The 88th Regiment of Foot (Connaught Rangers) ("the Devil's Own") was an infantry Regiment of the British Army, one of eight Irish regiments raised and garrisoned in Ireland. The regiment saw extensive service in the Peninsular War, Crimean War and Indian Mutiny, South Africa 1877-1881, South Africa 1899-1902 and The Great War 1914-1918. As part of the Cardwell-Childers reforms of the British Army, the regiment amalgamated with the 94th Regiment of Foot, to form the 1st and 2nd Battalions (respectively) of the Connaught Rangers on 1 July 1881.
The regiment was raised on 25 September 1793 from the men of Connaught by John Thomas de Burgh, 13th Earl of Clanricard.
The 88th Foot embarked in late 1806 on ships to take part in the secret attack on Buenos Aires. They languished on board for a month in Falmouth Harbour, then sailed as part of the convoy to Cape Town. There the troops were not allowed to go ashore. After some time they sailed, via St. Helena, to the Plate estuary, and in July 1807 attacked Buenos Aires. Given they had been on board ships for more than a half-year, they were likely in less than perfect physical condition - and also were fighting an "urban warfare" battle that favoured their Argentinian patriotic adversaries, they were not successful. One company of the 88th were ordered to remove the flints from their rifles before they went into action, which effectively rendered them defenceless. This action was taken to help reduce civilian casualties. Taking many casualties, the remainder of the 88th surrendered. They and the other troops were repatriated under a signed agreement that saw the British abandon their attempt to gain sovereignty over the Plate colonies. The 88th was among the first regiments to sail back towards Europe as part of the agreement. They left behind Lieut. William Parker-Carroll from Nenagh Co Tipperary (Later Sir William Parker-Carroll) who was apparently the only British Officer present who could speak Spanish. After the surrender, when things were a bit fraught, he appealed to the noble blood of their Castillian ancestors, following which he was carried shoulder high around the square in Buenos Ayres [ see Vol I, Regimental History of The Connaught Rangers, by Jourdain], and given a sword and a horse. Parker-Carroll negotiated the release of many prisoners of war taken earlier in the campaign and was debriefed by Lord Castlereagh on his return to London.
The 88th Foot landed in Portugal 13 March 1809. In Wellesley's advance on Soult at Oporto, the 88th was part of Beresford's flanking attack to the east, advancing through the rain and over swollen rivers to reach Chaves and then the Spanish border after a superhuman effort. Then in the attack against Victor, east from Portugal, they saw considerable action, being surprised before Talavera at the Casa de Salinas and routed; then helped save the day in the initial night attack at Talavera when the King's German Legion (KGL) was surprised and ran; and were a steady force on the south side of the Medellin hill in the main Battle of Talavera.
In 1810 the 88th had a major role to play in rebuffing the advancing French under Massena on Bussaco's ridge in September 1810. With a bayonet charge under the leadership of Wallace they and the 45th sent the French reeling back down the slope. After Bussaco, they retreated along with Wellesley's other troops to the Lines of Torres Vedras. There, they were responsible for the lines just to the east of the town of Torres Vedras itself. Every morning, usually in pouring rain, they would assemble for two hours in the dark, just in case the French attacked in the dawn.
In 1811 they led the charge at the battle of Fuentes de Onoro that cleared that town, in the final stages of the repelling of Massena out of Portugal.
In early 1812 volunteers of the 88th played a crucial role in the taking of Ciudad Rodrigo. Then in the battle of Badajoz they achieved an incredible success through scaling the walls of the castle, when the British troops elsewhere were suffering terrible casualties at the breaches.
On 22 July 1812, in the Battle of Salamanca, the 88th was the central regiment that climbed the hill at Miranda de Azon that crushed Macaune's troops and was the first step in the defeat of the French forces - and the turning point of the Peninsular War. As it was said of the Battle of Salamanca - it was when Wellesley beat 40,000 men in 40 minutes. It was in this battle that the regiment took the prized "Jingling Johnny" trophy that was marched at the head of its parades for many years.
Their service in the Crimean War was recognised by the presentation to the City of Galway of a pair of guns in memoriam, which until recently remained on prominent display on the city's main square, Eyre Square, and now are displayed outside City Hall.
After the Crimean War, the 88th returned to Britain, but in response to the Indian Mutiny were soon deployed to India. The regiment with a strength of 990 plus a depot of about 100 embarked in July 1857 in four detachments. It arrived in Calcutta in November. By 25 November 1857, 6 companies had reached the front, 4 at Cawnpore and 2 near Futtipore. By the end of 1858 the total loss of the 88th in the field during the operations, according to the returns of each engagement, amounted to one officer and 16 other ranks killed, and 6 officers and 138 other ranks wounded. The Connaught Rangers served in India until 1870.
On 16 November 1870 they boarded the troopship HMS Jumna in Bombay, and the passage home began on the following morning (17 November). The regiment had been 13 years in India. Nine officers, and 407 non-commissioned officers and men, died in India during this period. The 88th were in January 1881 again based in India.
In 1881, as part of the Childers Reforms, the 88th amalgamated with the 94th Regiment of Foot to become the 1st Battalion and 2nd. Battalion of the Connaught Rangers respectively. The 88th were always knows as "The Connaught Rangers " and served with the 94th "Scotch Brigade" in General Picton's 3rd Light Division in The Peninsular Wars . They were side by side at the siege of Ciudad Rodrigo. The 88th and 94th also served in South Africa 1877-1881.
Battle honours won by the regiment were:Napoleonic Wars: Egypt (sphinx superscribed "Egypt")
Peninsular War: Talavera, Busaco, Fuentes d'Onor, Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz, Salamanca, Vittoria, Nivelle, Orthes, Toulouse, Peninsula
Crimean War: Alma, Inkerman, Sevastopol
Major Hans Garrett Moore, 9th Cape Frontier War (29 December 1877)
Colonels of the Regiment were:
1793–1794: Gen. John Thomas de Burgh, 13th Earl of Clanricarde
1794–1807: Gen. John Reid
1807–1819: Gen. Sir William Beresford, 1st Viscount Beresford, GCB, GCH
1819–1824: Gen. Sir Gordon Drummond, GCB
1824–1831: Gen. Sir Henry Frederick Campbell, KCB, GCH
1831–1857: Gen. Sir John Alexander Dunlop Agnew Wallace, Bt., KCB
1857–1858: Lt-Gen. Robert Barclay Macpherson, CB, KH
1858–1860: Lt-Gen. Horatio George Broke
1860: Gen. Sir George Buller, GCB
1860–1863: Maj-Gen. John Cox, KH
1863–1864: Gen. Arthur Dalzell, 9th Earl of Carnwath
1864–1874: Gen. Montague Cholmeley Johnstone
1874–1879: Gen. Sir Horatio Shirley, KCB
1879–1881: Gen. William Irwin