The Back Badge

 

Alexandria 1801.

In 1801 battles were fought by forming up into what is often referred to as the 'Thin Red Line' engaging the enemy from the front. The infantry, in their bright red tunics, would line up in columns of three. The front rank would lie in the prone position, the middle rank would kneel and fire over the heads of those in front and the rear rank would be standing and firing over the heads of their comrades.

 

For their gallantry in fighting back to back during the Battle of Alexandria 1801, the Regiment was given the unique honour of wearing a badge at the back of their caps. This honour has prevailed.

On the 1st February 2007 RGBWLI merged with the DDLI to become 1 Rifles. The regular battalions of the Rifles wear the Back Badge with  ceremonial dress, and officers and warrant officers wear it on side hats.  The Back Badge is also  worn by the Band and Bugles of The Rifles on the ‘shako’.

 
 


The Regiment, then the 28th Foot (North Gloucestershire) under the Command of General Sir Ralph Abercromby landed in Egypt against strong French opposition. They marched onwards to Alexandria where they brought the French army to Battle.

The 28th. took up a defensive position on a line of low sand hills. On their right was an old Roman fort, which stood on a slight rise close to the shore, and to the front of this was an unfinished redoubt, which was manned by the 28th. Between them, the fort and the redoubt formed the key position, for if either was taken, then the British flank could be turned.

Under the cover of the pre-dawn darkness and sand dunes, two columns of French infantry headed straight for the British right. Heavy fighting ensued and as more French columns joined the attack, the 28th. Became cut off. The British musketry drove off the French onslaught but a brigade of French infantry moved through the gap between the 28th. and the rest of the British line. A counter attack by the 42nd Foot drove off this attack but they in turn went too far and were themselves in danger from French cavalry. The battle raged all along the line, but nowhere as fiercely as on the right, with the 28th fighting to their front and flanks. More French cavalry joined in, supported by more infantry. Some of the cavalry broke through the 42nd and formed up to charge the 28th in the rear. With no reserves available at this critical point in the battle, Lt. Col. Chambers, who had taken over command following the serious wounding of the C.O. Col. Paget, gave the historic order "Rear rank, 28th! Right about face!"

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.
 

 
Back Badge day is celebrated on the 21st day of March each year
The 2017 Back Badge Service and Reunion will be held on the 18th March
Click here for details on our latest news page>>>
 

 

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