What Does The Thin Red Line Mean for Firefighters?

by Simon Villeneuve      December 02, 2015

What Does The Thin Red Line Mean for Firefighters?

If you’ve been a Patriot Wood customer for long, you probably know that one of our most popular wood flags is the Blue Thin Line Wood Flag commemorating fallen law enforcement officers and symbolizing the relationship of law enforcement in the community as the protectors of civilians from criminal elements. What you may not know is that the Thin Blue Line emblem also gave birth to the the "Thin Red Line," which refers to the fire department. So, what does that mean for firefighters?

At it’s essence, the Thin Red Line is a symbol used by fire departments to show respect for firefighters injured and killed in the line of duty.

Patriot Wood’s Thin Red Line Wood Flag integrates the prominent red stripe of the Thin Red Line emblem into a black-and-white version of the American flag for a beautiful and symbolic combination.

Robert Gibb, The Thin Red Line

The term “thin red line” originated during the Crimean War when British Sutherland Highlanders 93rd Regiment, aided by a small force of Royal Marines and some Turkish infantrymen, routed a Russian cavalry charge at the Battle of Balaclava on October 25,1854.

The battle began with a Russian artillery and infantry attack on the Ottoman forts that formed Balaclava’s first line of defense. The Ottoman forces initially resisted the Russian assaults, but lacking support they were eventually forced to retreat. When the forts fell, the Russian cavalry moved to engage the second defensive line held by the Ottoman and the 93rd Highland Regiment. This line’s main function was to hold and repulse the attack. And they sure did.

On that day the 93rd Regiment earned the nickname "The Fighting Highlanders," and carried with it the status of having been the original "Thin Red Line". This impressive feat positioned the Allies (France, the United Kingdom, the Ottoman Empire, and Sardinia) to defeat the greater proportion of the cavalry advance, forcing the Russians onto the defensive.

A distant bystander and press writer for The Times, W. H. Russell, reported that nothing stood between the Russian cavalry and the defenceless British base but the "thin red streak tipped with a line of steel of the 93rd" a description immediately paraphrased and passed into folklore as "The Thin Red Line."

Since that day in October of 1854, the term “thin red line” stood as a common figure of speech for any thinly spread military unit holding firm against attack. You can see a clear illustration of what this looked like in Robert Gibb’s famous 1881 painting, The Thin Red Line.

Today, the term “Thin Red Line” is a symbol used by fire departments to show respect for firefighters injured and killed in the line of duty. As firefighters are periled, they place their lives second to those they protect. They are forced to face their own fears and grasp for every ounce of courage to perform the necessary task. “The Thin Red Line of Courage” represents the last ounce of courage firefighters find deep in their blood to conquer their darkest fears in order to save and protect life and property.

For firefighters, their friends, and family, The Thin Red Line Flag is full of meaning. One that we only know because of hundreds of years of blood, sweat, and tears. If you’d like to learn more about Patriot Wood’s wood version of the Thin Red Line Flag, check it out here!