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A regiment of light infantry raised in Gloucestershire. In its day, the most decorated regiment of the British Army. Founded as the 28th (North Gloucestershire) Regiment of Foot, the regiment saw action in many parts of the world and quickly developed a reputation for exceptional displays of tenacity and discipline under fire a few of which are recounted here. Later amalgamated into the RGBWLI and its traditions are now carried on by 1 RIFLES
St Lucia 1778
In December 1778 12 ships and 6000 men attacked the French island of St. Lucia. In 2 weeks they defeated the French garrison of 13,000 men. Dividing his force, Major-General Grant selected the flank companies of 8 regiments (including from the Glosters) to form a Grenadier and a Light Battalion (1,300 men) and placed them at La Vigie. It was against these men that the 12,000 French launched an attack. An officer of the regiment later told this story of the action:
"During the battle, solid masses of French were advancing on the slender British lines, our ammunition got down to the last few rounds. Colonel Meadow gave the order "Cease fire," intending to give one final volley and then finish the battle with the bayonet. At the order, in the full heat of battle, with the enemy in vastly superior numbers advancing on them, every single soldier lowered his musket and stood, waiting for death. It was a manifestation of discipline which even amazed some of the officers present."
With that final volley the French advanced stalled and they fell back. 1,300 men had defeated 12,000. Within 2 weeks the French had abandoned the island.
During the Battle of Alexandria in 1801, the 28th (North Gloucestershire) Regiment of Foot was surrounded and simultaneously engaged to front and rear. The command "Rear rank, 28th! Right about - Face!" was given. Perhaps it is worth taking a moment to realise that they were two ranks thick - a 'thin red line' even for an infantry fight - and they were under attack by cavalry. Normal procedure for fighting cavalry was to have at least three ranks, the first of which would brace their rifles against thr ground to stop the enemy from charging over and killing all their mates in the rear ranks, and praying that their comrades behind could kill the enemy before they themselves were killed. The 28th had just the one line in each direction, and if any enemy cavalry had hit then they would have all been wiped out.
They stood back-to-back fighting off the French for four hours, under attack from vastly superior forces including Napoleon's 'invincibles' regiment, but refused to yield one step (there was of course no chance for any man to take a step back from his position, because his comrades were behind him shooting at the enemy). Eventually the French assault - comprising at least five regiments of infantry and cavalry - gave up trying to dislodge the Glosters and retreated.
For their exemplary conduct on that day, the regiment was awarded the unique distinction of wearing badges both front and back of the head-dress. This is carried on by the Rifles regiment today.
On the morning of the 24th April, the Glosters and their attached personnel were concentrated on Gloster Hill and numbered less than 40 effective fighting men, having spent days being pounded by Chinese troops but under orders not to retreat from the hill. The relief troops were halted 6km south at the old F Echelon area When the Chinese blew up one of their light tanks and blocked the road. The Glosters had only short supply of water, most of which was reserved for the wounded, but worse was the fact that only 10-15 hours of battery life remained for the battalions radios. Without these the Artillery would not be able to accurately place defences fire for the Glosters.
A supply drop from Sentinel light aircraft occurred at dusk and Lieutenant Colonel James Carne was also informed that ground-attack aircraft, hitherto engaged elsewhere, would be available to support the Glosters the following day. The Chinese attacks began at 2200 hours and continued throughout the night and the Chinese demonstrated that they had learned nothing from the massacre of the previous night. Carne personally routed several enemy parties which made it through the defences earning himself the Victoria Cross and the American Distinguished Service Cross.
At first light, the Chinese were seen to mass for their final attack in their hundreds. Bugles braying, the Glosters one remaining bugle answered with every tune except Retreat. Seven times during the nest hour the enemy closed in to finish off the Glosters, and each time they were thrown back down the hill. At 0830 hours in 25th April the last radio battery died ad the artillery link was severed, although the guns at that time were also under fire and having to move position. Fortune smiled. At this precise moment a flight of Lockheed F-80 Shooting stars arrived and proceeded to burn the Chinese off the hill with napalm before raking the survivors with cannon-fire. A dozen more Shooting Stars followed shortly afterwards to strafe between the hill and river. Leaving their wounded behind in the care of Captain R.P. Hickey, the medical officer and the Chaplin, Captain The Rev. S.J. Davies and their helpers, the survivors made a breakout for the UN lines. Only a handful escaped capture, 58 Glosters had been killed in the three-day battle, 30 more died in captivity and only 63 men reached safety.