Presentation of US Presidential Unit Citation to 1st Battalion The Gloucestershire Regiment and C Troop 170th Mortar Battery, Royal Artillery in Korea on 8th May 1951

United States General Van Fleet Presented the Glosters and 170 Mortar Battery survivors with President Truman’s “Presidential Citation”

The following article has been submitted by Major General RD Grist CB OBE 

Exactly 70 years ago in Korea a parade was held to present the US Presidential Unit Citation to 1st Glosters,  and C Troop 17O Mortar Battery RA to mark their conduct at The Battle of Imjin 22-25 April 1951. The Glosters are the only British Infantry Battalion ever to have received this award.

he Glosters were besieged by the Press in early May 1951. Lt Col Digby Grist, the CO of 1st Glosters wrote: “On top of the Press came the order that General Van Fleet, who had recently taken over command of the UN Forces in Korea, required a spit-and-polish parade. At this ceremony he intended to present to the Glosters and 170 Mortar Battery survivors with President Truman’s “Presidential Citation” which the men at Solma-ri had won. I had my hands full alright! But again, I also had the man for the job. Our dearly beloved RSM, Jack Hobbs, was lost to us on the hillside (later we were to know he was a prisoner) and my senior surviving warrant officer was John Thackrah, who became my Regimental Sergeant Major. Before he joined the Glosters, Thackrah had been an Irish Guardsman. If you want a ceremonial parade - ask the Guards. If you want a parade with a bit of imagination in it – ask the Irish.

We were certainly going to test both his knowledge of ceremonial and his imagination. An American Army band had to be taught our regimental march, troops of other nations serving in Korea had to be taught what British words of command meant. Some of them were in the habit of starting to march as soon as they were called to attention; others had never ‘presented arms’ in their lives. All had to be coaxed or bullied to do it our way ‘just for the day’. Thackrah had the morning to achieve it with nothing more than his imposing presence and powerful voice.

In the afternoon when General Van Fleet stepped up onto the dais there was nothing untidy about the parade except the Press and even if our regimental march sounded a bit unfamiliar at least we kept in step”
Footnote: Major General (Retd) Robin Grist is the son of Lt. Col. Digby Grist who took command of 1 Glosters following the battle of the Imjin. (ed)