Monday 7 March 2022

‘Rebellion, Invasion and Occupation; The British Army in Ireland 1793-1815.

British military involvement in Ireland during the latter part of the eighteenth century and early part of the nineteenth is a rather complex and often unpleasant tale. ‘Rebellion, Invasion and Occupation. The British Army in Ireland, 1793-1815’ by Wayne Stack does an excellent job in explaining the army’s role and operations in the field against rebellious Irish and French invaders.

The book makes for a fascinating read, as most of what the book covers is relatively virgin ground for me, which makes it all the better. We start with a detailed section covering the prelude to the rebellion and then the events and battles that took place as it ran its course. No book such as one this size could hope to encapsulate the account of the rebellion completely as it would need as far larger book to do the subject complete justice. However, what it does provide is excellent, and from a wargamer’s perspective it is nigh on perfect, although author quite rightly does not shirk from mentioning the many instances of atrocities that took place throughout the campaign, which helped create the shape of the Anglo-Irish relationship for decades to come.

We then get to the juicy bits of the book; the organisation, location and dress of the multitude of Militia (38 btns) and Yeomanry regiments in Ireland and the large British garrison prior to 1798, made up of regulars and fencible battalions. Indeed the latter played an essential element in the defence of the country, with 12 regiments of fencible cavalry and 34 battalions of fencible infantry serving in Ireland. One detail that had previously escaped me was the fact that a third of the fencible cavalry and two thirds of the fencible infantry were raised in Scotland! No mean feat. Sadly their performance, for the majority, was not good and they proved unfit, ill disciplined, ravaged by sickness and generally susceptible to the rigours of campaigning. Reports of atrocities by them on the civilian population abound, although some few units were up to the standard needed to perform the duties expected of them. (I had to smile at the thought of the Prince Of Wales Fencibles arriving in Dublin, only for the majority to be sent straight back to England as they were judged to be ‘too fat, too small, too infirm and too young’).

A large proportion of the book is devoted to the 1798 Rebellion and the defeat of the French invasion, and these aspects are dealt with in detail, with the descriptions of many of the skirmishes and battles being especially useful. Of course the defeat of a rebellion of such magnitude meant a greater British presence in Ireland, and a rethink of the roles and usefulness of the militia and Yeomanry, especially given the poor showing of the former and general low esteem that the militia were held in by the British commanders in Ireland.

The appendices are a mine of information, covering among other subjects, the garrisons or locations of the vast numbers of largely Catholic militia, mostly Protestant Yeomanry, regulars and fencibles that were called to arms of deployed to face the very real threat caused by the rebellion. There are also half a dozen very useful orders of battle for battles such as Arklow, Vinegar Hill and Castlebar to name but three.

Illustrated throughout with many contemporary black and white illustrations, a good number of very clear and helpful maps, and the usual centre spread of colour plates. One is an original, commissioned for the book while the remaining seven pages are some very colourful examples from the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection depicting the uniforms of the many different troops that took the field against the Irish rebels and French, as well as a couple of examples of the Irish and French troops.

This is No 81 in Helion’s From Reason to Revolution series and will definitely find a place on my book shelves. As ever I can recommend this book most highly.


  1. I'm about two-thirds through this and it is, indeed, excellent. Helion have produced some great titles in the past couple of years - it's costing me a fortune! My only gripe is the very flimsy covers.

  2. Honestly I was not aware of this episode in history. Looks interesting.

  3. Thanks for the kind review, Colin. I'm pleased you found it interesting and I am very happy with the final product put together by Helion, with special thanks to Rob Griffith. I've purchased the superb original painting that Christa Hook did for the book and it will soon be hanging with pride on the wall of my wargames room here in Christchurch, NZ. Cheers, Wayne Stack