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2nd Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment


Battalion camp a few miles from Jhansi, on Brigade Manoeuvres. 21st Jan. orders arrived for Battalion to march back to Barracks and prepare for mobilisation. The 20th Indian Brigade was being sent to Shanghai to form the Shanghai Defence Force. The Northern Chinese army was holding Sanghai, the Southern forces were closing. Shanghai had a large international settlement.

24th Jan. the battalion entrained to start the move to China. Battalion arrived at Bombay on 27th Jan. and embarked on the SS Vasua to sail that night.

The ship arrived off Hong Kong 8th February. Reached the Yangtze River 12th Feb. At 10am they reached Shanghai. The Battalion did not embark until 14th Feb. marching with Colours flying and band playing, through the International Settlement. A huge crowd lined the streets to welcome the troops. The Battalion was based at a camp being constructed at the Kianchow Road Waterworks.

61st Arrive in Shanghai

The Glosters held a 2 mile line, with the French settlement on their left (defended by French troops) and the 3/14th Punjab Regt on their right. Wire was laid out along the front and preparations made to defend the line if any Chinese troops should advance on the settlement. 19th Feb. a general strike was declared, believed to have been set up by the Southern Cantonese supporters. The troops were confined to billets, but on stand-by should the police and Shanghai Volunteers need assistance.

20th Feb. the Northern defenders executed a large number of 'red agitators' and desplayed their decapitated heads in trees and on telegraph poles just outside the Settlement.

22nd Feb. the French Settlememt came under shell-fire from Chinese gunboats. 25th Feb. the Indian Brigade was ordered to occupy the perimeter, as the Southern army approached the city. The Glosters put 3 companies into the line and set up out-posts to prevent any Chinese troops, North or South, from entering the Settlement. The weather was terrible, cold and heavy rain turning to the positions into a sea of mud. Duck-boards were laid and shelters set-up for the troops in the line. Battalion HQ was set-up in the 'Swiss Rifle Club.'

Chinese troop trains passed along a railway line just outside the Settlement. A Glosters patrol stopped one of the trains; to obtain some coal. 8th March the 14th Brigade took over the front-line and the Glosters returned to the Waterworks Camp. The situation became worse when the last Northern defence line collapsed and the Southern forces began advancing. Agitators infiltrated Shanghai, carrying out terror attacks and stirring-up violence. 21st March, General Pi (commanding the Northern garrison in the city) defected to the South and took most of his troops with him. The Shanghai Municipal Council mobilised the Shanghai Volunteer Corps and marines and sailors from Japanese, American, Dutch, Portugese and Italian ships were landed to bolster the defence force.

In the afternoon of the 21st March, a lorry carrying men of the Punjab Regt. was attacked and one soldier killed. 'A' Company, Glosters, was sent to the Race Course to support the Durham Light Infantry. On 22nd March 'B' Company entered the town and established a guard for the British Consulate. 'C' Company joined 'A' at the Race Course.

At 4.30pm Southern troops attacked the Railway Station, where a stranded armoured train was manned by 'White Russians' who had been supporting the Northern Army. They fought until they ran out of ammunition. A few escaped into the International Settlement, but most were killed. The main problem was trying to stop fleeing Northern troops from entering the Settlement. But hundreds broke through the line as the fighting came upto the Settlement perimeter. 2 men of the DLI were wounded and their position was in danger of being overrun due to the pressure of Northern troops trying to get in. The order was given to open fire. 'A' Company, Glosters, rushed in to support the DLI positions.

About 60 Chinese soldiers were killed, but this halted the onrush. About 600 more threw down their weapons and were herded into a temporary cage. Many more surrendered to the Japanese forces further to the east. The situation calmed down, though their was sniping and bursts of gunfire through the night.

'D' Company and Battalion HQ moved to the Race Course on 23rd March. The barbed-wire was strengthened and sandbag posts established. Posts were set up in upper-storeys of buildings (for political reasons the troops had previously not been allowed to enter civilian buildings without the consent of the occupants) overlooking danger spots.

26th March, word was given that the Chinese intended to attack the Settlement at 11pm. The troops stood ready but no attack came. Thousands of Chinese civilians were seen marching off in processions, and troop trains brought more soldiers into the area.

5th April the Glosters were relieved by the 1st Border Regt (13th Brigade) and marched back to hutments in the Yangtszepoo area of the Settlement. There they remained in Reserve until June, being responsible for Internal Security of the Settlement, if required. The Southern Army moved North, pushing the Northern forces across the Yangtsze, and the immediate danger passed.

In June Colonel Wilkinson left the battalion, after 4 years in command. He had been with the 2nd Bn for 37 years and as his ship left Shanghai, the river bank was lined by the battalion, firing off rockets and very lights. Lieut-Colonel R.L. Beasley assumed command in July.

1st July the Glosters marched to Hongkew and remained in billets there until the Jhansi Brigade received orders to return to India. 23rd July the Glosters marched to the docks to embark, with the DLI, on the troop transport Karmala. A huge crowd gathered to see them off and thank what many called "the saviours of Shanghai."

Letter from Commanding Officer, North China Command:

"On the departure of the 2nd Battalion the Gloucestershire Regiment for India, I wish to convey to all ranks my high appreciation of its excellent work whilst forming part of the Shanghai Defence Force. The Battalion arrived at a very critical period, and for a considerable time was constantly on duty in the most trying circumstances.
Whilst holding the defence line the arduous and difficult duties were always carried out with soldierly spirit and good judgement. The discipline and turn-out of the Battalion has been excellent, and has worthily upheld the highest traditions of the British Army. The cheerful manner in which all ranks have endured the extremes of climate and the difficulties of service in Shanghai, often quartered in most uncomfortable billets, is worthy of all praise. The Battalion has good reason to be proud of the excellent impression it has made on the people of Shanghai. I wish this Battalion the best of luck in its new station.

J. Duncan, Major-General, Commanding North China Command."

8th August they reached Calcutta, then moved back to their old barracks at Jhansi.