Battle Honour 'WATERLOO'.

Event
Sunday, 18 June, 1815
Waterloo 27th Battle Honour
French cavalry attack the 27th Inniskillings in their 'square' battle formation.

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

The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday 18 June 1815, near Waterloo in present-day Belgium, then part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands.

An Imperial French army under the command of Emperor Napoleon was defeated by the combined armies of the Seventh Coalition, an Anglo-Allied army under the command of the Duke of Wellington combined with a Prussian army under the command of Field Marshal von Blücher, Prince of Wahlstatt. It was the decisive battle of the Waterloo Campaign (15 June - 8 July 1815) and Napoleon's last. The defeat at Waterloo put an end to Napoleon's rule as Emperor of the French and marked the beginning of the end of his ‘Hundred Days‘. Failing to gain political support in Paris, he was forced to abdicate on 22 June in favour of his son, and when attempting to flee France, had to surrender to the British on 15 July 1815.

Of the 27th Inniskillings, the Duke of Wellington many years later said, '... they saved the centre of my line ... .'

A French General was reported as saying, 'I have seen Russian, Prussian and French bravery, but anything to equal the stubborn bravery of the regiment with castles I have never before witnessed'.

BH WATERLOO

The Inniskillings was the only Irish infantry regiment to take part in the Battle of Waterloo. On 16 June, Major John Hare marched the Battalion some 70 kilometres in 28 hours in pouring rain to join the main Army to occupy a position 1,200 metres behind the Allied line near Mont St Jean.

During heavy fighting earlier on 18 June, the formations holding the key cross-roads north of La Haye Saints were eventually rendered almost ineffective by French actions. At 1515 hours, Lambert’s 10th Brigade, that included the Inniskillings, moved forward to the vital ground where the road from Brussels to Charleroi crossed the Allied line behind La Haye Sainte. For the rest of the day there was no respite from attacks by French snipers, cavalry and cannon-shot, as the Inniskillings varied their formation from being in ‘columns of companies at quarter distance’ to forming a square. General Kempt, then commanding the 5th Division following Picton’s death, declared that the Inniskillings ‘... behaved nobly and suffered exceedingly’.

The 27th (Inniskilling) Regiment of Foot's killed and wounded amounted to 486 out of a total of 747 - amongst the highest casualties of British regiments. When only one officer remained standing, the neighbouring 40th Regiment offered to lend officers, to which Major Hare, the commanding officer, replied, 'The Sergeants like to command the companies and I would be loathe to deprive them of the honour'.

Since that time, traditions have evolved to reflect the history of the day, an example being command of the Battalion on the Waterloo Day Parade by a Major who later becomes the only officer on parade when the remainder fall out. As he marches the Battalion off parade, the Company Sergeant Majors command their companies and the Sergeants assume the role of the junior officers. Later, The Colours are marched from the Officers Mess and loaned to the Warrant Officers and Sergeants Mess for the duration of their traditional Waterloo Dinner Night when they celebrate the honour of their forebears commanding companies of the 27th (Inniskilling) Regiment of Foot at the Battle of Waterloo.