Timeline period - 1950
1951 - The Battle of Imjin River
On 1st October 1950, 890 officers and men of 1st Battalion, The Gloucestershire Regiment, led by Lieutenant-Colonel J.P. "Fred" Carne, set sail from Southampton bound for Korea. The Glosters formed part of 29th Independent Infantry Brigade Group, with 1st Royal Northumberland Fusiliers, 1st Royal Ulster Rifles, 8th King's Royal Irish Hussars, C squadron 7th Royal Tank Regiment, 45th Field Regiment Royal Artillery, 11th Light Anti-Aircraft Battery Royal Artillery and 170th Mortar Battery Royal Artillery, together with supporting arms and services. The formation was under the command of Brigadier Tom Brodie, and the men were a mixture of Regular soldiers, Reservists and National Servicemen.
When 29th Brigade Group arrived in Korea on 3rd November 1950, U.N. forces had already scored a striking success against the North Korean Communist forces and, after the Inchon landings, had advanced as far north as the Yalu River, close to the Chinese border. This advance had created its own very serious problems and brought Communist China into the war.
29th Brigade Group arrived at the front in early December, and took part in the withdrawal as Chinese armies crossed the Yalu into Korea. On New Year's Eve the Chinese crossed the Imjin, and the Glosters were in brigade reserve as U.N. forces continued to fall back. Later, a counter-offensive was launched in February, during which the Glosters led the successful assault on Hill 327. On 1st April, 29th Brigade Group, under the command of U.S. I Corps, was back on the Imjin, deployed on an extended front which covered the direct approach to Seoul. The Chinese Spring Offensive saw a patrol from Chinese 63rd Army making first contact with the Glosters' "B" Company listening post at Gloster Crossing on the Imjin River on 21st April. Twenty-five years later former Drummer Tony Eagles recalled:-
". . . the three of us settled down for a long wait. It was a nice clear night and gave us a good field of vision for about half a mile east and west. We had decided that we would have two on observation and the other would sit with the 'phone, changing each hour.
"Sometime within the next three hours, perhaps at about 2200, I whispered to 'Scouse' [Private Hunter] that I thought I saw movement on the other side of the river. He alerted George Cook who reported back [by field telephone] to the Adjutant [Captain Anthony Farrar-Hockley]. After a while we could discern fourteen figures that, by virtue of their khaki uniforms and rice bags slung like a bandolier, could only be Chinese troops. Suddenly, the sky was lit up as the Royal Artillery sent up floating flares requested by the Adjutant. We could see the others quite closely as they reached the point opposite us. The Adjutant told Corporal Cook that they must not be allowed to cross. 'Scouse' and I decided we would let them get about half way across, and then fire. If they succeeded in getting close enough, we would use our grenades."
The terrain over which the Glosters were to fight over the next few days was ideally suited for defence, but the Glosters were very thinly spread on the ground. Colonel Carne had positioned his limited resources carefully. "A" Company under Major Angier was on the left, holding Castle Hill and overlooking Gloster Crossing on the Imjin; 1,500 yards to the south-east was Major Wood's "D" Company at Point 182; further east was "B" Company led by Major Harding; "C" Company under Major Mitchell was in reserve near Battalion Headquarters at Solma-Ri with supporting mortars. Two miles to the Glosters' right were the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers (1 RNF), with the Royal Ulster Rifles (1 RUR) behind them in Brigade reserve. Ahead of 1 RNF on the north side of the river was the Belgian United Nations Command, which comprised of a Belgian battalion with a detachment of Luxembourg soldiers, attached to 29th Brigade Group. To 29th Brigade Group's right was U.S. 65th Regiment, and to their left was Republic of Korea (ROK) 12th Regiment.
The Chinese offensive began in earnest on 22nd April, 1951. A battalion of 559 Regiment, 187th Division advanced across the river opposite Lieutenant Guy Temple's ambush patrol from "C" Company at Gloster Crossing late that evening. The Chinese took heavy casualties from Temple's men and supporting artillery until Temple was forced to withdraw as his party's ammunition began to run out. Another battalion attacked "A" Company on Castle Hill and, when Temple withdrew, "D" Company's position came under attack. By daylight on the 23rd April, the situation for 29th Brigade Group had become extremely hazardous. Colonel Carne could not withdraw his hard-pressed men without exposing 1st ROK Division's right flank and any retrograde movement would also put 1 RNF at risk, as well as the Belgian Battalion which was itself under heavy enemy pressure. But the Glosters themselves were increasingly in danger of being surrounded. The summit of Castle Hill was captured by the Chinese at 07:30, and another Chinese regiment began to envelop the Glosters' forward Company positions. Even after the loss of the summit of Castle Hill, "A" Company still stood and fought, while their numbers were being steadily depleted. It was at this time that Lieutenant Philip Curtis, on attachment from the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, was killed in a selfless act of heroism which would be recognized with the posthumous award of a Victoria Cross. At 08.30 "A" Company, now reduced to one wounded officer and 53 men, withdrew under heavy fire to Gloster Hill, west of the village of Solma-Ri, led by Company Sergeant Major Gallagher.
"D" Company, too, had been hard pressed. A National Service officer, 2nd Lieutenant Denys Whatmore, described the night fighting of 22nd/23rd in his book "One Road to Imjin":-
"We began to run out of the precious parachute flares but, using the Company radio net this time (and, in the excitement, getting my procedures wrong, for which I was severely rebuked by the broad Gloucestershire voice of the Private at the other end) I asked 10 Platoon to fire some in our direction and they helped no end. 10 Platoon was not seriously engaged in their location but 12 Platoon behind me was blazing away as the Chinese infantry outflanked me and pressed on towards the South, clearly with orders to make as much progress into the UN lines as they could. On our front, however, we began to be seriously plagued by a Chinese machine gun; I believe it was this gun that killed three or four of No. 1 section and wounded others so that they had to be evacuated. I yelled to Private Andman, drawing his attention to the gun's location, about 100 yards out on the occasionally illuminated ridge, its muzzle flashes giving it away. I wanted some 2 inch mortar high explosive bombs put down on it. Andman replied and within seconds had fired his mortar. It was the most amazing shot, for the bomb fell with a remarkably loud explosion exactly where the flashes had been seen, and the gun did not fire again. Fluke or skill, it did the job, and I yelled congratulations to Andman, into the din around us. It must have been soon after this that he was wounded."
Colonel Carne had been forced to draw in his horns and concentrate his battered battalion around the Solma-Ri position in the morning of the 23rd. The Glosters' flanks had been turned, and Carne's isolated Companies were in danger of being overrun piecemeal by the seemingly inexhaustible reserves of men that Chinese 63rd Army were throwing against them. The Glosters, with the magnificent support of British and American artillery, had inflicted fearful casualties on successive waves of enemy attackers throughout the night and early hours of the morning and, by concentrating his battalion, Carne could still expect to further impede the enemy's progress before they broke through. If nothing else, the sacrifice made by the Glosters would buy valuable time for the rest of I Corps forces to withdraw in good order.
"D" Company was pulled back alongside "A" Company on Hill 235 (Gloster Hill) and Battalion HQ, with Support Company to their front. On the eastern side of Solma-Ri, "B" Company was withdrawn to take position on the high ground of Hill 314 with "C" Company to their left. Daytime gave some breathing space, but now the Glosters were completely surrounded by the enemy's 189th Division, which had taken the place of the mauled 187th. The rest of 29th Brigade Group faced the Chinese 63rd Army's third division, the 188th, and the remnants of 187th. The assault on the Glosters recommenced with new ferocity in the late evening of the 23rd. Once again, successive waves of Chinese soldiers attacked through the night and uphill, taking heavy casualties while concentrating at first upon "B" and "C" Companies. The enemy managed to separate the two companies on Hill 314, driving "C" Company from its position around 3.30 a.m. Colonel Carne ordered an evacuation of Hill 314, and those men of "C" Company who were able made their way to Hill 235, where the Battalion would concentrate with "C" Troop 170th Mortar Battery. "B" Company continued to hold their ground, before those who could joined the rest of the Battalion on Gloster Hill later .
The fighting companies of the Glosters had been cut off from their rear support elements, "A" and "F" Echelons. Major Digby Grist, in command of "F" Echelon, conceived a plan with Major John Watkin-Williams of "A" Echelon and Brigade Major Kenneth Trevor:-
". . . we hatched a plot to re-open the route to the Gloucesters. Soon after dawn on the 24th this scheme was put into action. We were a very mixed force; Centurion tanks of the 8th Hussars, Filipino infantry, American light tanks [M24 Chaffees of the Philippine 10th Battalion Combat Team] and the "rag-tag and bobtail" which I had managed to assemble from the remains of F. Echelon, trailing along behind.
"Our old position at F. Echelon was reached without difficulty; the enemy had abandoned it. Then the Filipinos disappeared into the hills and the mobile column moved up the track. Over the stream and up the hill, past Kwangsuwon and down into the gorge. At the very narrowest point, one of the light tanks was hit, swung across the track and blocked it. The mobile column was halted. In the hills, we could hear the Filipinos tackling more than they could manage. The relief column had failed.
" . . . With our tails between our legs we returned to Brigade headquarters to find that John Watkin-Williams with the Sappers were organizing a light-aircraft drop to the battalion. Requests had been coming over the wireless from the battalion for things they desperately needed; particularly ammunition and wireless batteries. The least we could do was try. Volunteers were required to act as "droppers". It was a brave thing to do, fly low in a slow light aircraft over hills which teemed with enemy. But bravery was commonplace in those days.
"I heard one soldier say: "I've never flown in an aircraft, let alone drop anything out of one, but I'll have a go. At least I'll feel that I'm doing something."
"It was this casual remark which made me realize how important it was to the soldiers whom I commanded that they should do something, should feel involved. Like me, they didn't dare to think what was happening up at the battalion. Through the stories which the pilots brought back of the iron ring round the battalion we knew in our hearts that there was no way in and, what was worse, no way out!"
In the middle of the afternoon of the 24th April plans were being made to organize a much stronger relief effort to go to the aid of the beleaguered Glosters the following day but, in part at least, owing to a misunderstanding between the British and American commanders, this did not materialize. Instead, Colonel Carne had been ordered to hold his position, and at 15.10 he radioed back to Major-General Soule, commander of U.S. 3rd Division:-
"I understand the position quite clearly. What I must make clear to you is that my command is no longer an effective fighting force. If it is required we shall stay here, in spite of this, we shall continue to hold. But I wish to make known the nature of my position."
A further air-drop of supplies and ammunition by two light aircraft took place, but most of it missed the intended recipients, and water, weapons, radio batteries and, especially, ammunition were critically low. In the evening of the 24th and throughout the early hours of the 25th the Chinese launched waves of new attacks against Gloster Hill, their trumpets blaring above the crackle of rifle and machine gun fire. Drum-Major Philip Buss, at the instruction of Captain Farrar-Hockley, replied with an extended repertoire of British bugle calls, except Retreat, to confuse the enemy and put new heart into the Glosters. The bugle, which had belonged to Drummer Eagles, was later blown up by him to prevent it falling into enemy hands. Colonel Carne's calm and determined leadership also inspired his men to fight on, until the order was given for the breakout. The citation for the Victoria Cross, which would be presented to "Fred" Carne when he returned to England after the war, described his actions:-
". . . Throughout the entire engagement, Lieutenant-Colonel Carne, showing a complete disregard for his own safety, moved among the whole battalion under very heavy mortar and machine gun fire, inspiring the utmost confidence and the will to resist, amongst his troops.
"On two separate occasions, armed with a rifle and grenades he personally led assault parties which drove back the enemy and saved important situations. However, Lieutenant-Colonel Carne's example of courage, coolness and leadership was felt not only in his own battalion, but throughout the whole brigade.
"He fully realized that his flanks had been turned, but he also knew that the abandonment of his position would clear the way for the enemy to make a major break through and this would have endangered the Corps.
"When at last it was apparent that his battalion would not be relieved and on orders from higher authority, he organized his battalion into small, officer-led parties, who then broke out, whilst he himself in charge of a small party fought his way out but was captured within twenty-four hours. . . ."
The wounded were left behind under the care of Captain Bob Hickey, Padre Sam Davies and Sergeant "Knocker" Brisland, but of those who made the breakout, less than fifty were to make it back to U.N. lines, the majority of the others being captured. Captain Mike Harvey led a party of men back to safety, a journey that was not without many dangers. A Mosquito liaison aircraft watched and tried to help their progress, as Harvey described in his book "The War in Korea: The Battle Decides All":-
". . . We then saw UN tanks ahead, and crawled and ran in turn eagerly ahead and got to within five hundred yards of them, but they mistakenly took us for Chinese and opened rapid fire with HMGs and 75mm cannon, and our six leading men fell. Shouts from the rear of our thinning column told us clearly that Chinese were in pursuit and shooting and bayoneting the men at the tail, mercilessly killing what were now, unarmed soldiers. We were now compressed between the Americans and Chinese and halted, when we needed to move forward more rapidly to save the men at the rear.
"In near desperation I fixed my beret and face veil to a stick and waved it frantically at the tanks hoping it would be recognized? The next burst of fire shot it away! Hiding our identity leaving Gloster Hill had been sound, but now backfired as the Americans could not identify us either!
"The Mosquito pilot, horrified by this case of mistaken identity (the tank crews had no idea any friendly troops were still this far north) flew frantically towards the tanks, diving almost on top of them, but they continued to fire, adding to our casualties. Then, on the second pass the pilot dropped a streamered note. The tanks, suddenly aware of their error, ceased firing at us and redirected everything they had onto the Chinese along the ridge. Continuing through the now reduced hail of fire from the Chinese and unfettered, the column pressed rapidly on. We reached the tanks and took cover behind them, using them as shields, and moving when they did, to keep them between us and the intense fire which still poured onto the tanks, rattling like kettle-drums from the strike of the bullets."
Captain Harvey's group had descended Gloster Hill a hundred and four strong, but only forty-six managed to reach the safety of the UN lines.
Tony Farrar-Hockley was not as lucky as Mike Harvey. His own story of the battle, his capture and subsequent escape attempts, are told in fine style in one of the first memoirs to be published after the war, "The Edge of the Sword". At one point, during their march into captivity, he and two other Glosters, Private Fox and Private Graham, were in the company of a Private Morales, a Puerto Rican from U.S. 65th Regiment, when they made their bid for escape from their North Korean guards:-
"All is quiet; not even the sound of distant gunfire breaks the stillness tonight. On tiptoe, we leave the village, pausing every few yards to listen for sentries. Someone coughs nearby. We freeze in the shadows that hide us, waiting for a challenge or a step towards us. A voice calls out in Korean. We do not reply. Apparently he is satisfied, for the challenge is not repeated. We reach the foot of the hill and begin the ascent. As we climb higher, the wind catches our hair and torn garments. Now there are torches flashing below; is our escape discovered? We hurry on, careless of the thorn bushes that scratch us as we force our way through them. Fox is calling me.
"Sir, sir; we've lost Morales!"
"I go back to look. There is no sign of Morales anywhere. I call his name quietly in the darkness; I go back through the bushes to the open slopes of the hill. The torches are still flashing below. We must go on. The inflexible rule of escapers, that an injured or lost man must be left, is invoked. Three of us continue to climb on to the wind-swept hill-top, hot tired, breathless; but we are free again!"
It was Brigadier Tom Brodie who was credited with coining the new name by which the Regiment would become famed around the world: "The Glorious Glosters". And it was the award of the U.S. Presidential Unit Citation to the Gloucestershire Regiment and C Troop 170th Mortar Battery that would set the seal on that international recognition:-
". . . These gallant soldiers would not retreat. As they were compressed tighter and tighter in their perimeter defense, they called for close-in air strikes to assist in holding firm. Completely surrounded by tremendous numbers, these indomitable, resolute and tenacious soldiers fought back with unsurpassed fortitude and courage. As ammunition ran low and the advancing hordes moved closer and closer, these splendid soldiers fought back viciously to prevent the enemy from overrunning the position and moving rapidly to the south. Their heroic stand provided the critically needed time to regroup other I Corps units and block the southern advance of the enemy. Time and again efforts were made to reach the battalion, but the enemy strength blocked each effort. Without thought of defeat or surrender, this heroic force demonstrated superb battlefield courage and discipline. Every yard of ground they surrendered was covered with enemy dead until the last gallant soldier of the fighting battalion was overpowered by the final surge of the enemy masses. . . . "
General Sir Anthony Farrar-Hockley, Adjutant of the Glosters at the Battle of the Imjin, ended his military career as Commander-in-Chief, Allied Forces Northern Europe. He concluded his analysis of the action in his Official History, "The British Part in The Korean War":-
"After his orders to the battalion to break out, Brigadier Brodie entered in the Brigade operations log in a moment of high emotion, 'No one but the Glosters could have done it.' This was flattering but not true. The other members of the brigade fought no less well. Neither they nor the Glosters sought to be heroes; only to acquit themselves honourably and competently, one among another.
"That is the best of the soldier's calling."
Picture: - Glosters bring in a wounded man.
1953 - The Trials and Release of the P.O.Ws.
In his 1976 book "The Imjin Roll", Colonel E.D. Harding computed the Gloucestershire Regiment's losses in prisoners after the battle of the Imjin to have been 522. Fewer than fifty men from the forward Companies had broken through the Chinese forces which had encircled the battalion. When Major Grist reported the state of the battalion on 27th April, only 217 men were present, the majority of whom had been with the rear echelons during the battle. With replacements from the U.K. the Glosters were slowly brought up to strength and by July 1951 were fully operational again. 29th Brigade Group had found itself back on the Imjin by 23rd May. In July, 29th Independent Brigade Group became 29th Brigade, Commonwealth Division, but the Glosters' time with the new Division was to be short as the Battalion returned home in November.
After the Battle of the Imjin, the forces of the United Nations had been able to stabilise the front north of Seoul on the "No-Name Line", before taking up some of their former positions on the Imjin later in the year. As a result of the battle, Chinese 63rd Army, which had started out with three divisions totalling approximately 27,000 men between them, had lost over a third of its strength and was pulled out of the front line. British 29th Brigade Group (including the attached Belgian Battalion) had borne the brunt of 63rd Army's attacks, and had gone into battle about 4-5,000 men strong. The Brigade Group lost 1,091 in killed, wounded and missing, of whom 620 were from the Glosters. The battle had been a Pyrrhic victory for the Chinese, and a short-lived one at that.
The British prisoners of war, however, were still in Korea.
Private David Green, who was to spend the rest of the war as a prisoner of the Chinese, described in "Captured at the Imjin River" the moment of his capture while he was attempting to break out from the encirclement of the Glosters' position at Solma-Ri:-
". . . I dropped down into the stream and, as the clear, running water rippled past, I lay face down in its shallow depths. I could hear sporadic shooting and mused, 'Maybe I'll lie here and pretend I'm dead.' Then the thought of a bayonet in my back passed through my mind. Revived by that life-saving drink, I was seized by a wave of anger and, grabbing a rock in one hand, I determined that I would not die like a coward. I stood up and an amazing sight met my eyes. A horde of armed, lightly leather-belted men in sand-coloured uniforms were hugging and shaking hands with our blokes, who, like me, were in a state of shock. Who the hell were these men? South Korean or North Korean guerillas? On their feet were tattered gym shoes. The Chinese we had seen to this date had all been wearing padded uniforms. The burst of hope that had sprung up in my mind changed to resignation when I realized that they were Chinese soldiers in their summer uniform.
"We were prisoners of war!"
Most of the Glosters were captured on the morning of 25th April 1951, exhausted and with little or no ammunition. Some managed to evade capture for a little longer and, during the march into captivity, some attempted to escape but were recaptured. The prisoners were marched north towards camps along the Yalu River, where they arrived in June. Most of the prisoners ended up at Camp Number One at Chiang-song or Chongsong, and officers and senior NCOs were separated from the rest. The unluckier ones came under the guard of the North Koreans, who tended to be much more brutal than the Chinese, but in December 1951, all prisoners came under Chinese control.
Lieutenant Terry Waters of the West Yorkshire Regiment was attached to the Glosters during the Imjin battle and found himself in North Korean custody near Camp Number Twelve at Pyongyang. Conditions were terrible with men dying daily in the filthy tunnel in which they were caged. A visit from a North Korean Political Officer promised the prisoners a transfer and far better treatment if they would volunteer as "Peace Fighters", i.e., become part of the Communist propaganda machine. In order to save the lives of the men under his command Waters ordered them to pretend to co-operate, even though he refused to do so himself. His action saved many lives, though he himself was to die in captivity, and he was posthumously awarded the George Cross.
The regime in the various Communist prison camps was monotonous in its routine of indoctrination coupled with a dreary diet. The British prisoners made their own entertainment to enliven the proceedings, sometimes at the expense of their Chinese guards, although this ran the risk of punishment with a period of isolation. One Gloster P.O.W. writing under the pseudonym of TARA recalled:-
"Study periods were grossly misnamed. They consisted of sitting on a hard floor from four to five hours listening to tirades against one's country from a silly Chinaman. Certainly a trifle boring so one can hardly blame the listeners for finding other ways of passing the time. Some lucky ones slept (to be woken by Chinese guards - a full time job on their part), some played "battleships", others cultivated a blank expression whilst lost in other thoughts, and one even deloused himself! - to the Chinese disgust and our amusement.
"We were summoned to studies by the sounding of a bell. One day the bell had disappeared, to our delight and the Chinese chagrin. The Chinese sent for an American officer whose civil occupation was house detective in a large store. They said to him, the bell was missing, he was a detective, he would therefore find the bell or else. He found it (I won't say where), whereupon the Chinese stated that he must have stolen it otherwise he would not have found it, and promptly confined him in gaol! - a typical example of Chinese, or rather Communist, logic."
The prisoners' diet, meagre and dull as it was, differed but little from that of their guards. Occasionally the prisoners were able to make it more palatable with the addition of herbs, vegetables, and sometimes even meat. Major P.W. "Sam" Weller described the cooking of "Creme Golian de Yalu":-
". . . Inside the door through which you are looking is a small smoke and steam filled room, a few feet below ground level. Along the end wall of this room is a mud and stone constructed platform containing two large identical iron pots some 3 to 4ft. in diameter, approximately 18in. deep and with their curved under-bellies exposed to two wood fires. This was the prisoners' "kitchen". Other items adorn the walls - a home-made fly swatter, two tin drinking mugs, a gourd for ladling water, two paddle-type wooden spoons to stir the contents of the iron pots. In one pot a mass of purple-tinted Golian is bubbling and forming a thick starch-like scum on the surface. In the other a brown and brackish liquid conceals Dikon Chunks.
"To the uninitiated, Golian resembles a poor-quality millet not unlike pearl barley. Dikon is a type of pale yellow fibrous turnip, slightly bitter to the taste and equally unappetizing. The latter is cooked by cutting the Dikons into small cubes and boiling them furiously in water.
"Standing in front of these iron cauldrons are two sweating figures, one American, one English. These are the "cooks" clad in the familiar Chinese style blue uniforms worn throughout the length and breadth of communist China.
"These two cooks have been producing the same meal twice a day for weeks on end. They will produce the same meal twice a day for many more weeks to come. This is the prisoners' diet. It will seldom change . . ."
Sam Davies, Regimental Chaplain to the Glosters, had been captured on Gloster Hill, where he had remained with the wounded. He ended up at Camp Number Two at Pi-Chong-Ni. The Chinese "Lenient Policy" was designed to persuade the prisoners of the virtues of Communism, which meant that good behaviour was rewarded, self-criticism was encouraged and political indoctrination was compulsory. While the great majority of prisoners paid lip-service to the Communist propaganda, few took it very seriously. One result of the "Lenient Policy" was that Padre Davies was able to set up a church in the prison compound, as he recalled in "In Spite of Dungeons":-
"The Church of the Captivity was the worshipping community and fellowship of the baptized within the prison camp. It was my privilege to be their priest: chaplain to the Church of Captivity. Our corporate worship was offered to God in the camp lecture-room. Mostly this room echoed with the discordant sound of political indoctrination or "people's trials", but from time to time voices of prayer and praise rose within it.
"It was a drab cold room, about 60 by 20 feet. On one side it was flanked by a corridor, along the stretch of which you looked in through glass panes, on the camp parade ground. Portraits of the world's Communist leaders hung there until secretly torn down by desperado prisoners in March, 1952. A big "trial" developed out of this. Later that year, the walls were covered by lurid "Germ Warfare" posters, and Chinese guards were placed in the lecture-room day and night. At our times of worship we placed Colonel Carne's little stone cross on a rough wooden table, draped with a length of blue curtain, and flanked it with rice bowls full of wild-flowers in season, and with candles when we had them. Everyone gathered around, either standing or squatting on the floor-boards, or sitting on blocks of wood.
"Our services were simple, consisting of three well-known hymns, corporate confession, absolution, two scripture readings, a psalm recited by me, prayers and sermon. We had one Book of Common Prayer (with English Hymnal), and several New Testaments. Every month the Chinese issued us with quite big sheets of cigarette paper. Men donated this precious paper for religious use and gradually we made over forty little hymn books, using cigarette paper and odd squares of cardboard, held together at the spine by pieces of cast-off material sewn with infinite patience. People would volunteer for copying the words.
"Every service closed with the hymn:
'Faith of our fathers, living still
In spite of dungeon, fire and sword.'
"It seemed symbolic of a prisoner's defiant faith in face of Marxist captors."
For a few of the Glosters, the experience of being a prisoner of war was not a new one. Some had been taken prisoner at Cassel with 2nd Battalion in 1940, and had remained prisoners until 1945. A handful of the British soldiers had previously been the prisoners of the Japanese. But of all the Glosters who survived the ordeal of captivity in Korea, it was probably Lieutenant-Colonel James Power Carne who had the most difficult time. As the senior British officer in Communist hands, he was selected for special treatment, involving long periods of solitary confinement and isolation. In an early period of isolation Colonel Carne had carved a small Celtic Cross in stone, which was used by Padre Sam Davies in his church services. Later, his knife was taken away, and no more carving was allowed.
From January 1952 until August 1953, Carne was kept in unrelenting solitary confinement in a small, cramped cell, where he was periodically beaten and continually subjected to various brain-washing techniques, including the use of mind-altering drugs. When he was debriefed by British Intelligence in Tokyo after his release, Carne reported that his captors had made his brain "like a sponge, capable of absorbing anything". The Chinese were not very interested in obtaining information from him, but rather in making him an unwitting tool for their own propaganda. Dignified and self-contained, Lieutenant-Colonel Carne endured this treatment with the stoic reserve which characterized him; if the debriefing session in Tokyo revealed that his thoughts sometimes seemed muddled, this was hardly surprising. Still, he pointed out that the aim of the Communists in their attempts to subvert him was "to show the world that America could not fight, could not look after prisoners and was not fit for world leadership."
The release of the prisoners was finalized after a nervous period of negotiation after the end of the war. The troopship "Empire Orwell" docked in Southampton on 14th October, 1953, the former prisoners, led by Colonel Carne, coming home to a hero's welcome. A Thanksgiving Service was held in Gloucester Cathedral on 21st November, and Carne's Cross was presented to the Cathedral, where it still resides. A Civic Luncheon and a Presentation of the Freedom of the City to Colonel Carne followed. The Colonel concluded his speech after the Presentation:-
"I do, indeed, thank this ancient City for the honour it confers upon me and upon the Regiment. I doubt my own worthiness for such great honours, but of that part of it which is shared by the officers, warrant officers and men who served with me in Korea I have no such doubts."
Picture: Lt.Col. J.P. Carne being chaired by his men after his release from captivity.
1955 - Withdrawal from Empire - Kenya
The Gloucestershire Regiment's posting to Kenya in 1955 was the first of many overseas tours during what was to become the United Kingdom's withdrawal from Empire. Kenya had been in the turmoil for several years as a result of an insurrection led by the Kikuyu tribe against British rule. The main grievance was the ownership of land. By 1955, the insurrection was already well down the road to defeat, although the Gloucesters would still be involved in patrolling, and operations launched to hunt down and apprehend or kill the remaining insurgents.
The Gloucesters formed part of 49th Independent Infantry Brigade and took over from the Black Watch in Gil Gil on 1st April, from where the various companies were allocated areas of responsibility in which they set up temporary camps. These were frequently on European owned farms, where they were made very welcome. Companies actively patrolled their areas with the help of local guides, looking for Mau Mau gangs. The internal politics of the country was largely decided along tribal lines, with the driving force of Mau Mau being centered among the Kikuyu, together with the Embu and Meru. The Masai, Samburu and Wakamba were not affected and provided scouts, guides and police for the British. It was a typical counter-insurgency conflict, fought in difficult terrain at altitudes of over 5,000 feet and which varied from grass savannah to thick bamboo jungle. The complication of plentiful and sometimes hostile wildlife added to the experience and sometimes amusement. A report filed from "B" Company noted:-
"Heavy patrolling has been carried out in the aptly named "badlands" west of Gilgil. The Company met with some success, Lieutenant Rudgard's patrol finding some terrorist equipment including a medical haversack which contained, amongst other things, a tin of Eno's Fruit Salts! Lieutenant Brasington's patrol found a hide with the fire still smoking, but in both cases the Mau Mau were not tracked. The "badlands" are floored with volcanic lava and tracking is all but impossible. Corporal Lyall, who has the distinction of being the first Gloucester to wound a Mau Mau whilst in the advance party, shot a large buck which was cooked on return to the Company camp, and Corporal Mellor scared the wits out of a herd boy who was in a place forbidden to all Africans. At the time of writing Lieutenant Rudgard's platoon has gone to West Kipipiri to help farmers wire their labour in and Captain Ellis is planning another operation."
From Gil Gil the Gloucesters concentrated their efforts upon Kipipiri and the western range of the Aberdare Mountains, where it was estimated that between 3-4,000 Mau Mau were still at large. Operation followed operation - "Gimlet", "Royal Flush" "Dante", "Rhino Lookout", "Donkey's Carrot", "Wheatsheaf" "Bulrush", and, finally for the Gloucesters, "Full Stop",
"C" Company prided itself of having killed more terrorists than the rest of the Battalion put together, although during Operation "Gimlet" the majority of "C" Company
". . . had to climb to the summit plateau of the Aberdares, 12,400 feet high, and to operate there for three weeks in a distinctly wet and chilly climate. The only enemy seen were herds of elephants, rhino and buffalo, which turned out to be far more dangerous than the elusive Mau Mau. Meanwhile Second-Lieutenant Rudd and some of No. 7 Platoon formed (he says) a highly successful reserve back at base and had all the fun killing a number of terrorists not far from Company H.Q."
The Battalion's Intelligence Section report noted:-
". . . Our duties range from the interrogation of Mau Mau prisoners to convincing company commanders that the maps they want are out of print. We also collect extraordinary loot for the Regimental Museum.
"The enemy is extremely cunning and yet ridiculously comic in many ways. Presuming that the pen is mightier than the sword (or simi) they keep diaries, carefully recording their raids and outrageous crimes. The diaries include lists of gangs and promotions. Examples are "R.S.M." Mwangi is promoted "Brigadier," and "Corporal" Wamboi, daughter of Maina is promoted "R.S.M."
"Mau Mau is a religion, a foul perverted fanaticism based on superstition. Their oaths are revolting ways of dragging a man's self respect into a slough of superstitious fear. While submitting to a filthy ceremony, the initiate is made to swear that he will do certain things "or this oath may kill me." The superstition is strong enough to convince many members of the movement that they will die some horrible death if they break their oath. Many Mau Mau are quite well educated. Their letters and documents are often well written and neatly compiled."
The first elections of Africans to the Kenyan Legislative Council took place in 1957 and Kenya achieved full independence as a member of the Commonwealth on 12th December 1963.
The Gloucesters left Kenya in March 1956, flying from Kenya to what was to become another hot spot of Empire - Aden.
Picture: Glosters patrol with scouts near Kipipiri, Kenya.
1956 - Withdrawal from Empire - Aden and Bahrein
In early 1956, after a very enjoyable and successful tour in Kenya, the Glosters were put on standby to go to Aden.
In the period which led up to what became known as the Suez Crisis, anti-British feeling in the Middle East was running high. The Republic of Yemen was fomenting trouble among the tribal areas inland from the coastal strip around Aden. British involvement in internal Adeni affairs was limited by the terms of the Protectorate status, and military forces were only called on when the threat of insurrection was high.
The Battalion flew to RAF Khormakser, with "B" Company deployed immediately up country to the Yemeni border at Mukeiras. "D" Company flew to Bahrein, where there was unrest and the Iraqis were threatening to invade Kuwait.
Meanwhile "C" and Support Companies were sent to guard the new British Petroleum refinery at Little Aden, with the remaining Headquarters elements staying in Aden itself. No sooner had unpacking started than a further company was needed in Bahrein and "C" Company was duly dispatched.
In the event, there was no enemy action in Aden and the companies were occupied with guarding Vulnerable Points, securing defences and training.
In late August, after 36 hours notice, elements of the Battalion were moved to Sharja in the Arabian Gulf by the Cruiser, HMS Kenya, which later returned to Aden to collect the rest of the Battalion whom she then transported to Bahrein. The Suez Crisis of autumn 1956 prompted a series of riots which the Glosters were called upon to deal with. After the B.O.A.C. flats were set alight by rioters, D Company embarked upon Operation Grand National on 3rd November, as recalled by Captain A.D. Lennard:-
"Our task was to occupy and control from Muharraq Square to Windy Corner, thus dominating the Muharraq-Manama causeway and the road to the airport. We had been in Bahrain since early May and, despite a number of P.G.F.s (Persian Gulf flaps), which never amounted to anything, few in the Company expected that the box drills which the three platoons had been practicing ad nauseam, would be put into practice.
"The first sight that met our eyes as we left the airport dead on time was a large crowd milling around the edge of Muharraq. But at the sight of the advancing boxes of soldiers the crowd moved away and dispersed. The Company reached Windy Corner without incident. In fact, throughout Grand National the Company were never threatened with hand-to-hand contact with any of the crowds. The nearest anyone dared to approach the troops was just within stone-throwing range.
". . . small groups of people attempted to bar the way by laying stones across the road, but the platoon moved steadily down the road and the groups fell back, moved, it would seem, by the walking stick of the Company Commander and the personality behind it as by the sight of the advancing troops. The first 300 yards of the road were thus cleared and the side roads wired up. However, a large crowd now assembled to the left of No. 11 platoon and started throwing stones. The platoon had to be split up to protect the flanks of the advance and the bulldozer at work on the obstructions. . . .
"The first real obstacle to be reached, about 250 yards from Muharraq Square, was a deep ditch that had been cut clean across the road, but No. 12 Platoon crossed it, leaving it filling in to the bulldozer, which swiftly completed the job, much to the chagrin of the stone-throwing crowd. The last 100 yards to the Square were the stickiest, for there was a high barricade to cross and a veritable hail of stones and bottles met No. 12 Platoon; but the months of I.S. training proved their worth. The platoon pushed on, using tear-gas grenades, with Sergeant Boulton well in the lead, making very pretty practice with tear-gas shells from his riot gun. By 16.30 hours the Square was ours. Then only did the police, stationed in the Square itself, move out from their quarters and, with newly-acquired confidence, proved of great assistance in bringing the situation back to normal and securing the Square. For a time groups of youths threw stones and screamed insults at the soldiers in the Square. Just before dusk they were cleared by a section brought in from No. 10 Platoon, assisted by the police. This section cleared the main street and the whole length of the seafront methodically, and by dark all was quiet. "D" Company's task was completed and the road to the airport was open."
Until January 1957 the Battalion fulfilled their task of keeping the peace and protecting British interests in the Gulf before transferring to Cyprus.
Picture: Sergeant Boulton firing a tear-gas round to disperse rioters, Bahrein 1956.
1957 - Keeping the Peace - Cyprus
In January 1957 the Glosters were dispatched to Cyprus and were allocated the difficult task of internal security duties in the capital, Nicosia. This involved operations against the EOKA terrorists who were seeking union with Greece. This objective was violently opposed by the Turkish Cypriot population. Operations in Nicosia involved endless rounds of guard duties, escorts, patrols, riot control, cordons and searches.
Roy Giles recalled the anti-riot drill his platoon employed when he was in Cyprus:-
"The drill followed this sequence: I marched my platoon forward in hollow square formation down the street towards the crowd. At a distance beyond stone-throwing range but well within earshot, I would give the order "Platoon, halt". Then, by loudspeaker, "You are an illegal gathering. Disperse or we fire". The crowd would then be given time to disperse. If they did not do so, I would carry on: "Platoon - fix bayonets"; Wiremen - lay out the wire". Two soldiers from the platoon would run forward and stretch a coil of barbed wire across the road, some 20 metres in front of us - I may say that in training we taught this distance as the length of a cricket pitch. Then: Bannerman - raise the banner" - the banner was inscribed in the English, Greek and Turkish languages: "Disperse or we fire". Then "Bugler, sound 3 G" - this strident and definitely alarming blast, blown by my bugler from the centre of the square, was the equivalent of a warning on a ship's siren. Then: "Front rank, kneeling position, down" - by this stage, any crowd would be in no doubt that we meant business. Finally, if the riot was still in progress, or the crowd was not dispersing: "Front rank, one round at xxxxx (I would nominate a distinctive person in clear view) to kill, fire". Each man in the front rank was to fire one round, in a volley, so that no individual could be picked out as the executioner - the same logic as for a formal firing squad. While all this was going on, in the centre of my platoon square I had a photographer equipped with an Army-issue box Brownie, taking pictures of the changing scene, and a clerk taking notes and timings, doubtless in a shaky hand, of the events and my orders. This sequence of clear, orchestrated and unambiguous drill movements - which remained in vogue until the Northern Ireland troubles of 1969 - had been laid down in our army since the Amritsar massacre of 1919, when troops commanded by a British general had fired indiscriminately and without warning on an Indian crowd, killing hundreds. Our experience in Cyprus proved the efficacy of this often-rehearsed choreography. Never did we have to open fire to disperse illegal gatherings. The British Army dealt with, probably, thousands of crowd scenes the length and breadth of the island, and everyone knew that, once the army came onto the scene, it was time to pack up and go home."
Major Capel, who documented the time the Glosters spent in Cyprus 1957/195, was already thinking about the day when the Regiment would be transferred to Germany, in a verse he composed whilst on the island:-
NOSTALGIA - CYPRUS 1957
Soon once again we'll pack our kits, and go
From yet another land we've just begun to know.
I wonder what we'll think about next year
Sitting and talking o'er our sauerkraut and beer.
I think weâll remember only the best
Things. And glancing at that medal on our chest,
We'll boast of Murder Mile , and Omorphita ,
And how our camp at Kermia  got daily neater.
And K.T. guards , and Luna Park , and thirst.
Bitter cold or flaming heat, which is the worst?
We had them both in Cyprus, it was hell!
'Twas Active Service  there, of course, as well.
So we'll boast on, and talk of Forest Ops ,
And Tanzimat Street , and clashes with the cops.
And the recruits will think "what fun they've had!"
For weâll have forgotten all that was really bad.
Those nights of bitter cold, soon after Bahrain!
We suffered then, and how we did complain!
Those Valor stoves, so easily o'erturned.
Those tight-packed tents â how easily they burned!
That summer heat, and sweat. That thirst.
Those sleepless nights, and how we tossed and cursed.
Those constant guards. The boredom and the strain
Of doing something time and time again.
All these forgotten. Remembered only the fun,
The swimming, the Greek girls, the beer, and the sun.
For that is the way of the British Army.
No wonder the rest of the world think us barmy!!
 The Murder Mile was an informal nickname for Ledra Street in Nicosia. It was so-called by British forces due to the hazards presented to patrolling British troops by nationalist fighters. Also later used for other hot spots, notably in Belfast.
 Omorphita is a Turkish Cypriot suburb of Nicosia.
 Kermia was a British military base outside Nicosia.
 Origin unknown.
 Luna Park is a park in Nicosia.
 National Service men on Active Service overseas.
 Forest Operations looking for EOKA terrorists were undertaken by the Glosters in the hilly Troodos and Paphos forests.
 Tanzimat Street is in the Turkish part of Nicosia.
 The Glosters left Bahrain for Cyprus in early 1957.
 Valor is a make of oil-fueled stoves.
After a year The Battalion embarked on HMS Devonshire for what was to be a stormy voyage home, landing at Liverpool on 14th February. Before they left, Major-General Kendrew, General Officer Commanding Cyprus District and Director of Operations had addressed the battalion:-
"There is nothing more that any general would want than that the Glosters be in his particular command. I do not think that in all my service I have met a battalion which has carried out its duties so quickly and so efficiently as you have done out here. You have got down to the job quickly and carried it through thoroughly. It is tremendous credit to you."
Picture: Cordon and search of Lymbia village, Cyprus 1957.
1958 - The Cold War - BAOR and Berlin.
Military service during the Cold War inevitably involved a posting to the British Army of The Rhine (BAOR) which formed part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) in what was then West Germany. The task was to counter the threat from the Soviet Union and their Communist Warsaw Pact allies whose massed armour and motorised infantry divisions were poised on the East German border. These were supported by an array of short and medium range nuclear weapons.
The Gloucestershire Regiment, which had last been in Germany immediately after the Second World War, returned there in early 1958 after a brief interlude in England after their tour of duty in Cyprus. The Glosters were posted first to Wuppertal and later to Osnabruck where they participated in all aspects of BAOR life. On 17th May 1958 the Regiment adopted a new front cap badge. The Gloucestershire Regiment had been part of the Wessex Group, later Wessex Brigade, an administrative rather than a tactical formation, since 1946, and it had now been decided that all regiments of the Wessex Brigade should wear the same cap badge, the Wessex Wyvern. Fortunately the Glosters were allowed to retain their unique back badge of the sphinx in a laurel wreath, but it would not be until 1971 that the regular battalion reverted to its more familiar front badge of sphinx, EGYPT and GLOUCESTERSHIRE.
The Glosters took part in normal training activities which built up to large-scale NATO exercises each autumn. These periods of intense activity were interspersed with days of relaxation and battalion family life, before the regiment returned to the United Kingdom in 1960. Major Claud Rebbeck, a regular soldier, and later archivist at the Regimental Museum, recalled his days as senior subaltern with the Glosters in Osnabruck, and praised the virtues of the National Service men with whom he came into contact:-
"It was about this time that we became aware that National Service was soon to end and that we would need a great many regular soldiers to replace them. The great majority of our junior ranks were national servicemen. They brought many skills with them. As signal officer my platoon had the first choice of any draft that arrived if we needed extra men. One invariably chose tradesmen, who were rather older than the rest and had had to sit exams, which usually guaranteed their literacy. Carpenters and electricians were always useful in other ways and our splendid platoon built the battalion cinema and latterly some of the crates for our move home in 1960. Life without them would be different. As mentioned earlier, our NS officers were also usually good and provided variety in our daily lives."
The Glosters were to undertake several more tours of duty in Germany over the next two decades â Berlin, 1967; Minden, 1970; Munster, 1979; and Berlin again in 1986.
Being part of the garrison in West Berlin always included the duty of guarding Rudolf Hess in Spandau Prison. The four occupying powers rotated this guard every month, the British always taking over from the Americans, and handing over to the French, who handed over to the Soviets. The Winter 1986 edition of the regimental journal, "The Back Badge" described the system:-
"Each guard consists of an officer, a sergeant and three reliefs (each of one Junior N.C.O. and seven men). The duty of the guard is "to keep all secure within the prison courtyard and to prevent the escape of the prisoner if he has gained unlawful access to the courtyard". With "the prisoner," at present, well into his nineties and showing considerable signs of age, there is probably little danger of this.
"Each relief takes its turn during the 48-hour tour to man the six watch towers around the prison courtyard and the main gate. Duties themselves are long and tedious with strict formalities observed (dating back from the immediate post-war period when Spandau was far busier and a more "high-profile" place). Most of the towers overlook the now derelict and defunct areas of the prison and are of little interest, particularly at 3 o'clock in the morning. However, from one of the towers one can see the garden and small "summer house" used by Hess and thus affords those on duty the chance to see "the loneliest man in the world".
"Whenever he appears, a phone call is usually sent back to the guardroom to ensure that the Guard Commander or Sergeant on duty at the time has the chance to do an "ad hoc" inspection and see him. On no account are any members of the Guard allowed to communicate in any way to Hess".
Picture: Glosters MOBAT crew, West Germany c.1970.
1962 - A New Guidon for the Hussars
27th May 1962 dawned cold and wet at Badminton, but the Ceremony to present the new Guidon to The Royal Gloucestershire Hussars proceeded with the four Squadron Guards of the Regiment marching onto parade in front of Badminton House. Uncasing the Guidon gave the spectators the first glimpse of the Standard which was emblazoned with the Battle Honours of South Africa and the two World Wars. These Honours had a very personal meaning to the many men who were at Badminton that day. The Guidon was placed on the altar and the Consecration Service was conducted by the Regimental Padre the Reverend E.H. Eynon. After the Service and Presentation the Colonel ordered the Salute of the Guidon which was then trooped with the four squadrons. The old comrades, having fallen in behind it, were inspected by the Duke of Beaufort and they too marched past to the swing of the Regimental March.
The Duke of Beaufort spoke at the ceremony:
"This is the first object of your Standard. It indicates the loyalty of your Regiment to Her Majesty The Queen, on whose behalf I have presented you with this Standard today. The second symbol of a Standard is to perpetuate the deeds carried out by a Regiment and to inspire us with the courage, comradeship, and unselfishness of our predecessors who contributed to Britainâs finest hoursâ.
Picture: The Presentation of the Guidon.
1963 - Return to Cyprus
Cyprus had gained its independence and become a Republic in 1960, but tensions between the Greek and Turkish communities remained high. The new Constitution had allowed the United Kingdom to retain some military bases on the island, and it was in March 1962 that the Gloucestershire Regiment returned to the island. For most of their time there the officers and men of the battalion were making the most of the opportunities to participate in a wide variety of sporting activities, which were punctuated by periodic training exercises in both Cyprus and Libya.
By Christmas 1963 friction between the Greeks and the Turks in Cyprus had sparked into a state of open hostility and the Glosters were rushed from their base at Episkopi to Nicosia to occupy the "Green Line" separating the Greek and Turkish quarters of the city. While in Nicosia the Glosters took part in the largely thankless task of trying to keep Greeks and Turks from each others' throats and, by mid-January 1964, a routine of sorts had been established, as was reported in the Regimental Journal:-
"The Battalion's task did not change and by this stage both sides had got their second wind in Nicosia and kidnapping, minor battles, arson and looting were rife. Again by negotiations the situation was eased although both sides were very trigger happy and the Green Line had to be manned day and night. . . ."
A United Nations Force was being assembled to help keep the peace on the island, and for the Glosters:-
" . . . It was with great relief that we heard that we would not be included in the U.N. Force, as for three months we had been working day and night prising the two sides apart with little praise. Both communities in their own way despised and insulted us all, the soldiers had kept their heads, and from the newest joined private had restrained the urge to shoot and calmed both sides by negotiation."
On 8th March 1964, Captain M.A. Crush, who commanded the Reconnaissance Platoon (which had been equipped with armoured Ferret scout cars), led a detachment of two Ferrets and infantrymen of the battalion's Corps of Drums into a firefight that had developed in the village of Mallia, where he tried to diffuse the situation. On the following day, 9th March, as Captain Crush recalled:-
". . . I returned to the Turkish school and continued watching the firing. The Greeks continued to fire from positions in the hills north, north-east, south and west of the village. As I could get no co-operation from the police I decided to go to the eastern firing position to request them to stop. I got out of the Ferret and walked there. At first several shots were fired over my head but this soon stopped. I approached their position and spoke with them. There were about 15 men in civilian clothes. Their spokesman, who had a cockney accent, was manning a bren gun, the remainder had rifles, sub-machine guns and a large quantity of ammunition and grenades. The spokesman was truculent and said they had not fired all morning. He also said that he had only just arrived there since the firing began although in spite of this he added that my night patrols had provocatively shone their headlights on their positions whilst turning their vehicles at the Turkish school. As I left, one of them held a grenade as though he was about to throw it at me, and the whole group laughed."
The dominating location of the Turkish school at the top of the village ensured that it was to become the main target of the Greek security forces and irregulars attempting to gain control of the village, and they claimed that the Turks had started the fight by attacking the police station. The following day, the Glosters' detachment based itself near the school, where they came under fire from the Greeks, which they returned. A morning of unsuccessful negotiations ensued, all the while under fire, with the Turks refusing to lay down their arms and the Greeks refusing to cease fire unless they did so.
". . . The firing began again in earnest and the irregulars started moving from the Greek quarter into the Turkish quarter from house to house. They used bazookas and Stens mostly. The bazookas frightened the Turks drastically and the fighters withdrew rapidly in spite of their previous "sabre rattling" leaving the first group of Turk houses defenceless. I realized that the Turks would make for the school at the top of the village which we were occupying and I decided to try to get up there to give Sergeant Ramsden a hand. I and my second car with Privates Wood and Price followed by the Royals Troop commander, followed the main street up which the fighting was progressing. As we rounded a corner I came across six women running screaming out of a house. I heard a Sten gun shooting and saw a small girl of about eight running out behind them with a bullet wound in the thigh. On of the women had a flesh wound in her arm. . . ."
Turkish refugees were pouring from the village into the school, and as they arrived were searched for arms by the Glosters who confiscated any that they found. Captain Crush was able to persuade the Greek police that he had disarmed the Turks, and that the Greeks should cease firing at the school, which now housed about 500 Turkish fighters and refugees. Once the Greek police were convinced that all the Turkish arms had been found and confiscated, they withdrew their men from the village. Captain Crush concluded:-
"It was lucky that there were so few casualties as the method of clearing houses which I saw being used was to kick open the door and then spray the room with a Sten gun. The Greeks thought there were seven dead and considered this very few in the circumstances. I saw five other persons grievously wounded besides the mother and child.
"The whole business was a typical example of the combination of callousness and arrogance which has so often been the tenor of these actions. Many innocent and unaware people suffer for the sins of the politically-minded few. Those who had anything to do with the Mallia incident can, however, feel some consolation in that our presence probably avoided considerably heavier casualties."
With the arrival of United Nations Forces on the island, the role of the Glosters as peacekeepers in Cyprus was ended, and they returned to the less tense task of guarding British bases on the island.
The Battalion returned to the United Kingdom in March 1965.
Picture: Glosters' Ferret scout car, Cyprus 1963.
1972 - Keeping the Peace - Northern Ireland
In 1970 the Gloucestershire Regiment had narrowly survived a planned amalgamation with the Royal Hampshire Regiment. There was a last minute reprieve, won as a result of the Conservative Party victory in the General Election of that year, and the Royal Regiment of Gloucestershire and Hampshire turned out to be the "Regiment that never was." And, on 1st November 1971 it was announced that the Wyvern cap badge of the Wessex Brigade was to be discarded and a return made to the old Sphinx cap badge that had been part of the Regiment's heritage since 1881.
It was in December 1971 that the Gloucestershire Regiment began its second operational tour of Northern Ireland since the beginning of "The Troubles" in 1968. They had first been deployed there in December 1969, where in Londonderry the "honeymoon" period between the Roman Catholic community and the first British troops that had been patrolling the streets since August had already come to an end. In all, between 1969 and 1990 the Gloucestershire Regiment was to be posted to Northern Ireland on no less than seven occasions. What had begun in 1968 as a peaceful Civil Rights movement, aimed at improving the lot of the Catholics, had turned into open confrontation between Republicans and Unionists, with the British Army intended to keep the peace. "The Troubles" of the next thirty years were murky waters indeed, characterized by political twists and turns, much violence and terrorist activity both in the Province and elsewhere, and an often strained relationship between the Army and the civilian communities.
The Gloucesters took up positions in the centre of Belfast around the Lower Falls district and on the Peace Line on 8th December 1971, taking over from the Queen's Regiment. They arrived four months after the introduction of Internment, and four days after the massacre at McGurk's Bar in the centre of Belfast. A torrid time was to be expected. Official sources were swift to attribute the explosion at McGurk's Bar to a premature detonation of a Provisional Irish Republican Army bomb, and an almost ceaseless daily campaign of bombings and shootings ensued throughout Belfast, as Republican terrorist activity escalated. In fact, the McGurk's Bar atrocity was later proven to have been the work of the Ulster Volunteer Force, and there have been allegations that there was some sort of collusion between the UVF and certain branches of the British security services.
This, then, was the situation in which the men of the Gloucesters found themselves as their operations got underway: the detection and arrest of suspects; the seizure of hidden caches of arms and explosives; reaction to and dealing with shootings, armed robberies, explosions, and false alarms. The IRA bombing of the Balmoral Furnishing Company in Belfast on 10th December resulted in nineteen injured and four deaths, including two babies. One Gloucestershire Regiment soldier described the aftermath:-
"It was just like the blitz all over again. It was absolutely horrifying, but the people were marvelous - they got rescue operations under way as quickly as they could."
In the early hours of 16th December Private Anthony Aspinwall was shot by a sniper when his patrol was ambushed near the junction of Ross Street and Frere Street. He died in hospital the following day, the Gloucestershire Regiment's first fatal casualty of the conflict.
Operations continued during the run up to Christmas, and on Christmas Day the Battalion Diary noted:-
"It appears that the IRA intend to keep a two day truce. In the early hours there were a number of unconfirmed reports of shots being heard. Due to the inaccuracy of these shots and the difficulty in pinning down exactly where they are fired from, we are beginning to draw the conclusion that it is night firing practice."
Some of the children of Belfast appeared to have been given toy guns as Christmas presents, much to the dismay of the soldiers. On Boxing Day, 26th December, the Battalion Diary reported:-
"It is apparent that we have been near to a tragedy, with soldiers faced with the split second decision on whether to open fire or not on children with toy weapons. In the dark in a built-up area it is extremely difficult to differentiate."
A leaflet campaign was immediately mounted, and backed up by coverage in the media. The Gloucesters posted hundreds of leaflets into peoples' homes:-
"No soldier wishes to shoot a child - that would be tragic for all of us. Nevertheless, the chances of that happening are very real. Therefore, please do not allow your children to play with weapons out of doors."
The battalion redeployed to the Clonard district of Belfast on 28th December, with its Headquarters now in Hastings Street, and Company patrols and checkpoints around the Divis Flats, Clonard Monastery, Leeson Street and St Congall's school. Eighteen year old Private Keith Bryan was the second Gloucester to be killed when, on 5th January 1972, he was shot immediately prior to an operation which resulted in the seizure of substantial quantities of arms and ammunition at the Glengeen Bar. For Private Bryan's family, his death was to give great cause to question the conflict and the presence of such a young soldier in so dangerous a situation.
11th January saw the funeral of Private Bryan in Bristol, as well as the funeral in Belfast of a seventeen year old IRA gunman who had been fatally wounded when a Gloucesters patrol had returned fire during an incident on 4th January, the day before Keith Bryan was killed.
The tempo of violence dramatically increased for a few days after the events of "Bloody Sunday" in Londonderry on 30th January. In Belfast, the Gloucesters quickly found themselves under attacks from snipers during the course of the evening, the Battalion Diary entry for that day grimly concluding "It appears as though Monday may be busy." It was indeed. Vehicle check points and sentry points (or sangars) were stoned, bottled and shot at, and patrols were subject to the same treatment as they raced from one hot spot to another. As the Gloucesters struggled to keep the situation under control, the day ended with at least 24 vehicles in the Clonard having been set alight by rioters, and the prospects for the following day looked likely to be just as bad.
Lance Corporal Ian Bramley was the third soldier of the Gloucestershire Regiment to be killed when he was shot at the sangar outside Hastings Street police station. In 2007 the recently created Historical Enquiry Team produced its report on Lance Corporal Bramley's death:-
". . . Approximately 4.30 pm Lance Corporal Bramley left the sentry post to open a chain security barrier to allow an Army vehicle access into the station. Every time a vehicle entered or exited the building the barrier had to be physically lowered. It was at this time that Lance Corporal Bramley was struck in the back by one of two high velocity bullets and he fell to the ground. The second shot struck the sangar. Private Clare called out to him and Lance Corporal Bramley responded telling him that he had been shot so Private Clare contacted the Operations Room and informed them of what had just happened.
"Private Clare then went to Lance Corporal Bramley's assistance while the soldiers in the Army vehicle entering the police station provided cover. Within moments Major Harries, a medical officer arrived at the scene in a military ambulance and saw that Lance Corporal Bramley had sustained a wound to the right side of his chest, he was alive but unconscious and in shock. Major Harries, realizing the seriousness of the injury to the soldier immediately conveyed Lance Corporal Bramley to the Royal Victoria Hospital arriving there at about 4.35 pm."
Lance Corporal Ian Bramley died without regaining consciousness at a quarter past five that evening. Aged twenty-five, he left a widow and two young children - a son aged three years and a daughter of eleven months. Like Anthony Aspinwall and Keith Bryan before him, Ian Bramley had also died leaving a brother in service with the Gloucestershire Regiment. The Deputy Coroner commented at the inquest that the death of Lance Corporal Bramley was "another one of these brutal murders planned by people who did not mind who they murdered as long as they murdered somebody. . . . Lance Corporal Bramley was just another young man brought to our country to do his job and was murdered."
The city began to quieten down after 3rd February 1972, as the Gloucesters returned to the more routine daily grind of peace-keeping, search and arrests of suspects. Suspects were "lifted" and sent on for questioning at the police headquarters at Castlereagh. One chase on 5th February ended in the early evening when a patrol entered a house in Raglan Street. The Battalion Diary recorded:
". . . The occupants were a little nervous, but could not be 'fingered' for anything. The patrol commander on leaving the house decided to lift the hat of a dear little old lady sipping tea. A wig came off in his hand and the coat parted revealing a pair of hairy male legs with trousers rolled up. Three men were arrested and taken away!"
The Gloucesters second tour of Belfast came to an end on 12th April 1972, two weeks after the imposition of Direct Rule in Northern Ireland from Westminster. During that time they had arrested and detained 107 suspects, captured 57 weapons and 6,000 rounds of ammunition and 125 pounds of explosive. The Regimental Journal noted that ". . .there is positive evidence that the local IRA are disturbed at the good relations between the people and the Glosters. We have gained a measure of confidence and a good deal of respect."
There was a long road ahead.
Picture: Glosters at a road incident, Northern Ireland, c.1972.
1978 - Volunteers and Cadets
The Royal Gloucestershire Hussars had been reduced to cadre strength of three officers and four sergeants in 1969, but in 1971 were resurrected to form "A" and "C" Squadrons of the newly created Wessex Yeomanry, a Royal Armoured Corps regiment in the Territorial Army and Volunteer Reserve.
In April 1967 5th (Territorial) Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment had been disbanded and reconstituted as "A" Company, Wessex Volunteers of the Territorial Army and Volunteer Reserve. In 1976 the Wessex Volunteers were renamed as the Wessex Regiment (Rifle Volunteers), the Rifle Volunteer designation harking back to the nineteenth century.
The Royal Wessex Yeomanry and the Wessex Regiment (Rifle Volunteers) were to come together under the command of 43 (Wessex) Brigade.
The opportunities available to the part-time soldiers of the British Army are well illustrated by two exercises, one undertaken by a composite Squadron of the Wessex Yeomanry, and the other by "A" Company (Gloucestershire), 1st Battalion, The Wessex Regiment (Rifle Volunteers) in 1978.
In March 1978 a composite squadron of the Wessex Yeomanry, (composed of soldiers from Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Devon) flew to Gibraltar, as the Historical Journal of the Regiment tells:-
"The principal duty of the composite Squadron was to take over the border duty and this was allocated to Troops on a daily basis with A Troop taking the first day. Consequently, for us, there was no-one from which to crib on procedure and routine, but the day went by without any major crises. We also came to terms with the eccentricities of international diplomacy, which meant that we saluted the Spanish Flag but they ignored ours, and their border gates were closed while ours were open every morning. (However SOPs for the border provided that if the Spanish gates were ever opened, then we had to close ours at once and send for the Customs and Excise). The Regiment's collection of flags also provided an excellent opportunity to confuse the Spanish. They were a little surprised to see the RGH flag on day one instead of that of the 2 Queens, who were the resident battalion, even more surprised when B Troop ran up the Royal Berkshire Yeomanry flag on day two and were totally mystified when C Troop for a change ran up the Regimental flag. This the Spaniards mistook for their own national flag and rang up to enquire if the British were at last going to hand over the Rock.
"Apart from the border duty which in fact became rather monotonous, Gibraltar, for all its lack of space, provided excellent opportunities for training, both on the various ranges and with the Gibraltar Regiment, for sports in the form of abseiling, canoeing and football and recreation with the various Rock tours and sight seeing expeditions."
On 8th June 1979 the Wessex Yeomanry was granted the title of Royal, in recognition of the Duke of Beaufort's long service. For no less than fifty-four years he had been Honorary Colonel of the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars, Honorary Colonel of the Wessex Yeomanry for eight years, and had recently retired after forty-three years of service as Master of the Horse to four reigning monarchs.
"A" Company of 1st Battalion, The Wessex Regiment (Rifle Volunteers) took part in Exercise Full House with the British Army of the Rhine in October 1978. The Gloucestershire Regimental Journal, The Back Badge, recounted:-
"The weekend infantryman is not used to manoeuvring over large tracks of virgin farm land, in unknown terrain and surrounded by a civilian population. He is diffident at first about trespassing in the fields and buildings of the local people, following years of training to respect private property . . . , but once that initial shyness has worn off, the relative freedom from training restrictions provides him with a most welcome feeling of freshness and realism, and for most at least of the members of the Company who went to Germany camp was a rare glimpse of the real thing, for which the battles fought on wet winter weekends on Salisbury Plain are only rehearsals.
". . . 2 Platoon (from Bristol) developed an unhappy knack of being in the right place at the wrong time, or perhaps vice versa, so far as exercise activity was concerned, and scarcely fired a shot. Little incenses a volunteer soldier more than going on an exercise which is overflowing with tanks, A.P.C.s, helicopters and even real foreigners, only to find that the battle is invariably half a mile away and that his magazine is as full on day three as it was when he first loaded it!
"But if there were some private soldiers and junior leaders for whom the tactical work might have seemed unrewarding, there can be no doubt that from the point of view of the officers and senior ranks the training was extremely valuable and the experience gained, albeit unconsciously, by all ranks will stand them in good stead if mobilization is ever required."
The degree of cooperation and friendly relations between the Regulars and the Territorials on the Exercise was also commented upon:-
"Nothing can do more to enhance the respect and understanding of the volunteer for the regular and (we hope) vice versa than contact both on the training ground and in the bar. In the last six months or so, seven soldiers have left our ranks to join the Regular Army, most with a view to joining 1 Glosters. On the other side of the coin, we have signed up three soldiers who have for one reason or another recently completed their regular service . . . but who nonetheless want to maintain contact with the army life and have a commitment to it."
The historical connections between regiments, regular and volunteer, of the counties of the Wessex region of England were, and still are, constantly being updated. And it is not just the links between the Regular Army and the Territorial Army that are important. The Army Cadet Force and the Combined Cadet Force both provide the teenagers of Gloucestershire and other counties with the opportunity to learn about the army and perhaps train for service with the Territorials or the Regulars in later life. With around eighteen platoons of the ACF in the villages and towns of Gloucestershire, and some of its major public schools still maintaining a CCF, the importance of recruiting locally has not diminished.
Picture: Avon ACF cadets with a Chieftain tank in West Germany, 1975.
1994 - A Sad Ending but....
26th March 1994 saw the celebration of 300 years of service to Monarch, Country and County by The Gloucestershire Regiment. A service of Thanksgiving was held at the Cathedral in Gloucester, followed by a parade in the Docks at which the Colours of the Regiment were marched off parade for the last time. They are now proudly displayed in the Museum.
After this emotional parade, which was witnessed by large crowds, there was a celebratory lunch held at Innsworth. A week earlier, the Regiment held a lunch for over two thousand past and present members of the Glosters at RAF Quedgeley at which the Duke of Gloucester was present. There followed a pageant telling the story of the Regiment from 1694 until 1994.
However, sadness tinged these exuberant celebrations as one month later the Regiment was to be amalgamated with the Duke of Edinburgh's Royal Regiment to form the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment.
The Colonel of the Regiment, Major-General Robin Grist said:-
"I am not now going to dwell on what made this Regiment without equal in the British Army over the last three hundred years, since His Royal Highness will talk about this in the Cathedral in a few minutes. However, I do wish to say something about the future. As you will know we are due to amalgamate on the 27th April and today marks the last public appearance of the Glosters. Some may feel angry that this is happening, some may think it unnecessary and some irresponsible, given current events in the world. I would agree with all these sentiments but they are all negative and the Glosters did not win their Battle Honours by approaching adversity in a negative way. We have to be positive about the future, we have to face it with confidence and we are doing just that."
As a result, the amalgamation was a happy one and the new Battalion went on to serve with distinction around the world.
Picture: Here's to the Glosters!
1994 - ..... A New Beginning
On 27th April 1994 the Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment joined the Order of Battle of the Army, with a strength of 25 Officers and 710 men. After being presented their new Colours by the Duke of Edinburgh, they were immediately deployed to Bosnia in the Balkans on operations in support of the United Nations efforts to keep the peace between warring factions in this troubled region.
This baptism of fire helped to create a fine spirit and the officers and men of the new Regiment quickly demonstrated the professionalism which had been handed down from their antecedent Regiments.
Picture: RGBW Major Ian Harris handing out sweets to children in Bosnia, 1994.