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EGYPT

8th March - 26th August 1801
Unit awarded Battle honour Subsequent designation
28th(North Gloucestershire) Regt 1st Gloucestershire Regiment
  Merged 2nd Battalion 1948
  Now 1st Bn R.G.B.W.
   
61st(South Gloucestershire) Regt 2nd Bn Gloucestershire Regiment
  Merged 1st Battalion 1948
  Now, 1st Bn R.G.B.W.

Egypt

(Includes the landing at Aboukir bay, Mandora, Roman Camp, and Alexandria)

The Back Badge

THE BACKGROUND

The objective of the expedition to Egypt was to drive the French out of the country, to restore it to its rightful owners, the Turks, and to safeguard our Indian possessions, which were threatened by attempts on the part of Bonaparte to enter into alliances with the independent Princes in Hindoostan. The Command of the Army was entrusted to Sir Ralph ABERCROMBY, an officer who possessed the confidence of the Army and of the Country

The landing was to take place on the 8th March 1801  

The 28th (North Gloucestershire) Regiment  

THE LANDING AT ABOUKIR BAY 8th March 1801

The landing place lay about a dozen miles east of Alexandria and the initial wave of 6000 men were tasked to make a bridgehead for the remainder of the force. In the darkness the soldiers took their places, in silence, 50 men to each boat, every man with three days rations and sixty rounds of ammunition. By half past three the boats started to row towards the shore. The first flight of boats took the reserve brigade under MOORE. The reserve was made up of, from left to right the 40th, 23rd, 28th, 58th and the Corsican Rangers. The line paused for a short while out of French gun range, then on the given signal from Captain COCHRANE R.N. they immediately came under fire, but were supported by British gunboats on each flank. Some boats were hit and sank, in others men were killed. On hitting the beach the 28th formed up, received orders to prime and load, then advanced up the heavy sand hills, on the top of which the enemy were posted. In front of the 28th were planted two six-pounder guns, which much annoyed the Regiment. Captain BROWN, who commanded the grenadiers put his men at the battery, and charged with the bayonet, took the guns with 16 horses, two ammunition wagons, and two tumbrils. The whole action took twenty minutes and the beachhead formed.

ABERCROMBYS dispatch to London Read: -

“It is impossible to pass over to good order in which the 28th and 42nd Regiments landed under the command of Brigadier – General OAKES, who was attached to the reserve under Major – General MOORE”

 

MANDORA 13th March 1801 (Includes ROMAN CAMP)

Mandora was a prelude to the Battle of Alexandria. On the 12th March the Army moved forward in two columns, the reserve were on the right flank led by the 28th. The French were in a position across the isthmus about 6000 in number, with good cavalry and artillery support. A running fight developed with the French finally driven back to a position under the guns of Alexandria. ABERCROMBY called a halt and consolidated his position across the isthmus, with his right flank on the Mediterranean shore and his left on the edge of the dried up lake Mareotis. During this action the 28th leading the column on the right flank fought forward step by step under artillery fire. At this point the 28th took up a position and dug in sleeping holes until they received tents on the 20th. They remained under arms all the time with everything being quiet apart from minor skirmishing and piquet's. They were in this position when the Battle of Alexandria started.

The 28th Back to Back

 

ALEXANDRIA  21st March 1801  

On the 20th of March the 28th Regiment received their tents, which they pitched in front of the sleeping holes referred to above, and it was in this position about half an hour before daylight on the 21st, just as the men were standing to at their posts that the great French attack began. The scene was very confusing, the darkness was pierced with the flash of muskets, and there was a general din of battle – The urgent rolling of drums and the shouting of men.

The 28th were located in an unfinished redoubt in front of the old ruins, and it was against this redoubt that the French launched a brigade of picked troops led by Napoleons ‘Invincibles’. Four columns were thrown against the 28th, they withstood shock after shock which was sustained for four hours, fresh infantry and Calvary followed but all were repulsed. After this assault had failed the French commander sent his 3rd and 14th Dragoons up a slight valley to the left of the redoubt in order to take the 28th from the rear. Having charged through the 42nd (Black Watch) they swung towards the rear of the 28th, but this attack was effectively brought to a halt in the pre dug sleeping holes and tents of the Regiment. The attack was beaten of.

The attack on the redoubt was violent and desperate and the French had broken through on both sides, but were driven off by the 28th on each occasion.

The French repeated the flanking tactic with a fresh Calvary and a ferocious attack developed towards the rear of the 28th. At this point Lt Col CHAMBER, who had taken over from the wounded PAGET gave the historic order…

“REAR RANK, 28th RIGHT ABOUT FACE”

The rear rank turned around and fired a volley as steady as any in that long battle; those that did get through were met with the bayonet. After the threat from the rear diminshed the rear rank faced the front, and resumed their fire in that direction. Those without ammunition threw stones!!!

After this the French became a spent force and retreated to Alexandria. During the Battle ABERCROMBY lost his life and the Commanding Officer Lt Col PAGET received serious wounds.

The Back badge came from this action and is worn by the Royal Gloucestershire Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment to this day.

 

   

The 61st (South Gloucestershire) Regiment

 

THE DESERT MARCH

A further addition had been made to the British Army in the shape of a Division, which had been dispatched from India under the command of Sir David BAIRD. A number of companies of the 61st (South Gloucestershire) Regiment joined this force. They marched to Keneh, on the upper Nile, a distance of 130 Miles across open desert in July. The objective of this exercise was to join up with ABERCROMBYS army in Egypt. The 61st made this epic march in two detachments losing only one man in the process, Drummer MILES; discipline was maintained on the march when Colonel BARLOW had the drums beating for half an hour to encourage the stragglers, and to lead them in. This continued until the 21st July when the force reached Moila. The march lasted for ten days after which the two detachments of the 61st were reunited; they then went down the Nile in boats, and onto Aboumandour. The 61st remained in Egypt until 1803 on Garrison duty

   

Miscellaneous Historical Information  

To commemorate our victory over the French in the Egyptian Campaign of 1801, a badge of “The Sphinx” was granted to over 40 regiments that were engaged. The odd thing about the Sphinx approved for adoption is that it is not an Egyptian Sphinx, but one of Graeco-Roman pattern. A correct example of an Egyptian Sphinx that of Thothmes 111 at Cairo, is in the Egyptian Gallery of the British Museum. It has a beard, but no bearded Sphinxes as badges have the tail over the back.   

The 61st (South Gloucestershire) Regiment arrived to late to play an active part against the French. The Regiment was awarded the honour ‘Egypt’ and the right to wear the Sphinx on its badge and colours 

The 28th (North Gloucestershire) Regiment together with the 27th, 30th and the 58th applied later for a separate Battle honour of Alexandria, this was refused, but the 28th later gained the right to the ‘Back Badge’

The privilege of inscribing the colours with battle honours dates back to 1768 and the first honour to be carried by the 28th and the 61st was the word EGYPT over a sphinx within a laurel wreath, which was a distinction granted to all the regiments that took part in this campaign. Subsequently permission was given to add the earlier Battle Honours.

Fuller information regarding the Campaign in Egypt can be found in the ‘Cap of Honour’ by David Scott DANIELL or at the Gloucestershire Regimental Museum at Gloucester

 

     

Regiments entitled to distinction Egypt (With the Sphinx)

On July 6th, 1802, the distinction was conferred by King George Third, on the Regiments named below, “As a distinguished mark of his Majesty’s Royal approbation, and as a lasting memorial of the glory acquired to his Majesty’s arms by the zeal, discipline, and intrepidity of his troops in that arduous and important campaign”

11th Hussars

12th Lancers

Coldstream Guards

Scots Guards

Royal Scots

Queens

Kings Liverpool

Lincolcolns

Somerset Light Infantry

Royal Irish

Lancashire Fusiliers

Royal Welsh Fusiliers

South Wales Borderers

Cameronions

Inniskilling Fusiliers

Gloucestershire

East Lancashire

Dorset’s

South Staffords

Royal Highlanders

South Lancashire

Northampton’s

Essex

Royal West Kent

Manchester’s

Cameron Highlanders

Royal Irish Rifles

Gordon Highlanders

Connaught Rangers

Royal Irish Fusiliers

102nd King Edwards Own Grenadiers

2nd Queens Own Sappers and Miners

113th Infantry

  

 
 
                             
 
                        
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                            Revised: 24 July 2002.