Royal Irish Rangers (V)

The Regimental History

The Royal Irish Rangers is the sole TA infantry battalion in Northern Ireland and has inherited the traditions and history of the three former constituent regiments, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, Royal Irish Fusiliers and Royal Ulster Rifles. The oldest is the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers which was raised in 1689 to fight in the Williamite Wars, In the following three centuries, battalions from the ‘Skins’ (its Regimental nickname) fought wherever the British Army was sent. During the Napoleonic wars, it won undying fame at Waterloo 1815, when the Battalion was cut to ribbons, all officers killed and wounded and the SNCOs in command, Waterloo Day is celebrated every year on the 18 June with a parade commanded by the SNCOs. The Royal Irish Fusiliers and Royal Ulster Rifles were formed at the beginning of the Napoleonic wars when the British Army was expanded. Like the 'Skins', the 'Faughs' (Royal Irish Fusiliers) and 'Stickies’ (Royal Ulster Rifles) have also fought in many campaigns since their formation.  Each regiment has a regimental day which is celebrated by the present regiment In the case of the 'Faugh’, it is Barrosa Day on 5 March which celebrates the taking of a French Regimental Eagle by Sgt. Masterson at the Battle of Barrosa in Spain in 1811. For the ‘Stickies’, it is 1 July to commemorate the start of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916. All the old regiments had Territorial Army battalions in Northern Ireland, On 1 July l968, the three regiments were amalgamated to form The Royal Irish Rangers. The Territorial battalions did likewise to form the 4th Battalion Royal Irish Rangers (North Irish Militia) which also included the sole London Irish Rifles company and the 5th Battalion Royal Irish Rangers. The two TA battalions trained as units until 1993 when following the Options for Change White Paper, they were merged to form the 4/5th Battalion Royal Irish Rangers (Volunteers) or 4/5 RANGERS. In 1998, the Government conducted a Strategic Defence Review which concluded that the Territorial Army needed to be restructured to meet the new defence posture. As part of that restructuring, the 40 TA infantry battalions throughout the United Kingdom were to reduce to 15. As part of that plan, 4/5 RANGERS is to reduce to a small battalion headquarters plus administrative element, two rifle companies, the North Irish Horse squadron, a machine gun platoon and an assault pioneer platoon The new organization which was effective from 1 July 1999 is now called The Royal Irish Rangers.

WO2 Hugh McGinn Age 40 ( 5th .V. Battalion ) 28th December 1980. Shot dead by INLA at the door of his home in Armagh. Two gunmen fired approx twelve rounds at Hugh as he answered the knock on his door. He was married with six children and was off duty at the time of his death.

Sgt Trevor A. Elliot Age 38 ( 5th .V. Battalion ) 13th April 1983. Shot dead by the IRA as he walked from his shop in Keady to his car, a masked gunman opened fire at close range, Trevor was hit seven times. His job in the TA was a Drummer in the Territorial Army’s Pipe Band. He was married with five children and off duty at the time of his death. A senior TA officer said after the killing (We would like to emphasise and stress that we have no involvement in the security situation here in Northern Ireland) He was the 3rd TA Soldier to be killed.

Cpl Trevor May: Aged 28: 4th Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment (V) Trevor died when an IED placed under his colleague’s car exploded as they left work at the telephone exchange in Newry, at 4:40 p.m. on the afternoon of the 9th May 1984. His colleague, Major Jim [name redacted] was seriously injured in the blast. The Provisional IRA claimed responsibility for the murder, saying that all “members of the RUC, British Army, UDR and Territorial Army are enemies of the Irish people.” 

[ Trevor May ]

He was married with one child, and was the fourth TA soldier to be killed by the IRA.

A first hand account by K.J. [name redacted] Trevor, Jim and I had served together in the Royal Irish Rangers for about 8 years, at home and abroad, often on United Nations exercises acting as umpires. We had all been members of the Signals Section of the 4th (V) Battalion. Jim was a Major, I was a Sergeant and Trevor was a Corporal. Jim was now a major in the 5th Bn, As well as serving together in the TA, Trevor and Jim worked together, lived near to each other and helped each other building their new houses. The Third person injured in the car was Alan who was a Piper in the 4th Bn band.  That fateful day it was Jim’s turn to use his car to travel to work. He parked his Volvo on the main Belfast to Newry Road, close to the police station, in what they both considered to be a relatively safe place; in an open position in plain view of passers-by, on a wide street with nothing to obstruct the view. At some point during the afternoon the bomb was placed under the wheel arch near the front wheel, on passenger’s side. When they finished work at 3:30p.m. As they pulled out of the parking space the device exploded, killing Trevor almost instantly as the car disintegrated around them, the blast pushed up the floor pan and broke both Alan’s legs in the back seat. Jim was seriously injured in the blast. Most of the left side of his body was blown away and he spent many months in hospital where they repaired him as best they could. At one stage they stitched the fleshless bone of his left arm into his stomach to support his arm to assist in skin grafting on the elbow, removing it later as he slowly recovered. Jim underwent months of many painful skin and flesh grafts. The long recovery took its toll him and his family. The mental trauma of the blast and his extensive physical injuries wrecked both his body and his marriage. Trevor's widow and his then new born child still live in the house that he built, not far from where he is buried in Tullylish graveyard.

LCpl Thomas (Tommy) Gibson, Age 27 ( 4th .V. Battalion ) shot by the IRA in Kilrea, Co Londonderry on 9 Oct 1989 whilst off duty. He was a TA soldier serving with the Recce Pl, 4th (V) Bn Royal Irish Rangers, based at Limavady, in the process of transferring to the RCT (TA) in Ballymoney at the time of the shooting.

Ranger Robert Dunseath, Age 25,( 4th .V. Battalion ) blown up in the Teebane Massacre by PIRA with his civilian work colleagues whilst off duty on 17 January 1992. He, and 7 of his colleagues, were killed in a land mine attack on firm's van (6 others were seriously injured), returning home from construction work at Lisanelly Army base, Omagh, at Teebane Crossroads, near Cookstown, County Tyrone. He was a TA soldier serving with Recce Pl, 4th (V) Bn Royal Irish Rangers, based at Limavady. He was in the process of resigning when he was killed, in order to spend more time with his young family.