Battle Honour 'MAIDA'.

Fri, 07/04/1806

The Battle Honour MAIDA is emblazoned on the Regimental Colours of The Royal Irish Regiment.

In 1806, the 27th (Inniskillings) was serving with the Allied Anglo-Neopolitan expedition that was under orders to prevent Napoleon from invading Sicily. The commander, Major General John Stuart, planned to sail from Messina to conduct a raid against General Jean Reynier, commander of the French First Empire forces in Calabria, Southern Italy. Reynier's force included Italian, Polish, Swiss and French troops.

Stuart's 5,000 (plus) troops landed on the Gulf of St Euphemia and advanced to join with 4,000 local Calabrian insurgents. The Inniskillings were in Colonel Lowry Cole's 1 Brigade with their Grenadier Company detached into a composite Grenadier Battalion also in 1 Brigade. In the subsequent battle on the plain of San Pietro di Maida the outnumbered British waited to engage the advancing enemy with volleys at 150, 80 and 20 yards. Towards the end of the battle, Cole's Brigade advanced on the retreating Swiss and then had to form squares to absorb the French cavalry charges. The Inniskillings distinguished themselves - to quote the words of General Stuart,

'Nothing could shake the firmness of the 27th Regiment under Lieutenant-Colonel Smyth’.

The French were defeated for the Allied loss of 45 men killed and 282 wounded, of which the Inniskillings lost 6 killed and 47 wounded. The enemy lost more than 600 killed and wounded and over 1,000 captured. Though a minor battle it caused a sensation in Britain for it proved to those at home that Napoleon's veteran Empire troops were not invincible and thus restored public faith in the British Army.

The Inniskillings were granted MAIDA as a Battle Honour. ‘Skins' was the 1st Battalion's Inniskilling's nickname and it is thought to derive from an event during the Battle of Maida, when the men were enjoying a post-battle wash and bathe in the sea. A mounted staff officer suddenly arrived at the gallop to advise that an approaching dust cloud was thought to be enemy cavalry. The naked to near-naked Inniskillings immediately armed themselves and formed to fight the approaching threat. It turned out to be nothing more dangerous than a herd of 'scampering buffaloes'. Onlookers from other regiments, given the circumstances and as a play on the word 'Inniskillings', are believed to have thereafter referred to the Battalion as - 'the Skins'.

Private Scott

During the battle, the French shelled the 27th (Inniskillings) when it was in a field of corn. The shelling started fires and the flames caused some men to move position. Colonel Cole, misunderstanding the situation, sent a brigade staff officer at the gallop towards the Regiment. On arrival, he called out to one Private Scott, ‘Are the 27th about to run?’ Scott’s spirited response was ‘Hell to your soul! You or any other ruffian shall never see that day.’ Before riding back to report to Cole, the officer chastised Private Scott for being improper and disrespectful.

Several months later, when the Regiment was on parade, an NCO came up to Scott and told him that he had been promoted to Sergeant. One of his company officers confirmed the news saying:

‘It is a fact, Scott, you have been made a sergeant, and the reason of promotion is the answer you gave the staff officer at the battle of Maida’.