Battle Honour 'TARIFA'.

Tue, 12/31/1811
Battle of Tarifa.

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

Towards the end of 1811, the Spanish based at the fort of Tarifa were impeding French operations in southern Spain. When the French prepared to capture the fort, Wellington decided to reinforce his Spanish allies. The 2nd Battalion of the 87th Regiment of Foot sailed from Cadiz as part of Colonel Skerrett's reinforcing brigade and landed at Tarifa on 15 October. The French began their siege, with a force of 10,000, on 20 December 1811.

The French siege battery bombardments, assisted by torrential rain, effected a breach on the night of the 30 December. The following day at 0800 hours, a 2,000 strong force stormed the breach. The 2/87th received them with three cheers and their fifes and drums began to play 'Garryowen' and ’St Patrick's Day.' Despite the inclement weather, the 2/87th continued to pour accurate and murderous volleys that shattered the French before they could seize the portcullis.

When the French attack withered, the wounded French Commander gave up his sword to Lieutenant Colonel Gough commanding the 87th. The 2/87th's steadiness and discipline avoided any temptation to pursue the French outside the breach and the Battalion's casualties during this action were five killed and 23 wounded. Their humanity towards the enemy wounded was a matter of record as Skerrett ordered a truce flag be raised to permit the recovery of the wounded French. The French commander, General Leval, abandoned the siege on 5 January 1812.

Colonel Skerrett issued an order at the end of 31 December's battle that included the following citation:

'Colonel Skerrett most sincerely congratulates the British garrison on the glorious result of the affair of to-day. Two thousand of the enemy's best troops attacked the breach and were totally defeated with immense loss. On our side all behaved nobly; but the conduct of Lieut.-Colonel Gough and the EIGHTY-SEVENTH regiment, surpasses praise.'

The 87th Regiment received Royal Authority to bear the Battle Honour TARIFA on their Colours in commemoration of their gallantry in defending the breach against a numerically superior French enemy.