The Irish struggle against the United Kingdom started back in the reign of Iorwerth, and whilst he was sympathetic to the cause, offered little in practical help to the Republicans. Iago however, had offered help to Sein Fein back in 1918. During 1919 the Irish State fought against the Anglo-Scots alone, with the Welsh Kingdom offering sympathy to the Republican's but little in material aid. This changed with Iago's rise to the throne. As the Welsh government fell, to be replaced with Iago's autocracy, the Welsh sympathies with the Irish began to be translated into material aid.
Initial Welsh Involvement
Firstly funds were channeled to the Irish Government along with small amounts of arms and ammunition. This alone was not enough to sustain the Irish effort against the Anglo-Scots. The Navy, re-launching one of their more powerful battleships, the LPM Griffwn, had it sit on the main ship route from Liverpool to Belfast, not impeding British shipping, but acting as a watchtower, reporting on troop ship movements to the Ulster capital. In April 1920, Iago sent General Llewellyn Guto to Dublin as an advisor to the Irish Government and by July the first troops from Wales landed in Cork. Men from the South Seas Regiment and the African Regiment were barracked just outside Cork whilst another ship, the cruiser LPM Hebog (HMBS Falcon in English) was dispatched to the aid the Griffwn (June 1920). In response the British placed four ships to shadow the Welsh ships. The naval tensions increased tenfold once the British ships arrived at station with the LPM Myrddin steaming from Milford Haven arriving at station in late August 1920. The seven ships circled each other, shadowing each others moves, and between them largely causing a complete halt to shipping in the upper Irish Sea. Welsh troop deployments to Ireland however were able to continue until September 1920 when HMS Tiger and Repulse appeared in the Celtic Sea staying just outside Welsh territorial waters but remaining within Irish ones. By this point however, men from the 2nd Battalion Hereford Rifles (including the future Lt Gen Pritchard) and men from the 2nd (The King's) Morgannwg Hussars had arrived in Cork.
For the rest of 1920, the Welsh forces exist in political and military limbo. Iago has not declared war on the British, and the British whilst demanding that the Welsh forces retire from Ireland make no move to force the issue. By March 1921 the Irish Dail finally declared war on the British State and with this declaration; Iago felt that he could now enter the fray. Sending diplomats to London, Iago proposed a peaceful granting of independence to Ireland guaranteed by Welsh soldiers. This initial offering was refused by the British Government, and so Iago allowed General Guto to move troops from Cork, marching towards Dublin. During this move, Captain Pritchard and men from the Hereford Rifles were ambushed by men from the Black & Tan's and the RIC. In a short battle in the woods outside Mallow (just north of Cork) Capt Pritchard and his men routed and captured 20 men, killing another ten. Welsh troops continued to move north, passing Dublin in early May 1921, while the diplomats from both Dublin and Caerdydd continued to negotiate in London, with the leading Welsh diplomat (Syr Wyn Gangele) suggested an Act of Religious Freedom, an act guaranteeing the rights of the Protestant minority to continue unmolested. The Welsh State would then act as guarantor to the Irish Free State in the provisions of religious freedoms.
By the beginning of July Welsh forces entered County Armagh, encountering resistance from the British Army. The one and only pitched battle between Welsh and British forces occurred on the 19th July at Banbridge, with the Welsh forces being halted in their advance by the British forces, but the tactical British victory was a strategic defeat, leaving as it did a Welsh army camped on the A1 road to Belfast. With the Cease Fire, the Welsh troops barracked down in Banbridge, awaiting the results of the politicians’ talks.
With Welsh forces in Northern Ireland and with the guarantee of the Act of Religious Freedoms, the British were pressured into abandoning plans for partition, with the Irish Free State gaining its official independence intact, although Welsh troops remained in the Free State for the next five years.
Battle of Banbridge
The background to Banbridge saw the Welsh Army units marching north towards Belfast. In all the Welsh forces marching north numbered just 2000 men, led by the newly promoted Uchgapten (Major) Pritchard. Men from the 1st Batt Catrawd Reifflau Henffordd (CRH - Hereford Rifles), men from the 3rd Batt Breninesau Hun (Alexandra's) Ffiwsilwyr (BHFf - Queens Own Fusiliers) and two companies from the Catrawd Ynyswr De Mor (CYDM - South Sea Island Regiment). Welsh units in Ireland were still small in number and had limited artillery support and no air cover. British forces arrayed against them however were no more numerous than the Welsh. Troops of the Royal Irish Regiment, the Irish Rifles and men from the USC.
On the 16th July, the Welsh forces were approaching the south of Banbridge and dug in. Marching south from Belfast the British forces took position to the north west of the town. After initial feints from the advance scout screens of both forces, battle was joined on the morning of the 19th. The Welsh left flank (BHFf) fell back after sustained attack from the British forces. The centre of the Welsh line (one company CYDM and the CRH) held firm and advanced whilst the right flank of the remaining CYDM advanced almost from the beginning of the morning. The British pulled back around noon to shorten their lines, but the Welsh right had already started an enveloping maneuver whilst the Welsh left had stabilised and were now holding against the British right. The afternoon saw sustained attacks by both centres until late afternoon when the Welsh left collapsed. As the BHFf troops began to fall back, Uchgapten Pritchard was faced with the decision to cut left, moving men from the CRH to cover the breaking Fusiliers. The British pressed their attack and it was only due to the actions of the Welsh right where the South Sea Islanders cut through the British lines that their attack faltered. With the approaching night time and lacking the necessary trenches with which to defend either position, both Welsh and British forces withdrew. With further British reinforcements marching from Belfast and with no immediate Welsh reinforcements for Pritchard, the decision was made to dig in at Banbridge and overnight trenches were dug.
On the 20th July, UchG Pritchard cabled for more men, whilst the British settled to dig trenches of their own. Gen Guto ordered men from the Iarll Brycheiniog's Tan Belenydd (IBTB - Earl of Brycheiniog's Grenadiers) to march from Dublin. British re-inforcements arrived first but by that time a cease fire had been announced.
Following the truce and subsequent independence of the Irish State, Welsh troops would remain in the "Free State" until the beginning of 1927. Primarily men from the Catrawd Ynyswr De Mor and Catrawd Frenhinol Affricanaidd (South Sea Island and Royal African regiments) though with some men from the regular Welsh Army. The Welsh Army would return to the Republic late in the 1960's as the Protestant "Troubles" began.