Archibald Alexander Gordon
Archibald Alexander Gordon
|Born||3 September 1867|
Bridge of Allan, Scotland
|Died||12 August 1949 (aged 81)|
Bridge of Allan, Scotland
Logie, Stirlingshire, Scotland
|Unit||9th Volunteer Battalion (Highlanders) Royal Scots|
|Spouse(s)||William Hyde E. Gordon
Archibald George R. GordonEdmund Robert A. Gordon
Major Archibald Alexander Gordon CBE, MVO, Order of Leopold, Legion of Honour (3 September 1867 – 12 August 1949) was a Scottish soldier who served as attaché to the Military Household of King Albert I of Belgium during World War I, with the title of Belgian King's Messenger. He is the younger brother of William Eagleson Gordon, who was awarded the Victoria Cross.
Archibald Alexander Gordon was born in Bridge of Allan, Scotland on 3 September 1867, the second son of Dr William Eagleston Gordon and Emily Maryann Dick. A. A. Gordon was the younger brother of William Eagleson Gordon V.C., older brother of Robert Aaron Gordon (who unfortunately died in the spring of 1903), brother of two sisters; Emily Mckenzie and Helen Isabelle Gordon. He also had a (half) brother George Freer (Jr) on his mother side. Father Dr. William E. Gordon unexpectately died in 1873 at the age of 51. Gordon's mother moved the family (except for her oldest son, who stayed in England for his education) temporarily to Swiss. Here A. A. Gordon met with the famous Maj-Gen Charles George Gordon (alias 'Chinese Gordon'). Later on the family moved back to Scotland and Gordon was educated at Stanley House School, Bridge of Allan; Edinburgh Collegiate School and the University of Edinburgh. After his graduation he travelled around the world and met with the famous U.S. Army General William Tecumseh Sherman. He visited Jamaica to find the old farm of his forbears, who died in poverty after the abolition of the slave trade in 1834. Here he met an old slave who had worked at the plantation of Gordon's family. Back in America he boarded the S.S. City of Paris on 25 March 1890. He became one of the survivors of the S.S. City of Paris disaster and returned to Scotland unharmed.
In 1892 he married Lizzie Maude Smith (24 January 1872 – 13 July 1929), twin daughter of Major General Edmund Davidson-Smith (27 June 1832 – 8 September 1916), formerly Assistant Adjutant General of the Dublin district. The couple received three children.
- William Hyde Eagleson Gordon (23 August 1893 – 30 September 1915), the twin brother of Archibald George Ramsay Gordon. He studied at Haileybury College and Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge and enlisted in the army, with the Gordon Highlanders in 1914 as a Temporary-Lieutenant. He landed in France on 5 May 1915 and served as lieutenant in the 8th Battalion, Gordon Highlanders. He was mortally wounded in the head on 27 September 1915, during the Battle of Loos and died in Etaples Military Hospital on 30 September 1915 aged 22. He is buried in the Etaples Military Cemetery in the Pas de Calais, in grave I.B.17. Lieutenant William Hyde E. Gordon is mentioned on the Sidney Sussex College – Ante Chapel Memorial and the Haileybury College memorial.
- Archibald George Ramsay Gordon (23 August 1893 – 26 December 1893), a twin with his elder brother.
- Edmund Robert Adam Gordon (25 March 1896 – 5 October 1932), enlisted in the 7th Seaforth Highlanders and served as a temporary Lieutenant. Later that year, in October 1915, he was entrenched near Hill 60 in Ypres when he became a casualty of jaundice and neurasthenia. Major Gordon visited five field ambulances before he found out that his son had been evacuated to a railhead and placed in a Red Cross train bound for England. On 25 August 1917, Major Gordon was informed that his youngest son (Edmund) was wounded again having first suffered a leg wound and then a severe hand wound. He was hospitalized in the General Hospital N°8 at Rouen and later taken to a hospital in Brighton where Major Gordon visited him. Over time the condition of Edmund became worse and he had to undergo several operations which resulted in amputation of certain fingers and a part of his hand. Edmund was later sent back to the front and survived the war, but suffered serious health problems. Edmund married in 1926 with his wife (Vivienne) Roberts, in Kensington and the couple got their first born Peter. Peter Gordon tragically in his infancy. Edmund's condition became worse and he died of his disease on 5 October 1932. Edmund is mentioned on the Haileybury College memorial.
A. A. Gordon was one of the co-founders who with James Ferguson established the 9th ( Volunteer Battalion Highlanders), Royal Scots (Lowland Division) and was appointed captain on 6 August 1900 and became the first commanding officer of A-Company (the captain A. A. Gordon Cup was named in his honor). During the coronation of Edward VII in 1902 he stood at the head of the battalion in the parade. He was promoted to major on 7 January 1905 and was appointed Brigade-Major in the same year. He was attached to the Black Watch in May 1906 for a month. In 1905 he attended Transport Course at Aldershot and Attended Course of Military Equitation at Aldershot. During his time in the battalion he became good friends with Captain – later Lt Colonel – James H. Clark, who was the commanding officer of B-Company and became the second commanding officer of the battalion after Lt. Colonel James Ferguson resigned his commission in 1904. Lt. Colonel James H. Clark died in the First World War during the second battle of Yper on 10 May 1915, while commanding the 9th Argyll and Sutherland battalion. Prior to his commission in the 9th Royal Scots, Major Gordon was appointed a member of the Royal Company of Archers, King's Bodyguard for Scotland in 1896. During his stay in the 9th Royal Scots he had the pleasure to meet with General Sir Archibald Hunter D.S.O and was involved in the establishment of the Queen Victoria School in Dunblane for which he received the Royal Victorian Order – 4th Class. Major A. A. Gordon resigned his commission with the 9th Royal Scots on 26 May 1906 to take up his duties as private secretary to Arthur Wellesley, 4th Duke of Wellington from 1906 until his retirement in 1920. During his service to the Duke he met Franz Ferdinand of Austria who was a guest of the Duke during the funeral of King Edward VII in 1910.
Siege of Antwerp 1914
On the outbreak of the First World War, A. A. Gordon was asked to establish a funding in England for the Belgian refugees, because of his previous involvement in funding the Waterloo Monument in Belgium. Gordon personally escorted the funds over the Channel into the city of Antwerp. The quick progress of the German advance resulted that the Admiralty didn't risk any more ships crossing the Channel, which resulted that A. A. Gordon became stuck in Antwerp with the rest of the British officers. At the hotel St. Antoinne, Gordon met up with Colonel – later General – Jack Seely alias Lord Mottistone (who served in the special service) who gave A. A. Gordon his old rang of major back and appointed him to his subordinate. Together they participated in the reconnaissance of the British forward lines and reported to the General Headquarters. One afternoon, when they were in a Belgian HQ, an artillery officer rushed in telling the officers that the last fortress of Antwerp had been fallen into enemy hands. On this tragic news the Belgian General Victor Deguise said "C'est fini !". A great evacuation of Antwerp was ordered for the allied forces to Bruges and Ostend. Major Gordon and Colonel Jack Seely participated in getting the British forces out there trenches and escorted them over the pontoon bridge across the river Scheldt. They reached Bruges, via St. Nicolas and boarded the troops onto trains in St. Gilles Waes. After Major Gordon reached Ostend he boarded a small vessel and returned to England. Once he said foot in Britain he was given a telegram to meet with he First Lord of the Admiraly – Winston Churchill – once he got back in London. He rapported to the Admiralty at once, when he arrived and was given only one night to make a full report of the events that happened in Antwerp.
Russian Refugees at Zeebrugge
During his stay at the St. Antoine Hotel in Antwerp he was contacted by the Russian Prince Nicholas A. Koudacheff. They both met at the hotel and the Prince explained to him that some three or four thousand Russian students were gathered Zeebrugge from Europe to serve the Imperial Army of Russia. The Russian government didn't want to send a warvessel to come and get them, so Koudacheff asked Major Gordon if he could ask the British Admiralty for their help, to deploy some civilian vessel or steamer to get the Russian students back to England and from there to Russia. Once returned to London, after the Siege of Anwerp he sent a telegram to the Admiralty. To his surprise they applied to the request and some tourist steamers of the river Thames were sent across the Channel to pick up the Russian refugees and brought them back to England, where they boarded a large tanker for Russia. After the evacuation Major Gordon was given a magnificent cigarette case in appreciation of Tzar Nicolas II of Russia. Later on, Major Gordon was decorated with the Order of St. Anne 2nd Class in 1917.
Major A. A. Gordon was contacted by the Foreign ministry of Belgium, who asked if he was interested in becoming the British Attaché for King Albert I of Belgium. He accepted the task with full honor and departed for La Panne some time after. Once he arrived in La Panne, Belgium he was asked to participate in the establishment of the L'ocean Hospital that was commissioned by Queen Elisabeth of Belgium. This task made him travel a lot between England and Belgium, of which both the Queen and King took advantage for giving him personal missions. One of those missions was to photograph the grave of Prince Maurice of Rattenberg (who died on 27 October 1914 during the Siege of Yper), and was the son of Princess Beatrice, the youngest daughter of Queen Victoria, who had asked for the condition of her son's grave in a letter to Queen Elisabeth to Belgium. Another task that was given to Major Gordon was to check on a French hospital at Dunkirk, of which the Queen was informed that the conditions where less than poor and she wanted to check on the Belgian soldiers who were hospitalized there. Major Gordon visited the hospital and found out that the entire 'Ambulance' was occupied with only three women. One of them was an elderly English woman, who told Major Gordon that there had been several suicides already because of the high fever. After his return in London, Major Gordon bought some supplies for the hospital and had them shipped. Afterwards he went to the French embassy, and explained mathers to the ambassador, who he had met before. The embassador promised him that he would try to improve the situation and asked that he would not make things public. That night major Gordon sent his rapport to the Queen. During the war Major Gordon visited the famous British Nurses Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm in his spare time in the town of Pervuyse and he always brought them supplies. Later that year he had the honor to meet with Captain John Aiddan Liddell V.C. who was shot down over Bruges and managed to land his plane into allied territory, but was severely wounded. He was hospitalized in the L'ocean Hospital and later died on 31 August 1915, after receiving a telegram where he was appointed the Victoria Cross. As a result of his death his sister Nurse Dorothy Liddell M.B.E. took up a position in the L'ocean Hospital later on. Major Gordon escorted Mrs Asquith (wife of Prime-Minister H. H. Asquith) to the Belgian front, the Belgian Royal Family in La Panne and the Belgian Government at St. Andresse in France. Her report on this journey was published in the book Women's Writing on the First World War (1999). In 1916 Major Gordon escorted Eugene Ysaye and his entourage from London to La Panne, on the envitation of Queen Elisabeth, so Ysaye and his band could perform at the L'ocean Hospital. A report of the journey was given by Lionel Tartis in the book: Eugène Ysaÿe et la musique de chambre by Michel Stockhem.
In 1917 the Belgian Royal family planned a trip to England for the Silver Jubilee of King George V and Queen Mary. Major Gordon received a telegram, that the Royal Family would arrive within a couple of days. He rushed to Buckingham Palace and was received by Prince Alexander of Teck (later Lord Athlone) and was later joined by Princess Alice and Lord Stamfordham. After discussing the matter, Lord Stamfordham asked Major Gordon if he could come with him to inform Lord Curzon. Afterwards Major Gordon secured rooms in the Grand Hotel in Folkestone and went to the harbor where he was awaited by Admiral Keyes, who informed him that the Belgian King and Queen would be arriving in two separate airplanes and that the rest of the military attaché and household would be travelling on a war vessel. The luggage was temporarily lost, but brought to the hotel late in the evening. In the early morning, King Albert I entered Major Gordon's room in night atire, and explained to Major Gordon that the gift for the British Royal family was left behind and asked if he could buy something suitable at once. Major Gordon explained to the King (almost with a smile) that nothing suitable could be found in a local village as Folkestone. He than suggested to contact Lord Curzon in London, and explain matters to him and come up with a solution. Contact was made and Lord Curzon arose at once and went to New Bond Street to buy something at once. The question was made how the present could be delivered unnoticed to the King's household. Major Gordon then said that the present can be given to the Chief-Inspector of Police at Buckingham Palace, who knew Major Gordon well, with the message that the package only may be given to Major Gordon in person. On 6 July 1917, Major Gordon was the headdriver of the Royal column, from Folkestone to London and arrived in London around 2.P.M., where he was relieved to see his friend (Police-Inspector) with the present at the front gate of Buckingham Palace. The present was quickly and unnoticed moved into the vehicle and King Albert I entered the square at Buckingham Palace with the gift in his hand, presenting it to King George V (even not knowing what was inside).
During the Royal visit to England, Major Gordon was taking up the daily duties in one of the rooms of Buckingham Palace together with the Belgian Colonel Tilkins. The Belgian Prince Charles, was seeted at the windowtable making some drawings and sketches. After a while Major Gordon come on to check on him and he witnessed that the Prince had used a wax-stick to press the Coat of Arms on to paper. Unfortunately the Prince had not used any protection beneath the paper and the wax was pushed into the leather, ruining the tabletop. Colonel Tilkins spoke in anger to the Prince and added that the King must be informed of the situation. This was done, and a suitable punishment was conducted, afterwards Major Gordon went to see the curator of Buckingham Palace to explain what had happened, but the kind man replied "well, boys must be boys".
While in England, King Albert I of Belgium took the liberty to visit Scotland and wanted to see the Grand Fleet. While boarding the train from Victoria Station to Edinburgh he was accompanied with Lord Athlone and Sir Charles Cust. In the train Major Gordon received the message that the King wanted that he guided him personally to the city. While visiting Edinburgh Castle, a Scottish officer who was conducting a drill, recognised King Albert and called the battalion in formation. King Albert was very pleased and learned that the officer had been returned not long ago from the trenches at Ypres and therefore recognised the King. Afterwards King Albert said to Major Gordon: " Major, you are to blame for this. Your brassard has given me away!". King Albert and Queen Elisabeth visited afterwards the Grand Fleet and the Queen asked if she could send a picture of her to her namesake ship, the H.M.S. Queen Elisabeth. The picture was later permanent placed on deck barring the inscription: H.M. Queen Elisabeth to H.M.S. "Queen Elizabeth" 9.7.1917.
By the end of 1918, Major Gordon was contacted at his home by King Albert who was standing in Ostend, Belgium. The King ordered Gordon to bring Prince Leopold at once to Belgium, because the Liberation Offensive was launched and made great progress. Once arrived in Belgium, Major Gordon together with the Belgian Major Dujardin looked for a suitable headquarters for the King around Bruges. While entering the city, with many difficulties because of the destroyed bridges, they were welcomed by hundreds of people, because they thought the King had arrived. Because of the large crowd Major Dujardin departed from the vehicle and went on foot to fulfil some duties. Major Gordon remembered a letter that was given to him in England, during the Royal visit, which was written by a mother, who desperately asked for help to get any knews from her daughter at the English Convent at Bruges. Major Gordon replied in the Kings name, that Bruges was the major stronghold of the German Submarines and was completely isolated from the world, so no news could be won. Because of the liberation of Bruges things had changed and Major Gordon went to the English Convent on finding the daughter from the letter. Once he appeared at the gate he was greeted by the Reverend Mother, who was overjoyed to see a British officer. He asked if Sister Sealy was still at present in the Convent, but the Reverend Mother didn't know any Nun in the area of Bruges with this name. After thinking it over again, she asked Major Gordon if he is not mistaken and that the name in the letter was Leahy instead of Sealy. It was obvious that this was the case and Sister Leahy was called for. She appeared some moments later at the gate and almost took it down when she heard about her mother's letter. She asked Major Gordon if he could stay for a while so she could write some lines back to her mother. Major Gordon applied and after half an hour Leahy came back with some 40 letters. It was mentioned in the convent that a British officer was waiting outside and all the sisters had taken the advantage to write to home. Major Gordon, who according to the army regulations, was not allowed to transport letters, smuggled them into England on his next trip. After the Armistice on 11 November 1918, Major Gordon was invited by King Albert to be part of his suite to enter Brussels on 22 November 1918. Major Gordon was seated between Mayor Adolph Max and Cardinal Mercier in the square of the Royal Palace afterwards. Major Gordon had met Cardinal Mercier prior, during the Siege of Antwerp and visited him again after the war, being the part of Admiral Beatty's suite.
After the war
Major Gordon was tasked by King Albert to retrieve the 'Belgian treasure' back from England. These trips where very hard, because of the mudd and destroyed landscapes of France and Belgian. However Major Gordon succeeded in his task and was presented the Commander in the Order of the Crown afterwards. He later received a secret task that had to be executed in the Netherlands, near Breda. Here he encountered a dangerous situation at a Dutch checkpoint, when he had to fear for his life. In 1920 he received a telegram that King George V had personally selected him to be part of his suite for the Belgian visit to London. On this occasion Major Gordon was decorated Commander in the Order of Leopold II and received a signed picture of King Albert's latest portrait. Two years later Major Gordon was asked by the Grand Marschal of the Belgian Court, on the behalf of King Albert, if he could be in Brussels for the occasion to be held on 7 May.
Because of the poor health of his wife after the war, Major Gordon resigned his commission as private secretary to Arthur Wellesley – 4th Duke of Wellington and moved to Stow-on-the-Wold because he thought that the countryside will do her well. Because of the high altitude of Stow-on-the-Wold, Lizzie's condition became worse and the couple had to move again and returned to Major Gordon's birthplace Bridge of Allan. On 13 July 1929 Lizzie died peacefully at their home in Bridge of Allan.
Major Gordon's youngest son Edmund, who sustained some serious lung damage during his illness in the war, was diagnosed with Tuberculosis later on and died in 1932, being the last surviving descendant of the family. Major Gordon wrote in his bible "And thus our family ends".
In 1936 Major Gordon travelled to Israel and overlooked the archaeological findings of the mosaics of the church of the Multiplying of the Loaves and Fishes. He edited the book "Church of the Multiplying of the Loaves and Fishes at Tabgha, Lake of Galilee, and its Mosaics" by Alfons M. Scheider in 1937.
There is no data to this date of Major Gordon's activities during the Second World War.
Major Gordon died peacefully on 12 August 1949. His death was mentioned in the Glasgow Herald of 13 August 1949.
In 1941 Maor Gordon published his memoirs, Culled from a Diary (1867 – 1939), published by Oliver and Boyd, with a foreword by his old friend Lord Mottistone.
Major Gordon explained in his preface that he wrote this book from brief diaries that he made at the time and not from memory. He also states that he penned these diary gleanings against his wishes and solely through pressure by certain prominent people, who urged him to leave a record of his events, because they would be of interest some day. He thanks the famous Miss Anna Buchan, who published under the pseudonym "O.Douglas" for her contribution to the book. He also give thanks to Major-General the Lord Mottistone, P.C., C.B., C.M.G, D.S.O, who he served with in the siege of Antwerp and who wrote the foreword of the book. Finally he also thanks Dom Ernest Graf, O.S.B. of St. Mary's Abbey, Buckfast, Devon for his advice en encouragement, without which he might never have ventured in the field of authorship.
The book consists of 17 chapters and counts 206 pages + index.
The following table shows the honours awarded to Gordon:
|Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE)||(British) 24 August 1917|
|Member of the Royal Victorian Order (MVO)||(British) 4th class, 1908|
|Knight of Grace of the Venerable Order of Saint John (KStJ)||(Esquire 20 September 1898) (Knight of Grace 19 December 1900)|
|Officer of the Order of Leopold with Palm||(Belgium)|
|Commander of the Order of the Crown||(Belgium) 13 June 1919|
|Commander of the Order of Leopold II||(Belgium)|
|Officer of the Legion of Honour||(France) 16 January 1920|
|Officer of the Instruction Publique (Golden Palms)||(France)|
|member of the Order of Saint Anna||2nd Class (Imperial Russia)|
|Commander of the Order of the Crown of Italy||29 November 1918|
|Knight of the Order of Saint Jago||(Portugal)|
|Knight of the Order of Isabella the Catholic||(Spain)|
|1914 star and bar||(British Campaign medal)|
|British War Medal 1914-20||(British Campaign medal)|
|Victory Medal 1914-18||(British Campaign medal)|
|Coronation medal of King Edward VII||(British) 1902|
|Coronation medal of King George V||(British) 1911|
|Jubilee medal of King George V||(British) 1935|
|Coronation medal of King George VI||(British) 1937|
|Croix de guerre (Palms)||(Belgium) 31 July 1917|
|King Albert Medal||(Belgium) 18 August 1920|
|Queen Elisabeth Medal with Red Cross||(Belgium) 1918 – Major Gordon took part in the design of the medal|
|Civic Cross First Class (Swords and Bar)||(Belgium)|
|Croix de guerre (Palms)||(France)|
|Medal of French Gratitude 'Silver'||(France) 3 December 1920|
He was cited in Belgian and French Army Orders of the Day.
- Record of the 9th [Volunteer] Battalion (Highlanders) The Royal Scots or The Raising of a Volunteer Regiment and its Conversion into a Full-Strength Battalion of the Territorial Force – James Fergusson – 1909
- Illustrated News London – 1915 – volume 56
- Kelly's Handbook to the Titled, Landed & Official Classes, volume 47 – 1921
- Mémorial du centenaire de l'ordre de Léopold 1832-1932
- Church of the Multiplying of the Loaves and Fishes at Tabgha, Lake of Galilee, and its Mosaics – Edited by A. A. Gordon – 1937
- Culled from a Diary – A. A. Gordon – Oliver & Boyd – 1941
- News from Belgium – 1942
- Eugène Ysaÿe et la musique de chambre by Michel Stockhem
- Women's Writing on the First World War (1999)
- The Dandy Ninth, a History of the 9th (Highlanders) Royal Scots by Neill Gilhooley – November 2019
In August 2019, the Major Archibald Alexander Gordon Society was established in Belgium. The society is a non-profit organisation who dedicates itself in researching and publishing the life and events of Major A. A. Gordon. They are also the custodians of the 'Kings Messenger Collection' which held important artifacts of Major Gordon and King Albert together with other related items.
- "Death of Notable Scots Officer". The Herald (Glasgow). 13 August 1949. p. 6. Retrieved 9 January 2014.
- Arthur Charles Fox-Davies (1929). Armorial families: a directory of gentlemen of coat-armour. Hurst & Blackett. p. 199.
- "William Hyde Eagleson Gordon". Kent Archaeological Society. January 2008. Retrieved 9 January 2014.
- "No. 30250". The London Gazette (Supplement). 24 August 1917. p. 8796.
- "No. 11024". The Edinburgh Gazette. 20 September 1898. p. 921.
- "No. 27258". The London Gazette. 21 December 1900. p. 8623.
- "No. 12909". The Edinburgh Gazette. 28 February 1916. pp. 339–340.
- "No. 13462". The Edinburgh Gazette. 13 June 1919. p. 2133.
- "No. 31736". The London Gazette (Supplement). 16 January 1920. p. 701.
- "No. 31039". The London Gazette (Supplement). 29 November 1918. p. 14096.
- "No. 30202". The London Gazette (Supplement). 24 July 1917. pp. 7589–7591.
- "No. 32022". The London Gazette (Supplement). 18 August 1920. p. 8552.
- "No. 13132". The Edinburgh Gazette. 24 August 1917. p. 1775.
- "No. 13658". The Edinburgh Gazette. 7 December 1920. p. 2648.