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Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum

Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum

Just as with other armies, the regiments of the British army have their battle honours that serve as historical references recording those battles where they have distinguished themselves. Sometimes these are shared by several regiments who fought together during the same battle, such as Talavera, Mons, or El Alamein. Occasionally, the names of these battle honours appear on the cap badges of regiments, such as the Gloucestershire Regiment, which bears the title ‘Egypt’ under the image of a sphinx to commemorate its service in the Battle of Alexandria in 1801 during the Egyptian Campaign against France.
At the time, the regiment was known as the 28th Regiment of Foot, and with its position coming under attack from both the front and the rear, the order was given for the rear rank to turn and face the advancing French. For that action and holding their positions, the regiment was granted the unique distinction of being allowed to wear a second cap badge at the rear of its headdress, leading to the nickname of ‘The Fore and Aft’.

The history
The 28th Regiment had been formed in 1694 to fight against the French in Newfoundland, where it was virtually wiped out. Reformed, the regiment served alone until 1782 when it was joined with the 61st Regiment of Foot, becoming linked with north and south Gloucestershire respectively. In 1881, the two regiments became the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Gloucestershire Regiment, sharing each other’s battle honours and customs, including the wearing of the double cap badge.
In 1994, army reforms led to the regiment being amalgamated to become The Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire, and Wiltshire Regiment. It paraded as the Gloucestershire Regiment for the last time on March 26th, 1994, marching its regimental colours to its museum near the Gloucester docks, where they were ‘laid up’ and today are on display along with artefacts and regimental souvenirs, which this year marks 330 years of military history.

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Plenty to see in the
Regimental museum

The building that houses the magnificent collection was once the Customs House for the docks, and there is no chance of missing it, with its conservatory-style entrance projecting from the front, where Sphinxes flank the entrance doors to welcome visitors, along with a Ferret scout car.
Inside, great use has been made of the space available and some very clever display cabinets have been created for parts of the collection. What comes through in all of this is the fact that the regiment hardly missed out on participating in the many wars and campaigns during the more than 300 years of its history. During WWI, it expanded to 18 battalions, winning battle honours in France and Belgium, as well as the Middle East, including Gallipoli, and Italy. During WWII, several battalions served in all theatres, and this provided material for some fine displays.
The bulk of the exhibits are arrayed on the upper floors, for which there is a lift to provide wheelchair users full access. The regiment served throughout the Napoleonic Wars, including the battles of the Iberian Peninsula, such as Corunna, Albuera, and Salamanca. Service in France saw it fighting at Toulouse and finally in Belgium at Waterloo. The regiment served in many post-war roles, including UN peace-keeping duties such as Cyprus and Northern Ireland. However, it is for its actions during the Korean War that it would earn enduring fame as the ‘Glorious Glosters’, during which two Victoria Crosses were won. The one awarded to the Commanding Officer at the time, Lt. Col. James P. Carne, is one of four held by the museum. A special display holds pride of place within the museum’s exhibition galleries.
Display cabinets containing uniforms, weapons, and personal items are well-lit and have good captions. Regimental ‘souvenirs’, picked up by members of the regiment on operational duties, are included, and each has its own story. Mounted on the walls are information boards explaining life in barracks and ‘Napoleon’s 100 Days’, where the regiment fought at Waterloo. A small display representing a machine gun post in WWI has been recreated and provides a glimpse into battles such as the Somme, Loos, and Ypres.

Medals and memories
Realistic life-size mannequins, wearing uniforms of the period they represent, make for dramatic presentations. For example, the Regimental Colours carried at the Battle of Salamanca in 1812, and a pair showing the use of muskets. Another full-size diorama shows three men with a recreated Crusader tank to depict the war in North Africa in WWII. In another room, there are some medals displayed in wall-mounted cabinets, below which are free-standing cabinets with drawers full of medals and awards that give visitors a chance to see them in closer detail. A similar cabinet contains small, personal items recovered from the battlefields of WWI and are rather poignant.
Visitors can touch and experience a selection of modern military uniforms and equipment in a room downstairs. Rucksacks carrying the correct weight as used in Afghanistan can be worn, along with helmets currently in use. Body armour and respirators complete the range to make it a great experience for all the family. Veterans visit the museum and there is also a small section covering the period of National Service.

Nicely done
This is a museum for visitors of all ages and interests, ranging from collectors, and military enthusiasts, to the curious looking for somewhere different to visit. Apart from some interactive positions and film presentations, this remains a traditional museum that allows visitors to wander around to discover the history of a proud regiment, something that can take a couple of hours, which makes it refreshing in these days of hi-tech computers.
The museum bookshop is well-stocked with titles relating to the history of the regiment and specific campaigns such as the Korean War, along with jewellery and items for younger visitors. There is full wheelchair access, and car parking is within easy walking distance. Further details about opening times, temporary exhibits and displays etc. can be found on the website - www.soldiersofglos.com

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  • Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum - image {image:count}

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  • Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum - image {image:count}

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  • Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum - image {image:count}

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  • Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum - image {image:count}

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  • Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum - image {image:count}

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  • Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum - image {image:count}

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  • Soldiers of Gloucestershire Museum - image {image:count}

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