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Irish Guards
Irish Guards.png
Cap badge of the Irish Guards
Active 1 April 1900 – Present
Country United Kingdom
Branch Army
Type Foot Guards
Role 1st Battalion - Light Role/Public Duties
Size One battalion
Part of Guards Division
Garrison/HQ RHQ — London
1st Battalion — Windsor
Nickname The Micks
Bob's Own
Motto Quis Separabit (Who Shall Separate Us) (Latin)
March Quick - St Patrick's Day
Slow - Let Erin Remember
Mascot Irish Wolfhound (Conmael) Previously Fergal (Deceased)
Anniversaries St Patrick's Day, 17 March
Colonel in Chief HM The Queen
Colonel of
the Regiment
Maj. Gen. Sir Sebastian Roberts, KCVO, OBE.
Tactical Recognition Flash GuardsTRF.svg
Tartan Saffron (pipes)
Plume Blue
Right side of Bearskin cap
Abbreviation IG

The Irish Guards (IG), part of the Guards Division, is a Foot Guards regiment of the British Army.

Along with the Royal Irish Regiment, it is one of only two purely Irish regiments remaining in the British Army. The Irish Guards recruit in Northern Ireland, the Irish neighbourhoods of major British cities, and in the Republic of Ireland (which permits its citizens to enlist in the British or any other forces, but forbids active recruiting.)[1] More recently, the regiment has seen several "non-traditional" recruits, notably Zimbabwean Christopher Muzvuru, who qualified as a piper before becoming one of the regiment's two fatal casualties in Iraq in 2003.

Irish Guards officers are often drawn from British public schools, particularly those with a Roman Catholic affiliation, such as Ampleforth College, Downside School and Stonyhurst College. Catholic foreign royals or aristocrats, even those with no Irish connection, for example Jean, Grand Duke of Luxembourg during World War II, have found a home in the Irish Guards.

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 blue plume on the right side of their bearskins.



The Irish Guards were raised in 1900 by order of Queen Victoria, following an initial suggestion from Garnet Wolseley, 1st Viscount Wolseley (who was born in Dublin) to allow Irish soldiers to wear the "shamrock" in their headdress on St. Patrick's Day. Shortly afterwards the setting up of an Irish Guards regiment was discussed in the House of Commons, suggesting that Lord Roberts (who was of Irish descent) should head it up. No time was lost and on 1 April 1900 the regiment was created.

Field Marshal Roberts, as the new Commander-in-Chief in the Anglo-Boer War, was too busy at the time to take over a new regiment, but he was appointed a Colonel of the regiment on 17 October 1900. Major R. J. Cooper, 1st Grenadier Guards, was appointed the first Commanding Officer on 2 May 1900 and 200 Irishmen from the same regiment were transferred as the nucleus of the new regiment. Selected members of the Irish line infantry regiments were chosen to fill out the ranks of the new regiment.[2]

Foot Guards, wearing bearskins, march to the Cenotaph on 12 June 2005 for a service of remembrance for Irish troops. Their uniform buttons are in groups of four, identifying these soldiers as Irish Guards

Uniform, motto, nicknames, mascot and traditions



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 blue plume on the right side of the bearskin.

Rather than a green plume, a plume of St. Patrick's blue was selected because blue is the colour of the mantle and sash of the Knights of St. Patrick, Ireland's order of chivalry, from which the regiment draws its capstar and motto. Also, the uniform of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, which were still in existence at the time the Irish Guards were formed, was a scarlet tunic and bearskin with a green plume. To prevent confusion, the Irish Guards opted for a blue plume.

In "walking out dress", the Irish Guards can be identified by the green band on their forage caps. Officers also traditionally carry an Irish blackthorn walking stick. Drummers and flautists, in common with the other Guards regiments, wear a distinctive tunic adorned with winged epaulettes and white lace.

The uniform of the Irish Guards pipers is, like the Scots Guards, a kilt and tunic, yet is also very different. Irish pipers 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 Irish beret known as a caubeen rather than a feather bonnet. The regimental capstar is worn over the piper's right eye and is topped by a blue hackle. A green cloak with four silver buttons is worn over the shoulders and is secured by two green straps that cross over the chest, but is never buttoned except in severely inclement weather. A white tunic is available for wear in the tropics, in which case the cloak is dispensed with. The pipe major, like the pipe major of the Scots Guards, also holds a warrant as personal piper to Her Majesty, the Queen.


The regiment takes its motto, "Quis Separabit", or "Who shall separate us?" from the Order of St. Patrick, which is currently in abeyance.


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


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, after one of Ireland's historic heroes. There have been twelve more since, all named after Irish High Kings or heroes. 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.

Since the accidental death in 2007 of Fergal, the incumbent, the Irish Guards have a new mascot, named Conmael. He made his debut at Trooping the Colour on 13 June 2009.[3]

Traditions and affiliations

St. Patrick's Day is the traditional regimental holiday (although Orangemen's Day, the Twelfth of July, is also marked with gusto). Fresh shamrock is presented to the members of the regiment, no matter where it is stationed. 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. Since the latter's death, the presentation has been made by the Princess Royal. On the regiment's 50th anniversary in 1950, King George VI made the presentation in person. In 1989, the Queen Mother was unable to make the journey to Belize, where the battalion was stationed, and the Grand Duke of Luxembourg substituted for her.

The regiment is also associated with HMS Portland, as well as the 4th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment.

Army Cadet Force

There are many Army Cadet Force detachments that are badged as the Irish Guards scattered around the UK, the most recent to be badged being 4 Platoon Ascot (A Company) of the Royal County of Berkshire Army Cadet Force. Also, after the Mini Mix tournament in Northern Ireland, a competition in which all Irish Guard detachments compete, St. Albans was crowned the colonel's detachment (winner of competition) again.

Battle honours

Victoria Cross recipients

Notable members

Colonels of the Regiment

British Army regiments typically feature 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. Her Majesty 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. ^ "Lure of combat draws Irish men and women to British army". The Irish Times. 6 September 2008. 
  2. ^ R. G. Harris: The Irish Regiments, Spellmount, 1999 edition
  3. ^ Irish Wolfhound Society
  • "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.
  • The Long, Long Trail - Irish Guards
  • Irish

External links


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