Major Gerald Percival Rickcord

 

Unit : Battalion Headquarters, 1st Battalion The Royal Ulster Rifles.

Army No. : 62644

Awards : Distinguished Service Order

 

Major Rickcord was Second-in-Command of the 1st Royal Ulster Rifles. He was promoted to temporary Lieutenant-Colonel and given command of the Battalion following the injury to Lieutenant-Colonel Carson in the opening moments of the Rhine Crossing. For his conduct as Second-in-Command and then Commander, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. His citation reads:

 

During the whole period of Airborne Operations, this officer has shown himself consistently a first class leader of men, the possessor of great personal courage and an officer who at all times is reliable, conscientious and painstaking. Largely due to his efforts as Battalion Second-in-Command and then as Commanding Officer, the Battalion has become a first rate fighting team with the utmost confidence in itself and its leaders. In particular on 24th March 1945, Lieutenant-Colonel (then Major) Rickcord displayed great gallantry. As Battalion Second-in-Command he landed many miles away from the Brigade Area and right amongst certain enemy positions. He at once organised his men into a fighting team, and throughout the day fought his way back to the Battalion locality, suffering casualties and, in turn inflicting casualties and taking many prisoners. On arrival at Battalion Headquarters this officer discovered that his Commanding Officer was badly wounded and immediately took over command holding the position which was vital with skill and vigour against enemy counter attacks. Throughout the whole of the remainder of the campaign Lieutenant-Colonel Rickcord has commanded his Battalion magnificently displaying sound judgement and considerable ingenuity and dash. He is cool and calculating when under fire and his personality has been most pronounced when the battle was hottest. Lieutenant-Colonel Rickcord has rendered continually distinguished service to his unit and formation, sound judgement at all times, he is held in great esteem by All Ranks of his Battalion.

 

Rickcord remained in the British Army after the war, but as a Major having lost the temporary rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. During the Korean War, he was again posted to the 1st Royal Ulster Rifles as Second-in-Command, replacing Major Tony Blake, an Arnhem veteran, who had been killed during the retreat from Happy Valley. He was highly respected by the men of the Battalion, who nicknamed him "Farmer's Boy" due to his complexion, quiet voice and laid-back smile. Captain Robert Charley said of him, "He went round all the companies with a map telling everybody, in their slit trenches, where they were and what they were doing. The Battalion had a lot of confidence in him."

 

With his commander on sick leave in Japan, Rickcord led the Battalion during the Battle of Imjin in 1951. One of his men said of him, "He was a rough man, a hard man. He came along walking - how the hell he wasn't hit, I'll never know. He paraded up and down, giving us a wee bit of encouragement. We thought he was a great man." Enormously outnumbered and subjected to relentless Chinese "human wave" attacks, the Battalion and the remainder of the 29th Brigade stood firm for several days. Yet theirs was a part of the front which would have been better held by an entire division than a single brigade, and so it was inevitable that very large groups of the enemy were able to thread their way through the gaps and threaten to encircle the Brigade. The overwhelming majority of the 1st Glosters were taken prisoner, but the remainder of the Brigade, despite considerable peril, were able to get away. Rickcord had been ordered to fall back with the utmost haste, but he refused to do so as his pre-war experience on the North West Frontier gave him a good understanding of mountain warfare, and he knew that he risked annihilation if he ordered his men to withdraw along the shortest route on the valley floor, where they would be overlooked by hundreds of Chinese. Instead he led the Battalion into the hills, from where they successfully made their way back.

 

Rickcord later commanded the 2nd Battalion The Gurkha Rifles in Malaya, and was subsequently Administrative Commandant of the School of Infantry. He retired from the Army as a Lieutenant-Colonel and found employment with Guinness. He died in 1990.

 

Back to 1st Royal Ulster Rifles

Back to Biographies Menu