April 2021 saw the seventieth anniversary of the Battle of the Imjin River during the Korean War where the Gloucestershire Regiment played a major part in holding out against the Chinese Army as they sought to recapture the South Korean capital of Seoul in what military historians now consider to have been an important part of British military history and tradition.
A hundred and fifty years earlier the Regiment had been involved in the Battle of Alexandria as a result of which and for their gallantry in fighting back to back during the battle, the Regiment was given the unique honour of wearing a badge at the back of their caps.
The Regiment, then the 28th Foot (North Gloucestershire) under the Command of General Sir Ralph Abercrombie landed in Egypt against strong French opposition. They marched onwards to Alexandria where they brought the French army to battle.
The 28th took up a defensive position on a line of low sand hills. On their right was an old Roman fort, which stood on a slight rise close to the shore, and to the front of this was an unfinished redoubt, which was manned by the 28th. Between them, the fort and the redoubt formed the key position, for if either was taken, then the British flank could be turned.
Under the cover of the pre-dawn darkness and sand dunes, two columns of French infantry headed straight for the British right. Heavy fighting ensued and as more French columns joined the attack, the 28th became cut off. The British musketry drove off the French onslaught but a brigade of French infantry moved through the gap between the 28th and the rest of the British line. A counter attack by the 42nd Foot drove off this attack but they in turn went too far and were themselves in danger from French cavalry. The battle raged all along the line, but nowhere as fiercely as on the right, with the 28th fighting to their front and flanks. More French cavalry joined in, supported by more infantry. Some of the cavalry broke through the 42nd and formed up to charge the 28th in the rear. With no reserves available at this critical point in the battle, Lt. Col. Chambers, who had taken over command following the serious wounding of the C.O. Col. Paget, gave the historic order “Rear rank, 28th! Right about face!”
The rear ranks turned and with exemplary discipline waited until the French cavalry were a few horse lengths away. They then fired one devastating volley, causing heavy casualties amongst the cavalry and forcing them to withdraw.
Gloucestershire County Cricket Club has had long associations with the Gloucestershire Regiment; indeed during the Great War the 4th Battalion (City of Bristol) was quartered on the County Ground.
When the Regiment was amalgamated, initially to become the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment and then “The Rifles” the Club was approached to see if it would care to preserve the tradition of the Back Badge in its own Club caps.
Both the Club and the players were keen to keep the tradition alive and the Gloucesters Back Badge, first worn at the Cheltenham Festival in 2006 is now an integral part of the players’ caps.
Incidentally, the “victory song” sung by the players after winning any match is taken from the old Glosters Regimental Song.
We are the Glorious Glosters, famed for our attack
In Korea and Alexandria, fighting back to back
When we have served our country and answered the trumpet call
Take us back to Gloucestershire, most glorious land of all