Salute to the Glosters

An American Presidential Unit Citation is a comparatively rare animal. Even rarer is the award to a foreign Unit. So when the 1st Battalion the Gloucestershire Regiment and Troop C,  70th Independent Mortar Battery, British Army were awarded this singular honour, it was well earned and deserved.

During the spring of 1951 three Divisions of the 63rd Chinese Communist Army chose an historic invasion route along which to mount an attack on Seoul. Astride their route of advance lay this valley, where the 29th Brigade had prepared its position overlooking the Imjin River.

The 1st Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment was supported by C Troop 170th Independent Mortar Battery, Royal Artillery now called the Imjin battery. The remainder of the Brigade, the Northumberland Fusiliers, The Royal Ulster Rifles and the Belgian Capital Battalion was deployed to the east of the Gloucestershire Regiment. Centurion tanks of the 8th Kings Royal Irish Hussars, 25 pounder guns of 45th Field Regiment, and 55 Squadron Royal Engineers provided the Brigade with its close support. The Brigade frontage of about 12,000m contained gaping holes through which the enemy were subsequently to infiltrate in their thousands.

It was a warm day, with a touch of spring in the air when, on 22 April 1951, the Battle of the Imjin began. Throughout the first night the Battalion held its positions against seemingly overwhelming odds of ten to one. During the next two days, in the course of bitter fighting, it was forced to withdraw from the forward positions onto the hills overlooking Solma-Ri (The  site of the Gloucestershire Regiment Memorial).

By the evening of the 24th April, the exhausted survivors, occupying a small position on the hill-top, were completely surrounded. Ammunition was low and all attempts to relieve them had failed. That night, they held the hill against further repeated attacks. Finally on the morning of the 25th April, they made their last stand before attempting to break out through the encircling Chinese. Lacking ammunition most were captured in the Chinese dominated countryside.

At the roll call after the battle the “Glorious Glosters”, as they became known, could only muster 67 Officers and men. There were 59 dead and 526, of whom 180 were wounded, had fallen into enemy hands. Of these 34 died in captivity. Though minor in scale the battle’s ferocity caught the imagination of the world. In this action the Glorious Glosters were awarded two Victoria Crosses. The valour of these two men epitomized the selfless sacrifice of all those who were killed, captured, or wounded during this brief, but bloody, encounter.

Their action delayed for three days the advance of the Chinese, providing time for the United Nations Forces to re-group and block the Chinese advance on Seoul.

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