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BLUE CAPS, OLD TOUGHS AND KILDAREMEN

Blue Caps, Old Toughs, and Kildaremen
James Durney

The origins of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers go back to 1639 when they were formed in India as the Madras Europeans to protect the British settlement known as Fort St. George, now the city of Madras. The East India Company were then in the process of developing trade and colonising India. By 1843 the unit had expanded to two battalions and they were known as the 1st Madras Fusiliers and the 1st Bombay Fusiliers until 1862, when it was decided that a local European force should no longer exist in India and the officers and men transferred to the British Army. The two battalions became regiments of the line – 102nd Royal Madras Fusiliers and 103rd Royal Bombay Fusiliers – Queen Victoria, conferring on the regiments the name ‘Royal.’ In 1881, when the Territorial system was established, they became respectively the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, with the depot at Naas, Co. Kildare, thus beginning a long tradition of Kildaremen serving with the Dubs.
Both battalions of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers served throughout the South African, or Boer, war. In 1905 a memorial arch was erected in Dublin by commercial and business interests of the city at the top of Grafton Street and St. Stephen’s Green to commemorate the men of the Dublin Fusiliers who fell in the war. It is known as ‘The Fusiliers Arch.’ The arch carries the names of several Kildaremen.
On August 4 1914 when Britain declared war on Germany the 1st Battalion, known as ‘The Blue Caps,’ were serving in India, while the 2nd Battalion, ‘The Old Toughs,’ were based at Gravesend, England. The 1st Battalion arrived back in England in November 1914 and in January 1915 joined the 29th Division for service in the Mediterranean. On 25th April 1915 they landed at ‘V’ Beach, Cape Helles, on the Gallipoli peninsula, suffering massive casualties. After the evacuation of Gallipoli the battalion left for France and transferred to the 16th Irish Division. They ended the war back with the 29th Division. The 2nd Battalion left England for Mons in August 1914 as part of the 4th Division and were soon blooded at Le Cateau where they suffered their first casualties. As part of the 4th Division and the 16th Irish Division they distinguished themselves in all the battles of the Western Front, in which they won many decorations including two Victoria Crosses.
Due to the high intake of recruits and the huge casualty numbers the Royal Dublin Fusiliers raised a further four reserve battalions and five service battalions. The 6th and 7th (Service) Battalions were formed at Naas in August 1914 as part of K1-Kitchener’s New Armies. They then moved to the Curragh to become part of the 10th Irish Division, which saw action at Gallipoli, Salonika, Egypt, Palestine and France. In those first few months of the war many Co. Kildare recruits to the British army signed on at Naas barracks, and were destined for their ‘local’ regiment – the Dublin Fusiliers.
A total of 1,393 officers and men died serving with the 1st Battalion, Royal Dublin Fusiliers, in the 1914-18 conflict. The men who died serving with the 1st Battalion came from various cities and towns in Ireland, Britain, and further a field. Dublin city and county contributed the largest number – 550 – while County Kildare came next with 67. The highest contributors outside Ireland were England, 254, and Scotland, 70.
 The 2nd Battalion lost 1,352 officers and men, killed, or died of illness and wounds, from August 1914 to November 1918. Dublin county and city, were again the highest contributor with 561, while County Kildare was again the next highest contributor in the country with 55. Outside of Ireland the highest contributions came from England, 230, and Scotland, 82.
 Patrick Hogarty, a member of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association, wrote two histories of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers – A brief history of ‘The Blue Caps.’ The 1st Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers 1914-1922. From Madras to Gallipoli and The Western Front and other stories (Dublin, 2005); ‘The Old Toughs,’ from Milton to Mons and the Western Front 1911-1918. A brief history of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers 2nd Battalion (Dublin, 2001) – which are an invaluable record for anyone studying the record of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers in WWI. Both books have a complete list of those who died serving with the 1st and 2nd Battalions. The lists comprise name, address, rank, regimental number, date and the whereabouts of death, and memorial where commemorated, of each casualty.

A brief history and statistical information of Kildaremen with the Royal Dublin Fusiliers 1st and 2nd Battalions in WWI, by James Durney.


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