James Willoughby Gordon

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Sir James Willoughby Gordon
Born 21 October 1772
Died 4 January 1851 (1851-01-05) (aged 78)
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Rank General
Battles/wars Peninsular War
Awards Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Guelphic Order

General Sir James Willoughby Gordon, 1st Baronet GCB GCH (21 October 1772 – 4 January 1851) was Quartermaster-General to the Forces.

Early life[edit]

He was the eldest son of Captain Francis Gordon (formerly Grant), RN and Mary, daughter of Sir Willoughby Aston, 5th Baronet of Risley, Derbyshire.[1]

Military career[edit]

Gordon was commissioned into the 66th Regiment of Foot in 1783.[2]

He was appointed Assistant Adjutant General in Ireland in 1795 and in 1801 under Colonel William Henry Clinton commanded the 85th Regiment of Foot in Madeira following its capture. Later the same year he became Deputy Adjutant-General in the West Indies.[2] After serving as Aide de Camp and Military Secretary to the Duke of Kent, he returned to England in 1803 to become Assistant Quartermaster-General.[2] He was made Military Secretary to Prince Frederick, Duke of York and Albany, the Commander-in-Chief of the Forces in 1804, during which period he gave what Thomas Creevey regarded as "pompous, impudent evidence" to the House of Commons enquiry into the Mary Anne Clarke Affair.[1] He was subsequently Commissary-in-Chief to the Forces from 1809.[2] He was made Lieutenant General in 1825.[1]

He was Quartermaster-General to the Forces from 1811 to 1851.[2] During this time, he was one of the many present for the Robert Adams' narration of his adventures as a Barbary slave in North Africa. Despite the veracity of this narration being questioned by many during this time, Gordon publicly proclaimed his faith in the truth of Adams' story, announcing that "if he proved an imposter, he will be the second only to Psalmanazar." Gordon's support of Adams was very significant, due to the controversial nature of The Narrative of Robert Adams.[3]

He was given the colonelcy of the 85th (Bucks Volunteers) Regiment of Foot (Light Infantry) from 1815 to 1823 [4] and of the 23rd Regiment of Foot (Royal Welsh Fuzileers) from 1823.[5] He was promoted full general on 23 November 1841.

Gordon died at his residence in the Royal Hospital Chelsea in 1851 from a severe attack of bronchitis.[6] His body was subsequently taken by railway and buried in the family vault at Knighton on the Isle of Wight.[7]


He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1801. He was made Baronet Gordon of Northcourt in the Isle of Wight in 1818 and awarded Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Guelphic Order (GCH) in 1825 and Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (KGB) in 1831.[8]

He was also Member of Parliament for Launceston from 1830 to 1831.[9]


On 15 October 1805, he married Julia Lavinia, daughter of Richard Henry Alexander Bennet of North Court, Shorwell, Isle of Wight.[1] Their only son Henry Percy Gordon was senior wrangler at the University of Cambridge in 1827.[10] A daughter, Julia-Emily was born on 13 October 1810.[11]



  1. ^ a b c d "GORDON, Sir James Willoughby, 1st bt. (1772-1851), of Niton, I.o.W". UK Parliament. Retrieved 15 August 2016. 
  2. ^ a b c d e British Generals of the Napoleonic Wars 1793-1815
  3. ^ Adams, Charles Hansford (2005). The Narrative of Robert Adams: A Barbary Captive. New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. xxi. ISBN 978-0-521-60373-7. 
  4. ^ "85th, or The King's Regiment of Light Infantry (Bucks Volunteers)". regiments.org. Archived from the original on 15 July 2006. Retrieved 6 August 2016. 
  5. ^ "The Royal Welch Fusiliers". regiments.org. Archived from the original on 12 July 2006. Retrieved 6 August 2016. 
  6. ^ "Obituary". Hampshire Advertiser. 11 January 1851. Retrieved 15 August 2016 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)). 
  7. ^ "The Army". Edinburgh Evening Courant. 13 January 1851. Retrieved 15 August 2016 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (help)). 
  8. ^ "Library Archive". Royal Society. Retrieved 2012-11-27. 
  9. ^ Leigh Rayment
  10. ^ Neale, Charles Montague (1907). The senior wranglers of the University of Cambridge, from 1748 to 1907. With biographical, & c., notes. Bury St. Edmunds: Groom and Son. p. 31. Retrieved 4 March 2011. 
  11. ^ Debrett's Baronetage of England. C. and J. Rivington. 1828. p. 705. 

 "Gordon, James Willoughby". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. 

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Sir William Clinton
Military Secretary
Succeeded by
Sir Henry Torrens
Preceded by
Sir Robert Brownrigg
Quartermaster-General to the Forces
Succeeded by
Sir James Freeth
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Pownoll Pellew
Member of Parliament for Launceston
With: James Brogden
Succeeded by
John Malcolm