Here's a snapshot of Royal Irish Rifles enlistments from 1881. The Royal Irish Rifles was formed on 1st July 1881; the 1st Battalion from the 83rd (County of Dublin) Regiment of Foot, and the 2nd Battalion from the 86th (Royal County Down) Regiment of Foot.
The newly formed regiment was established as the county regiment for Antrim, Down and Louth and started numbering from 1 in 1881.
There are over 28,000 RoyalIrish Rifles pension and service records (for this regiment - and its antecedents) in various War Office series held at the National Archives. Clicking on the link will take you to the results on Findmypast but you will need a subscription or Pay-Per-View credits to actually view the records. Some of these records can also be viewed on-line on Ancestry although Findmypast has by far the most comprehensive service record collection.
Use the regimental numbers and dates on which these were issued, below, to determine parameters for when your own Royal Irish Rifles ancestor would have joined up. Note though that these numbers are only for regular enlistments. Special Reserve and Extra Reserve battalions operated completely separate regimental number sequences.
51 joined on 27th July 1881
207 joined on 3rd May 1882
319 joined on 9th May 1883
627 joined on 7th February 1884
1071 joined on 29th January 1885
1537 joined on 4th January 1886
1904 joined on 8th January 1887
2282 joined on 6th January 1888
2450 joined on 4th February 1889
2638 joined on 18th February 1890
2914 joined on 20th January 1891
3350 joined on 16th March 1892
3812 joined on 21st January 1893
4059 joined on 13th January 1894
4541 joined on 4th February 1895
4700 joined on 2nd January 1896
4992 joined on 15th January 1897
5422 joined on 3rd January 1898
5810 joined on 14th February 1899
6049 joined on 22nd January 1900
During the South African War, 17 officers and 400 other ranks of the London Irish volunteered to serve in South Africa. Of these, eight officers and 200 NCOs and men were selected for the City Imperial Volunteers and the volunteer service companies of the Royal Irish Rifles. The latter was commanded by Captain Charles Gerald Henty, son of the popular author (and Crimean War veteran) George Alfred Henry.
Men serving in the Royal Irish Rifles VSC were issued with numbers between 7131 and 7233.
6284 joined on 4th March 1901
6710 joined on 18th March 1902
7122 joined on 21st August 1903
7411 joined on 12th January 1904
7870 joined on 24th February 1905
8185 joined on 18th June 1906
8456 joined on 5th January 1907
8906 joined on 24th January 1908
9239 joined on 2nd January 1909
9377 joined on 24th January 1910
9559 joined on 16th January 1911
9910 joined on 15th January 1912
10133 joined on 5th June 1913
10353 joined on 19th March 1914
The First World War
When Britain went to war in August 1914, men joining the new service battalions of the Royal Irish Rifles for war-time service only were at first issued with numbers from the same number series above. This system appears to have been discontinued by October 1914 however, each service battalion having been allocated individual number series beginning at 1. Some of these new series commenced as early as September 1914.
Numbers up until around 20000 appear to be a combination of service battalion (mostly) and regular enlistments. Numbers over 20000 appear to be mostly (but not exclusively) regular enlistments.
Recruitment rates 1881-1911
Between 1st July 1881 and 20th January 1891, the Royal Irish Rifles recruited 2,914 men, an annual rate of just 304 men and the fifty-ninth most effective regiment out of sixty-nine. The years to 1891 saw a turnaround however with the regiment recruiting nearly 3,400 men and raising its annual recruitment rate to 331 men each year.
In the final decade to 1911, recruiting in the regiment slowed slightly but nevertheless the regiment improved its standing slightly overall, finishing midway in the ‘league table’ of infantry recruiting regiments in the British Army.
1st Battalion stations 1881-1914
1881 South Africa
1899 Dehra Dun
1914 France & Flanders (from November)
2nd Battalions stations 1881-1914
1883 Halifax, Nova Scotia
1899 South Africa
1914 France & Flanders (from August)
Also see this Royal Irish Rifles case study.
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