Irish War of Independence 1919 – 1921

On 21 January 1919, following its resounding successes in the December 1918 General Election and fuelled by a rise in popular support after the failed 1916 Easter Rising, the Irish Republican Party (IRA) declared independence from Great Britain. This sparked a sharp escalation of violence and led to British troops being sent to support the Royal Irish Constabulary.

On 15 November 1919, 2nd Hampshire, having only just returned from Archangel in Russia, were sent to County Cork. Over the following three years its soldiers were regularly ambushed, shot at and blown up as they attempted to maintain the peace.

The greatest single loss of life for the Hampshires came on 31 May 1921 when a bomb exploded in a culvert as the Regimental Band marched to the ranges at Youghal. The blast killed seven bandsmen (three of whom were band boys) and wounded 19 others.  A military funeral was held in the barracks in Cork before the bodies were sent home for burial in England.

In July 1921 a ceasefire was declared and the following year, on 6 December 1922, the Irish Free State came into being. During its three years in Ireland 2nd Hampshire lost 15 men killed by the IRA. In July 1922 the battalion sailed from Cork to Belfast and then to Lisnaskea in County Fermanagh, where 1st Royal Hampshire were to be stationed 60 years later in 1982 during the ‘Troubles’. In December 1922, 2nd Hampshire finally left Ballykinler and arrived back in Bordon in Hampshire to the delight of all.