Back Badge Day: Gloucester remembers

The 28th

Back to back with the The 28th

Two hundred and eleven years ago on 21 March the 28th North Gloucestershire Regiment of Foot wrote themselves into the annals of history when they received the orders “Front rank stay as you are, rear rank about turn”.

It was 1801, and while France was in political turmoil at home, the French military forces defended their fledgling republic against a coalition of enemies in the French Revolutionary Wars. The British expeditionary forces under the command of Sir Ralph Abercrombie were marching on the Egyptian port of Alexandria and rested near the ruins of Nicopolis on 20 March. The next morning at 3.30am, the French columns attacked the encampment, with the 28th North Gloucestershire Regiment of Foot bearing the brunt. The first attack was repulsed but in the ensuing darkness and confusion, the French managed to drive a wedge between two British regiments.

What came next became the stuff of legend as the 28th received their immortal orders “Front rank stay as you are, rear rank about turn”.

The rear ranks turned and with exemplary discipline waited until the French cavalry were a few horse lengths away. They then fired one devastating volley, causing heavy casualties amongst the cavalry and forcing them to withdraw.

Not for the last time, the 28th fought a famous defence, their noble conduct recognised with the distinction of being the only regiment to be allowed to wear their badges on the front and rear of their head dress.

Following the battle, the British reached Alexandria and besieged the ancient city before the French garrison surrendered on 2 September 1801.

The 28ths reputation continued to flourish in the Peninsular War in the Battles of Quatre-Bras and Waterloo, with the Duke of Wellington mentioning them in dispatches. After the 28th merged with the 61st South Gloucestershire Regiment in 1881, the newly-formed Gloucestershire Regiment (nicknamed the Glorious Glosters) went on to carry the most battle honours on their regimental colours than any other line regiment in the British Army.

Back Badge Day is now celebrated by veterans and citizens of Gloucester every year on 21 March. Find out more about the 28th, Back Badge Day and more true tales of heroism at The Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum at the historic Gloucester Docks.

The Museum also has an online exclusive 2 for 1 offer if you sign up for the email newsletter.

Plus, you can also upgrade to an annual ticket for an affordable price.