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Apr 22 2021

The Glorious Glosters: from korea to Imjin barracks

Imjin Barracks, home of NATO's Allied Rapid Reaction Corps, is named after a decisive point in the Korean War - The Battle of Imjin River - and proudly maintains its ties to The Glorious Glosters. April 2021 marks the 70th anniversary of this event and this article looks at Imjin Barracks and Gloucester's amazing links.

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Korean War Memorial Park in Paju, South Korea. Photo courtesy of Hannah Kim/Remember727

On 22-25 April 1951, some 700 Glosters were surrounded, but held their ground until their ammunition ran out, against over 10,000 Chinese troops. The Gloucestershire Regiment, along with C Troop of 170th Independent Mortar Battery, famously fought a last stand on Hill 235 (later renamed Gloster Hill) after being ordered to "hold on where you are". This allowed UN forces to regroup and block the Chinese 63rd Army's Spring Offensive and advance on Seoul. This remains one of the bloodiest battles fought by British Forces since World War II, with over a third of troops killed or wounded and hundreds imprisoned for more than two years in POW camps.

Hold on where you are

For their heroic stand, the Glosters and Mortar Battery were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation, America's highest award for extraordinary heroism and collective gallantry in battle, and earned the nickname 'The Glorious Glosters'. Later a ceasefire was agreed, although North and South Korea never signed a peace treaty, meaning they are officially still at war. Large numbers of US troops remain stationed in South Korea, some of whom now serve at the ARRC headquarters.

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The challenging topography of the Imjin River Valley. Soldiers of The Glorious Glosters receiving the US presidential unit citation after their heroic stand on Gloster Hill. Photos courtesy of The National Army Museum

IMJIN ALLIES


Imjin Barracks still proudly maintains its ties with The Glorious Glosters. On the anniversary of the battle, the Sergeants and Warrant Officers normally hosts Gloucestershire veterans at an Imjin dinner night in their military Mess, where many reminders of Imjin can be found. Amongst these are the original sign from the Glosters' barracks showing their 'battle honours', the main bar, which is named after the infamous Korean veteran, ambassador and teetotaller Sam Mercer, and small yellow symbols in various locations around the building denoting the presidential citation.

Across the road, outside Imjin Officers' Mess, sits a 25-pounder 'gate guardian'. Believed to have seen service with the ARRC's forebear formation, the British Army of the Rhine, it is unlikely to have been used during the Korea campaign, although 25pdr artillery pieces were widely used.

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Photos from L-R: Multinational soldiers of the Warrant and Senior Non-Commissioned Officers' Mess host Gloucester veterans in 2019. The original barrack sign of The Glorious Glosters. 'SAM' Mercer with soldiers from Imjin Barracks. Imjin Gun, outside the Imjin Officers' Mess. Photos by PAO, HQ ARRC

The three-year Korea conflict involved a number of nations who are still based at the ARRC's Imjin headquarters today. As well as the US, who led the United Nations mission, and Britain, troop contributing nations based at the ARRC include Belgium, Canada, France, Greece, Netherlands and Turkey. In addition, Denmark, Italy and Norway provided medical support to the campaign. It is hoped representatives from these nations will be able to form a multinational marching contingent later in 2021 and parade through the City of Gloucester, as part of delayed Imjin 70 commemorations.

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Headquarters Allied Rapid Reaction Corps with flags from the 21 nations based at the UK-led NATO headquarters in Gloucester. Photos by PAO, HQ ARRC 

GLORIOUS GLOUCESTERSHIRE

By our deeds we are known
70 years on and the City has not forgotten The Royal Gloucestershire Regiment, whose motto was 'by our deeds we are known' and whose long history from 1881-1994 (although it can trace its roots back to 1694) earned it the most battle honours of any British line regiment of the time. They were then amalgamated into the Royal Gloucester Berkshire and Wiltshire (RGBW) and most recently 'The Rifles' regiment. More information and an exhibition about the Glosters can be found at the Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum, Gloucester Docks.
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Paju Walk, Gloucester Docks

Paju Walk at Gloucester Docks is a symbol of Gloucester's friendship with the South Korean city of Paju, now the home of an incredible war memorial. This was built by the citizens of Paju to honour the actions of the Glosters in protecting the city and this relationship has remained.

 Although the main Imjin 70 commemorations in Paju were cancelled due to Covid, ARRC soldiers are planning to visit the memorial during a battlefield study in 2021.

Carne Cross, Gloucester Cathedral

Gloucester Cathedral is home of the Carne Cross, named after the Glosters' commanding officer. Held hostage along with hundreds of troops in appalling conditions in communist Korea after The Battle of Imjin, he was singled out for special treatment as the senior British officer. While being tortured, drugged and held in solitary confinement, he used a nail to carve a small stone cross, which was then used for church services by the prisoners.

Lieutenant Colonel James Power Carne"s Victoria Cross, Britain's highest award for gallantry, is now held at the Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum.

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Gloucester-Paju Friendship

Paju delegations regularly visit Gloucester City, including when HQ ARRC were awarded the Freedom of the City, and hope to further extend their ties to areas such as schools and sports.

More recently, during the Covid pandemic, Paju gifted PPE to Gloucester City, which was distributed to care homes housing veterans throughout Gloucestershire.

The Cotswold Way also teamed up with South Korea"s Jeju Olle Trail to form one of the world's first 'friendship trails", providing one of the most beautiful meanderings of the Cotswold Way.

NATIONAL TREASURES

Further afield in the UK, there are some fascinating exhibits and archives at the Imperial War Museum and the National Army Museum. Some of these can be explored online, including the NAM's mystery of how a bugle, thought to be taken from the 2nd Gurkha Rifles Battalion by the Japanese during the Malaya campaign in 1941, was found 10 years later in Chinese positions in Gloster Valley, Korea.

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Photos L-R: Soldiers grab the opportunity to make some "Budae jjigae", or army stew in Korean. The mysterious Imjin bugle. Photos courtesy of The National Army Museum

Throughout 2021 a series of events were planned to mark the 70th anniversary of The Battle of Imjin. While many of these have been cancelled due to Covid, a number of services at Gloucester Cathedral, a parade through Gloucester City and a South Korean 'Imjin village' at Gloucester Docks are planned for later in 2021.

Article by Allied Rapid Reaction Corps Public Affairs Office.

With thanks to the National Army Museum, Gloucester Cathedral and Hannah Kim for photos.

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