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St David's Day (1 March) is observed with the time-honoured ritual developed by the 23rd Fusiliers. Newcomers to the officers' mess, the sergeants' mess and the other ranks' dining hall are required to eat a raw leek in their respective venues to a drum roll under the watchful eye of the regimental goat. All ranks wear a leek in their headdress and in the Fusiliers a toast is made to 'Toby Purcell, His Spurs and St David'. This toast remembers a senior officer of the regiment, who fought at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, and his spurs, which were passed on to successive seconds in command until lost to a fire in 1842. A dispensation from the need to drink the loyal toast or to stand for the national anthem on other days of the year came from the Prince Regent, who was cognisant of the 23rd Fusiliers' loyalty during the mutiny at the Nore in 1797. A RWF tradition in which officers ride in a five-mile steeplechase for the Red Dragon Cup was started on St David's Day, 1838.
Rorke's Drift Day (22 January) is when young recruits are initiated in the history of the regiment, principally the celebrated exploits of B Company, 2nd Battalion the 24th Regiment at the mission station at Rorke's Drift in South Africa. This small band of men stood alone against a Zulu army of some 4,000 warriors and held it at bay for two days and a night, just after the 1st Battalion had been annihilated by the same impi at nearby Isandhlwana. The 24th won a record number of Victoria Crosses, first to five men of the 2nd Battalion, who rescued a shore party from hostile natives on the Andaman Islands in 1867, and then to seven men of the same battalion for the defence of Rorke's Drift in 1879.
On Rorke's Drift Day the colours are paraded through barracks to let everyone see the silver wreath of immortelles that is permanently attached to the Queen's colour. This unique honour was approved by Queen Victoria in December 1880, some months after she had asked to see the Queen's colour of the 1st Battalion, which had been rescued from the bloodbath at Isandhlwana by Lts Melvill and Coghill.
They rushed it from the battlefield only to be slowed down by the strong current of the Buffalo river before being overpowered by Zulus. The colour was found the next day further downstream.
Gheluvelt Day (31 October) commemorates the 1914 battle in which both the Welsh Regiment and the South Wales Borderers had committed battalions to heavy loss. The Worcesters gave valuable support at the Chateau Gheluvelt and greetings are still exchanged with them.
Many infantry regiments have paraded ceremonial pioneers to commemorate the days when regimental pioneers went before the marching battalion to cut a path through natural obstacles with assorted tools, but only the RWF sought the proper authority to parade with ceremonial pioneers. They saw this as a privilege that required suitable representation and always made sure that a section of eight pioneers wearing a white buckskin apron and gauntlets marched at the head of the battalion, second only to the regimental goat. The pioneer sergeant's beard is a symbol of his experience, as his section's polished shovels, mattocks, axes and picks are symbols of their trade.
The RWF journal Y Ddraig Goch (the Red Dragon) testifies to the Welsh language spoken in the regiment, a skill that has proved useful on active service when radio messages have to be unintelligible to the enemy.
This large formation is the product of the 1992 amalgamation of the regular and TA battalions of the Royal Irish Rangers and the home service battalions of the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR).
Royal Irish officers in the regiments distinctive version of No. 2 dress, 1999. (Grenadier Publishing)
The Rangers were formed in 1968 when the three established infantry regiments of Northern Ireland were brought together. The UDR was created two years later as a direct response to the civil unrest in the province; its home service battalions vary in response to the level of sectarian violence in Ulster.
The Rangers title was previously used by a regiment of southern Ireland - the Connaught Rangers, raised in 1793. A previous Royal Irish Regiment - formerly the 18th of Foot, formed in 1684 - was disbanded with the Connaught Rangers and three other Irish regiments in 1922.
Regimental headquarters are in St Patrick's Barracks at Ballymena in County Antrim.
General service battalions continue to wear the Rangers' green caubeen with its green hackle, while the home service battalions keep to the green beret of the UDR, but the Angel harp and crown badge is worn throughout the regiment. The Fusiliers wore blue caubeens from around 1945, though their pipers had them in the 1920s, but the green caubeen and hackle, with the harp and crown badge, came from the Royal Ulster Rifles.
The collar badge, an Inniskilling scroll and castle with St George's flag flying from the battlements, came from the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. It commemorates the siege of Enniskillen in 1689, when the regiment was formed out of the town's Protestant defenders.
The general service battalions wear Rangers uniforms, which are based on those of the Royal Ulster Rifles: green No. 1 dress with the caubeen, black belt and buttons. Officers wear the Rifles' black leather pouch belt with a whistle and chain hanging from a shamrock boss, the pouch mounted with the Barrosa eagle of the former Royal Irish Fusiliers. This marks the capture of the imperial eagle of the French 8th Regiment by Sgt Masterson of the 87th at the Battle of Barrosa in 1811, when the Prince Regent showed his pleasure by conferring the eagle emblem on the regiment's insignia.
Green No. 1 dress with bright buttons is issued to the mascot handler, buglers, pipers and drummers. The pipers' version meets with a design First seen in the Royal
Irish Fusiliers around 1922: a green doublet with white edging tape and buttonhole loops, traditional saffron kilt, a black patent leather purse and green cloak chained across to a Celtic Tara brooch. Pipers of the Inniskillings wore grey jackets, acknowledging the grey coats worn by Tiffen's Regiment in 1689.
Mess jackets are scarlet with green facings, a reminder of the redcoat fusiliers.