Battle Honour 'EGYPT' (With The Sphinx)

Tue, 07/06/1802
EGYPT SPHINX Battle Honour Egypt Sphinx
Battle Honour 'EGYPT' (With The Sphinx) carried on the rear pouch of a Royal Irish Rifles Officer's cross belt

On this day in 1802, King George III granted the distinction EGYPT (With the Sphinx) to six Irish infantry Regiments of Foot including the 27th, 86th, 87th and 89th*. The Honour is emblazoned on the Regimental Colours of The Royal Irish Regiment.

The distinction was conferred on regiments ‘as a distinguished mark of His Majesty’s royal approbation, and as a lasting memorial to the glory acquired to His Majesty’s arms by the zeal, discipline, and intrepidity of his troops in that arduous and important campaign’.

The Campaign Honour was for actions during the French Revolutionary Wars, when the British mounted an expedition to drive Napoleon out of Egypt. The aim was to return Egypt to Ottoman rule and to block French advances eastwards to India, thus denying Napoleon any opportunity to form treaties with those Indian rulers opposing the British in India.

General Sir Ralph Abercromby’s 15,000 strong expeditionary army landed at Aboukir Bay on 8 March 1801 and then advanced to capture Alexandria. The 18th Regiment were part of Craddock’s 2 Brigade and Major General John Doyle commanded 4 Brigade, which included the 89th Regiment. A reinforcing brigade, which included the 27th Regiment, landed in May before the advance to Cairo along the River Nile by Major General Hely-Hutchinson, who became the Commander-in-Chief following the mortal wounding of Abercromby.

Further reinforcements arrived from India when the 4th Division, commanded by General Sir David Baird landed the 86th, 87th and 88th Regiments of Foot. The 86th were landed at Suez and marched 70 miles across the desert to El Hanka while the 87th and 88th Regiments were landed at Kossier and marched 100 miles across arid desert. When they reached Keneh on the River Nile in July, they then sailed by dhows to Cairo.

General Menou, the French commander in Alexandria, who had been been under siege since Abercromby landed in March, eventually sued for terms on 26 August 1801. Both battalions of the 27th and the 89th took part in the capture of Alexandria.

Interestingly, in 1847, the Peninsular Medal was extended retrospectively to all those still surviving some 45 years after their campaign service in Egypt.

The other two were the 18th, later The Royal Irish Regiment, and the Devil's Own - the 88th Regiment of Foot. The 94th (Scotch Brigade) Regiment was also present and awarded the Honour, but is not considered an Irish regiment until it amalgamated with the 88th to become the 2nd Battalion The Connaught Rangers in 1881.