THE GREEN JACKETS LEGACY
Regimental histories often start with a description of traditions, as if they were in themselves a source of pride, often they are only empty substitutes for real achievements. Having traced the story, however, it is appropriate to mention some of the forms by which historical events are remembered today.
The Green Jacket and the Rifle
The 5th Battalion of the 60th was the first British Infantry regiment to be dressed in green and the Rifle Corps adopted a similar uniform from its foundation. The purpose was both practical and symbolic, representing the first camouflage as required for the new open-order tactics and a clean break with rigid mechanical methods of `redcoat` troops. Both regiments were armed with rifles (the Hompesch rifle for the 60th and the Baker for the Rifle Corps), a more accurate and longer- range weapon than the musket but shorter and requiring a long sword-bayonet to compensate in close-quarter fighting, whence the use of the term `sword` for bayonet in Rifle Regiments.
Open-order tactics where individuals often found themselves beyond the range of the human voice called for an efficient means of signalling to control battlefield manoeuvres. The bugle provided the necessary communications and a complex system of calls was developed, many of them still in use today, while bugles replace the drums of other infantry on parade.
The Cap Badge
At the centre is the bugle horn, the badge of all Rifle and Light Infantry Regiments. The Maltese Cross is derived from the badges of both The Kings Royal Rifle Corps and The Rifle Brigade, while on its arms are some of the Battle Honours of the former regiments, displayed in this way because Green Jacket Regiments carry no colours. At the foot is the Naval Crown awarded to The Rifle Brigade to commemorate their forebears ` service under Nelson at Copenhagen.
In the eighteenth and nineteenth century the heavy infantry moved in close formation at a slow controlled pace. Rifle and Light Infantry Regiments, on the other hand, frequently on outpost duty, needed to move about the battlefield faster, often at the `double`. The Royal Green Jackets of today habitually march at 140 paces to the minute compared to the standard 120 and retain the custom of `double-past ` as a parade manoeuvre.
The introduction of the early rifles led to a tradition of marksmanship, as Green Jackets were required to be the sharpshooters of the Army. Only in recent years has the bulk of the Army started to devote the same attention to the subject, despite the fact that rifles have been standard issue for nearly 150 years.
The officers of the British Army of the eighteenth century have been described as mainly incompetent and habitually drunk: their soldiers as largely drawn from the criminal class. It was this unpromising material which a succession of forward-thinking officers, many of them associated with former Green Jacket Regiments and culminating in Sir John Moore, set to work to turn into a dedicated and efficient fighting force by a system of discipline based on thorough training and encouragement, rather than the threat of the lash. Much of the Army was slow to follow, but the principles of mutual trust and respect remain the foundation of Green Jacket discipline today.
The assumption that Green Jackets should be in the forefront of military thinking long predates the name. The Royal Americans (described by Fuller as ` the first true light infantry the British Standing Army ever had`) adopted equipment and tactics for a new role in forest warfare; the Light Brigade brought the profession of light infantry to a pitch of perfection in the Peninsular War and through the nineteenth century our predecessors were constantly seeking ways of increasing mobility by developments in mounted infantry using horses, camels and elephants. It was a logical consequence that the 60th and Rifle Brigade should have been chosen to pioneer the motor battalion concept in World War 11, while the 52nd did the same for airlanding by glider.