Irish Guards

This article is about the regiment in the British Army. For the police force of the Republic of Ireland, see Garda Síochána. For the University of Notre Dame marching band contingent, see Irish Guard (Notre Dame).
Irish Guards

Regimental badge of the Irish Guards (IG)
Active 1 April 1900 – Present
Country  United Kingdom
Branch  British Army
Type Foot Guards
Role 1st Battalion – Light Infantry/
Public Duties
Size Battalion
Part of Guards Division
Garrison/HQ RHQ — London
1st Battalion Cavalry Barracks, Hounslow
Nickname(s) The Micks
Bob's Own
Motto(s) "Quis Separabit" (Latin)
"Who Shall Separate Us?"
March Quick – St Patrick's Day
Slow – Let Erin Remember
Mascot(s) Irish Wolfhound named Domhnall
Colonel in Chief Elizabeth II
Colonel of
the Regiment
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge KG KT
Tactical Recognition Flash
Tartan Saffron (pipes)
Plume St. Patrick's blue
Right side of Bearskin cap
Abbreviation IG

The Irish Guards (IG), part of the Guards Division, is one of the Foot Guards regiments of the British Army and, together with the Royal Irish Regiment, it is one of the two Irish infantry regiments still remaining in the British Army.[1][2]

The Irish Guards recruit in Northern Ireland and the Irish neighbourhoods of major British cities.[3] Although restrictions in the Republic of Ireland's Defence Act make it illegal to induce, procure or persuade enlistment of any citizen of the Republic of Ireland into the military of another state,[4] people from the Republic do enlist in the regiment.[5]

One way to distinguish between the five regiments of Foot Guards is the spacing of the buttons on their tunics. The Irish Guards have buttons arranged in groups of four as they were the fourth Foot Guards regiment to be founded. They also have a prominent St. Patrick's blue plume on the right side of their bearskins.


Irish Guardsman in The First World War at the Battle of Pilckem Ridge 1917

The Irish Guards regiment was formed on 1 April 1900 by order of Queen Victoria to commemorate the Irishmen who fought in the Second Boer War for the British Empire.[6][7]

During the First World War, 1st Battalion, The Irish Guards was deployed to France, and they remained on the Western Front for the duration of the war. During 1914 and early 1915, they took part in numerous battles, including Mons, Marne and Ypres. Additional battalions were raised in 1915 and the 2nd Battalion fought at Loos. During 1916, The Irish Guards were involved in the Battle of the Somme where they received severe casualties. In 1917 they participated in the Third Battle of Ypres and Cambrai. They fought up to the final days of the war including attacking the Hindenburg Line.[8]

The regiment's continued existence was threatened briefly when Winston Churchill, who served as Secretary of State for War between 1919 and 1921, sought the elimination of the Irish Guards and Welsh Guards as an economy measure. This proposal, however, did not find favour in government or army circles and was dropped. Between the wars, the regiment was deployed at various times to Turkey, Gibraltar, Egypt and Palestine.[9]

During the Second World War, battalions of the regiment fought in Norway, France, North Africa and Italy and following D-Day in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. In November 1942, during the Second World War, Jean, Grand Duke of Luxembourg joined the British Army as a volunteer in the Irish Guards.[10]

Irish Guards Recce Platoon operating a Scimitar Armoured Reconnaissance Vehicle (light tank) in the Iraq War 2003

Since 1945, the regiment has served in many areas of conflict as well as being part of the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) in Germany. They also served as the garrison of Hong Kong in the 1970s. The regiment was not assigned to Northern Ireland until the conflict had mostly died down in 1992. However, a Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) bomb blasted a bus carrying men of the regiment to Chelsea Barracks in October, 1981. Twenty-three soldiers and 16 others were wounded and two passers-by killed.[11][12]

More recently, The Irish Guards were involved in the Balkans Conflicts, and they led the British advance into Basra in March 2003 at the start of the Iraq War.[13] The Irish Guards have also provided security for the 2012 Olympics in London.[14] In 2013 the Irish Guards were deployed to Afghanistan, and also deployed to Bosnia as part of the European Union's stabilisation programme.[15]

Current organisation

The 1st Battalion Irish Guards is broken down into five separate Companies; three rifle companies, Numbers One, Two and Four Companies, the Support Company (3 Company) and Headquarter Company.[16] The rifle companies use the Warrior tracked armoured vehicle.[17]

In common with her sister Guards regiments, the regimental organization also includes the Band of the Irish Guards and the Corps of Drums (a fife and drum band).[18]


Foot Guards, wearing bearskins, march to the Cenotaph on 12 June 2005 for a service of remembrance for the Combined Irish Regiments Old Comrades Association annual parade. Their uniform buttons are in groups of four, identifying these soldiers as Irish Guards

Like the other Guards regiments, the "Home Service Dress" of The Irish Guards is a scarlet tunic and bearskin. Buttons are worn in two rows of four, reflecting the regiment's position as the fourth most senior Guards regiment, and the collar is adorned with a shamrock on either side. They also sport a St. Patrick's blue plume on the right side of the bearskin.[19]

A plume of St Patrick's blue was selected because blue is the colour of the mantle and sash of the Order of St. Patrick, an order of chivalry[20] founded by George III of the United Kingdom for the Kingdom of Ireland in February 1783[21] from which the regiment also draws its cap star and motto.[22]

Irish Guards Pipers at Trooping the Colour

In "Walking-out Dress", The Irish Guards can be identified by the green band on their forage caps. Officers also traditionally carry a blackthorn walking stick.[23]

Prince William Wearing an Irish Guards Tunic and Forage Cap at his wedding to Kate Middleton

The Irish Guards like the other Guards regiments wear a khaki beret with the blue/red/blue Household Division backing patch on it. On the beret ranks from Guardsman to Lance Sergeant wear a brass or staybrite cap badge, Sergeants and Colour Sergeants wear a bi-metal cap badge, Warrant Officers wear a silver plate gilt and enamel cap badge and commissioned officers of the regiment wear an embroidered cap badge.[24]

The uniform of The Irish Guards pipers is, like The Scots Guards, a kilt and tunic, yet is also very different. Bagpipers wear saffron kilts rather than tartan, green hose with saffron flashes and heavy black shoes known as brogues with no spats, a rifle green doublet with buttons in fours and a floppy hat known as a caubeen rather than a feather bonnet.[25] The regimental cap star is worn over the piper's right eye and is topped by a blue hackle.[26] A green cloak with four silver buttons is worn over the shoulders and is secured by two green straps that cross over the chest.[27]

Prince William wore the uniform of the Irish Guards for his marriage to Kate Middleton.[28]


The regiment takes its motto, "Quis Separabit", or "Who shall separate us?" from the Order of St Patrick.[29]


The Irish Guards are known affectionately throughout the Army as "the Micks" or "Fighting Micks." An earlier nickname, "Bob's Own", after Field Marshal Lord Roberts has fallen into disuse. The term "Micks", while derogatory if used in civilian life, is tolerated if used within the Army.[7]


Recruits practicing drill on Catterick parade square

Recruits to the Guards Division go through a thirty-week gruelling training programme at the Infantry Training Centre (ITC). The training is two weeks more than the training for the Regular line infantry regiments of the British Army; the extra training, carried out throughout the course, is devoted to drill and ceremonies.[30]


Since 1902, an Irish Wolfhound has been presented as a mascot to the regiment by the members of the Irish Wolfhound Club, who hoped the publicity would increase the breed's popularity with the public. The first mascot was called Brian Boru.[31]

In 1961, the wolfhound was admitted to the select club of "official" Army mascots, entitling him to the services of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, as well as quartering and food at public expense. Originally, the mascot was in the care of a drummer boy, but is now looked after by one of the regiment's drummers and his family. The Irish Guards are the only Guards regiment permitted to have their mascot lead them on parade. During Trooping the Colour, however, the mascot marches only from Wellington Barracks as far as Horse Guards Parade. He then falls out of the formation and does not participate in the trooping itself. The regiment's current wolfhound is named Domhnall. His predecessor, Conmael, made his debut at Trooping the Colour on 13 June 2009.[32] At the end of 2012 Conmael retired and was replaced with the new wolfhound- Domhnall.[33]

Traditions and affiliations

The Irish Guards and other Guards Regiments have a long-standing connection to The Parachute Regiment. Guardsman who have Completed P company are Transferred into the Guards Parachute Platoon who are currently attached to 3 PARA still keeping the tradition of the No 1 (Guards) Independent Parachute Company who were the original Pathfinder Group of 16th Parachute Brigade now renamed 16th Air Assault Brigade.[34]

St. Patrick's Day is the traditional regimental celebration.[35] Fresh shamrock is presented to the members of the regiment, no matter where it is stationed.[22]

Except in wartime, the presentation is traditionally made by a member of the Royal Family. This task was first performed in 1901 by HM Queen Alexandra and later by HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. After the latter's death, the presentation was made by HRH The Princess Royal. Starting in 2012, the presentation has been made by HRH the Duchess of Cambridge.[36] Her decision to skip the ceremony in 2016 to spend time with her children sparked public controversy. [37]

In September 2015, London-based Irish newspaper The Irish Post revealed that the Irish Guards would field a GAA team in the London GAA Championship. It was a landmark occasion, as the Irish Guards became the first British Army team to gain affiliation to the GAA, who had banned British armed forces from playing their sports from 1897 to 2001 under Rule 21.[38]

Battle honours

The Regimental Colour of the 1st Battalion Irish Guards, displaying some of the regiment's battle honours.

Victoria Cross recipients

Notable members

Regimental Colonels

HRH The Duke of Cambridge at The Queen's Birthday Parade, June 2013

British Army regiments typically have an honorary "colonel", often a member of the Royal Family or a prominent retired military officer with connections to the regiment, who functions as a kind of patron or guardian of the regiment's interests in high government circles. HM The Queen is colonel-in-chief of all Guards regiments.

The Irish Guards colonels have been:

Order of precedence

Preceded by
Scots Guards
Infantry Order of Precedence Succeeded by
Welsh Guards



  1. "The fighting Irish". The Irish Times. 31 July 2010. Retrieved 26 December 2015.
  2. "Kevin Myers: However we view war, let's wish our lads a safe return". Retrieved 26 December 2015.
  3. "Joining the Army". British Army. Retrieved 26 December 2015.
  4. "Defence Act, 1954". Retrieved 26 December 2015.
  5. "Lure of combat draws Irish men and women to British army". The Irish Times. 6 September 2008. Subscription required to view
  6. Bartlett, Thomas; Jeffery, Keith (1997). A Military History of Ireland. Cambridge University Press. p. 380. ISBN 0-521-62989-6. Retrieved 3 November 2010.
  7. 1 2 Irish Guards Regimental website "103 Years of the Irish Guards"
  8. "World War One". Irish Guards. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
  9. "Irish Guards 1918-1939". Irish Guards. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
  10. "Biography of Grand Duke Jean". Luxembourg government. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
  11. "Bomb Incidents (London)". Retrieved 26 December 2015.
  12. "Britain: Once More, Terror in the Streets". 9 November 1981. Retrieved 26 December 2015.
  13. Taylor, Matthew (13 September 2008). "Beginners luck". The Guardian. London.
  14. "Irish Guards to patrol Eton Dorney at Olympics". Windsor Observer. 26 July 2012. Archived from the original on 2 August 2012. Retrieved 26 April 2014.
  15. "Behind the bearskins with the Irish Guards – British Army Website". 18 June 2012. Archived from the original on 21 June 2012. Retrieved 26 April 2014.
  16. "The Companies of the 1st Battalion Irish Guards". Irish Guards. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
  17. "The Rifle Company". Irish Guards. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
  18. "Band of the Irish Guards". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
  19. Taylor, Bryn (2006). "A brief history of the regiment". Retrieved 15 April 2009.
  20. Penny cyclopaedia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, Volumes 13. C. Knight. 1839. p. 246.
  21. Statutes and ordinances of the most illustrious Order of Saint Patrick, Dublin 1831, pages 6–13
  22. 1 2 "The Irish Guards - A Brief History of The Regiment". Retrieved 26 December 2015.
  23. "Ireland's Blackthorn Stick". Tintean. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
  24. "Irish Guards officer's embroidered cap badge". Retrieved 1 May 2016.
  25. "Story of the Caubeen". London Irish Rifles Association. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
  26. "Identify the Guardsmen by their Buttons!". Royal Windsor. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
  27. "Everything you need to know about the Changing of the Guard at Windsor". Windsor Express. 10 March 2015. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
  28. "Royal wedding: Prince William marries in Irish Guards red". 29 April 2011. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
  29. "Cambridge University Heraldic and Genealogical Society - Orders of Chivalry". Retrieved 25 October 2010.
  30. "Combat Infantryman's Course – Foot Guards". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 27 April 2014.
  31. "Regimental mascots - Irish Guards 1902-1910". Retrieved 26 December 2015.
  32. "Irish Guards Mascots 2000 to present day". Retrieved 26 December 2015.
  33. Ministry of Defence (3 January 2013). "Playful pup newest recruit to Irish Guards – Announcements". GOV.UK. Retrieved 26 April 2014.
  34. "No 1 (Guards) Independent Parachute Company". ParaData. Retrieved 26 April 2014.
  35. "The Irish Guards - St Patrick's Day". Retrieved 26 December 2015.
  36. "Kate's Irish charm: An emerald Duchess presents St Patrick's Day shamrocks to guardsmen (and she's a knockout for one soldier)". Daily Mail. London.
  37. "'She probably needs a rest!': Kate Middleton faces online backlash after breaking 115-year tradition by pulling out of presenting St Patrick's Day shamrocks to Irish Guards to spend time at home with her children". Daily Mail. London.
  38. "Breaking: British Army cleared to field GAA team in London". Irish Post. Retrieved 26 December 2015.
  39. "Europe's Last VC — Guardsman Edward Charlton", After the Battle (magazine) No. 49, 1985. Contains additional memoirs of the surviving Irish Guards officers and men and German officers which correct the original citation.
  40. "The Irish Guards - A Brief History, 1980 to The Present Day". Retrieved 26 December 2015.
  41. "Prince William becomes Colonel of the Irish Guards". The Telegraph. 10 February 2011. Retrieved 10 February 2011.


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