Connaught Rangers

This article will provide an overview of the service of the Connaught Rangers in the First World War and help you to research those who served with the Regiment. I have also created a wide range of guides to help you research soldiers who served in the British Army during the war:

The Connaught Rangers in the First World War

1st Battalion Connaught Rangers

On 4 August 1914, the 1st Battalion Connaught Rangers was stationed at Ferozepore, now Firozpur, a city 261 miles northwest of Delhi in India. The Battalion had landed in India from Malta in March 1908 and had been stationed at Ferozepore since November 1910. At 11 am, a telephone call gave the Battalion orders to mobilize and the unit boarded the SS Edavana at Karachi on 27 August with a strength of 16 officers and 893 other ranks. The Battalion was part of the 7th (Ferozepore) Brigade of the 3rd (Lahore) Division. On 26 September, the unit disembarked at Marseilles after a very brief period of service in Egypt. Due to heavy casualties sustained by both 1st and 2nd Battalions, they were amalgamated on 5 December 1914 at Le Touret. The amalgamated battalion kept the 1st Battalion’s designation.

The 1st Battalion served on the Western Front until 11 December 1915, when the unit embarked on board the Hired Transport at Huntsend at Marseilles with a strength of 24 officers and 813 other ranks. Indian Corps which contained the 3rd (Lahore) and 7th (Meerut) Divisions was being sent to Mesopotamia, now Iraq. On 10 January 1916, the Huntsend arrived off Basra and the Battalion soon found itself taking part in the unsuccessful attempts to relieve the besieged 6th (Poona) Division at Kut-al-Amara. The Battalion served in Mesopotamia until April 1918 when the 3rd (Lahore) Division was sent to Egypt to take part in the Palestine Campaign. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission recorded 637 dead for the Battalion between 17 August 1914 and 11 November 1918.

2nd Battalion Connaught Rangers

On 4 August 1914, the 2nd Battalion was stationed at Aldershot in Hampshire and landed at Boulogne as part of the 5th Brigade of the 2nd Division on 14 August. On 26 August, the Battalion suffered heavy casualties while acting as the 5th Brigade’s rearguard in what became  known as the Affair of Le Grand Fayt. Six officers and 280 other ranks were reported missing from the day’s fighting. Due to heavy casualties both sustained by both the 1st and 2nd Battalions in the opening months of the war, they were amalgamated on 5 December 1914 at Le Touret. The 2nd Battalion was reformed after the war.

3rd (Reserve) Battalion Connaught Rangers

The 3rd (Reserve) Battalion was a training unit stationed at Galway on 4 August 1914. Shortly after the declaration of war, it was moved to Crosshaven and then in September 1914 to Kinsale. The Battalion remained at Kinsale until November 1917 when it moved to Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Here it remained until about May 1918 when it moved to Dover and absorbed the 4th (Extra Reserve) Battalion.

4th (Extra Reserve) Battalion Connaught Rangers

The 4th (Extra Reserve) was also a training unit and was stationed at Boyle on 4 August 1914. Shortly after the declaration of war, the Battalion moved to Queenstown, now Cobh. In March 1915, the unit moved to Bere Island, then to Fermoy in February 1916 before moving to Crosshaven in May 1916. In November 1917, the Battalion was moved to Nigg in Scotland where it remained until early 1918 when it moved to Fort George near Inverness. In May 1918, the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion absorbed the 4th (Extra Reserve) Battalion at Dover.

5th (Service) Battalion Connaught Rangers

The 5th Battalion was raised at Dublin in August 1914 and became part of the 29th Brigade in the 10th (Irish) Division. On 9 July 1915, the Battalion embarked at Devonport for Gallipoli where they landed at Anzac Cove on 5 August 1915. The Battalion’s service in the campaign was brief, as it was withdrawn to Salonika on 30 September 1915. On 7 December 1915, the unit suffered heavy casualties in the Battle of Kosturino with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission recording 99 dead, all of whom are commemorated on the Doiran Memorial. The Battalion served in the Salonika Campaign until September 1917 when it sailed for Egypt. During April 1918, the Battalion left the 10th Division and was sent to France. On the Western Front, the Battalion briefly served with the 14th Division before joining the 197th Brigade of the 66th Division on 22 July 1918. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission recorded 509 dead for the 5th (Service) Battalion between 2 January 1915 and 11 November 1918.

6th (Service) Battalion Connaught Rangers

The 6th (Service) Battalion was formed at Kilworth in September 1914 and joined the 47th Brigade which was part of the 16th Division. On 18 December 1915, the Battalion landed in France and remained on the Western Front until it was disbanded. On 13 April 1918, the Battalion was reduced to a training cadre with 5 officers and 281 other ranks sent to the 2nd Battalion The Leinster Regiment. On 17 June, the cadre joined the 34th Division, then the 117th Infantry Brigade of the 39th Division on 27 June. On 3 August 1918, the Battalion was disbanded. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission recorded 483 dead for the 6th (Service) Battalion between 27 January 1916 and 3 August 1918.

Researching Those who Served in the Connaught Rangers in the First World War

I have created a series of generic guides which cover researching those who served in the British Army. Those looking at service and medal records are good starting points, along with casualty lists and interpreting photographs. You’ll find a lot of military jargon in the records and I have a page on abbreviations and acronyms. Once you know which battalion/s the soldier you’re researching served with I’d recommend downloading the appropriate war diaries from the list below.

Officers: A service record is the key document to find and there are over 700 held at the National Archives in London. Officers are frequently mentioned in the war diaries of the Connaught Rangers, just make sure you download the correct ones. I’ve written articles on using British Army Lists, Hart’s Army List and the London Gazette which will help you research an officer. Newspapers should always be searched for officers along with casualty lists.Mallins Connaught Rangers WW1

This portrait of Lieutenant Claude Joseph O’Conor Mallins was published in The Sphere after he was killed in action serving with the 2nd Battalion Connaught Rangers on 2 November 1914. The Sphere published thousands of officer portraits during the war. The newspaper has been digitized and can be viewed on FindmyPast. A service record for Mallins can be found at the National Archives which when combined with the 2nd Battalion’s war diary, would provide a lot of information.

Other Ranks: A service record is the most important document to find but many were destroyed when the warehouse in which they were stored caught fire in the Blitz. The Connaught Rangers suffered a heavy loss in this fire when compared to other regiments. Medal records are always good places to start your research and a medal roll should record which battalions a soldier served with abroad, so you can download the correct war diaries. Newspapers should also be searched along with casualty lists. There are two sources online for other ranks of the Connaught Rangers which should be searched if you suspect a soldier served after the war:

  • The enlistment books of the Connaught Rangers 1920-1922 which are available to search, view and download for free on the National Army Museum’s website. These record the soldiers serving with the regiment in 1920-1922 and are full of useful information.
  • The November 1922 Army Census of the Irish Free State (Republic of Ireland). When the Connaught Rangers was disbanded in 1922, many soldiers joined the National Army (Army of the Irish Free State). You can search and download the images for free.

The headstone of James Gormely, his surname is also spelt Gormley, of the 1st Battalion Connaught Rangers who died on 11 December 1914 aged 25. No service record survives for James as it was destroyed in the Blitz. His medal index card shows that James landed in France on 26 September and his movements can be followed in the unit’s war diary. James’ regimental number of 9562 points to an enlistment date of around December 1908. James’ entry in Soldiers Died in the Great War recorded that he died of wounds. He is buried in Brompton Cemetery. The Connaught Ranger’s badge was the Harp of Erin surmounted by a crown. 

Connaught Rangers WW1 Gormely

War Diaries of the Connaught Rangers

Most of the war diaries listed below have been digitized by the National Archives and can be downloaded for a small fee by clicking on the blue links below. The Gallipoli war diary for the 5th Battalion is available to view on Ancestry. The rest of the war diaries can only be viewed at the National Archives. There are no war diaries for the 3rd (Reserve) or 4th (Extra Reserve) Battalions.

1st Battalion Connaught Rangers

  • Date: 08 August 1914 – 31 December 1915
  • 7th (Ferozepore) Brigade, 3rd (Lahore) Division
  • Reference: WO 95/3923/1
  • Notes: An average war diary though there are some more detailed entries. There are lists of British officers serving with the Battalion throughout.

 

  • Date: 08 August 1914 – 30 November 1915
  • 1st Battalion, Connaught Rangers Medical Officer
  • Reference: WO 95/3923/2
  • Notes: This is a very unusual war diary as it was kept by the Medical Officer of the 1st Battalion and while it is full of medical details it can be used to supplement the information found in the normal war diary. There are a few other rank casualties recorded.

 

  • Date: 1 January – 31 March 1918
  • 7th (Ferozepore) Brigade, 3rd (Lahore) Division, Mesopotamia
  • Reference: WO 95/5106/5
  • Notes: There is a catalogue error on the National Archives website for this war diary. It is the war diary of the Battalion’s Medical Officer for January 1916 and the unit’s normal war diary for the period between January 1916 and March 1918. This is a good war diary with a handful of appendices including a map of the 3rd (Lahore) Division’s front on 15 January 1917 and a map of the Battalion’s picquets during February 1917. Both maps show trenches.

 

  • Date:  April 1918 – March 1920
  • 7th (Ferozepore) Brigade, 3rd (Lahore) Division, Egypt, Palestine and Syria
  • Reference: WO 95/4700
  • Notes: This war diary can only be viewed at the National Archives.

2nd Battalion Connaught Rangers

  • Date: 04 August – 30 November 1914
  • 5th Infantry Brigade, 2nd Division
  • Reference: WO 95/1347/1
  • Notes: A good war diary with an interesting appendix on the action at Le Grand Fayt on 26 August 1914 which takes up a lot of this diary.

 

  • Date: 01 February – 30 April 1919
  • 199th Infantry Brigade, 66th Division
  • Reference: WO 95/3144/1
  • Notes: A short war diary with brief repetitive entries which is often encountered for this post-war period.

 

  • Date: 28 May 1921 – 04 April 1922
  • British Silesian Force
  • Reference: WO 95/153/8
  • Notes: A very interesting war diary concerning the Battalion’s activities when they were policing the Upper Silesia after the plebiscite of March 1921. There are awo lot of appendices.

5th Battalion Connaught Rangers

  • Date: 19 July – 30 September 1915
  • 29th Infantry Brigade, 10th (Irish) Division
  • Reference: WO 95/4296
  • Notes: This is a good war diary which can be viewed on Ancestry or photographed at the National Archives. The war diary contains correspondence from Lieutenant-Colonel H. F. N. Jourdain to Brigadier-General Aspinall who was writing the Official History of the Gallipoli Campaign.

 

  • Date: 01 October 1915 – 31 August 1917
  • 29th Infantry Brigade, 10th (Irish) Division
  • Reference: WO 95/4835
  • Notes: A good war diary with a few appendices which can only be viewed at the National Archives.

 

  • Date: September 1917 – May 1918
  • 29th Infantry Brigade, 10th (Irish) Division
  • Reference: WO 95/4579
  • Notes: This war diary can only be viewed at the National Archives.

 

  • Date: 01 June 1918 – 31 October 1918
  • 199th Infantry Brigade, 66th Division
  • Reference: WO 95/3144/2
  • Notes: An average war diary with a few appendices.

6th Battalion Connaught Rangers

  • Date: 18 December 1915 – 31 July 1918
  • 47th Infantry Brigade, 16th Division
  • Reference: WO 95/1970/2
  • Notes: A very good war diary with lots of detailed entries and a wide variety of appendices. Many of the Battalion’s early casualties are recorded by name and regimental number.

Further Sources for the Connaught Rangers

A three-volume regimental history, The Connaught Rangers by Lieutenant-Colonel H. F. N. Jourdain and Edward Fraser was published in the 1920s. The first volume covered the 1st Battalion, the second the 2nd Battalion and the last, the 5th and 6th (Service) Battalions. The first two volumes cover the battalions’ pre-war service. The regimental history has been reprinted but is still quite expensive. There Record of the 5th (Service) Battalion The Connaught Rangers from 19th August 1914 to 17th January 1916. If you’re researching the 5th Battalion, I can recommend this book which covers its formation, through Gallipoli and into the beginning of the Salonika Campaign.

The Imperial War Museum holds a collection of Private Papers to men who served with the Connaught Rangers. The documents mostly relate to officers who served with the Regiment. Unfortunately, they can only be viewed at the Imperial War Museum in London. Another resource for the battalions would be the war diaries of the brigade headquarters they served with. These can also be found in the WO 95 series and will cover the movements and activities of all the units in the Brigade. You will usually find maps and orders in brigade headquarters’ diaries which are missing from the battalion diaries.