographical error and giving me the correct location. [back]

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