Robert " Pat " Gordon

Pte Robert Gordon, 4th Gordon Highlanders


Robert Patrick Gordon was born on 5th August 1895 at Christkirk, Kennethmont and was the second oldest of a family of three brothers and four sisters. His parents were James Adam and Jeannie Gordon. He was known to his family and friends as Pat. His father was tenant in the farm of Christkirk on the Leith Hall Estate which had been farmed by members of the Gordon family for many years. As a Student of Arts at Aberdeen University he joined the University company of The Gordon Highlanders on entry to the University in 1912. 'U' company as it was aptly designated was incorporated within 'D' company of the regiment's 4th Battalion (Territorial Force).

On joining the Territorials a soldier agreed to be available for home service only and could not be posted overseas. When the threat of war came in 1914 most of the Territorial Soldiers of The Gordon Highlanders agreed to serve overseas and thus became available for 'Imperial Service'. These men were then entitled to wear The Imperial Service Badge.

At the outbreak of war the battalion were at their summer training camp at Tain where they had been since 18th July. The annual camp was a great attraction for the men as they were away from home for two weeks, and were paid. They were mobilised on 4th August and went from there directly to join the other Gordon Territorial Battalions in The Highland Division at Bedford via Perth. There they trained and prepared for their inevitable move to the Western Front. On 19th Feb 1915 they journeyed to Southampton by train. This is detailed in Pat's letter home written on the journey. At the Docks they joined the transport ship "Archimedes" which left its berth at 7pm and arrived at Le Havre, France next morning.

The Battalion joined 8th Brigade, 3rd Division near Zillebeke, Belgium on 27th Feb. Pat and his comrades in 16 Platoon, 'D' Coy first went into the line in trenches near Kemmel alongside the regulars of the 1st Battalion, Gordon Highlanders on the evening of 8th March 1915 where they relieved the 1st Grenadier Guards. They served in and out of the line in this quiet sector for the next three months.

Pat Gordon was struck down by severe influenza at the end of April and on 1st May writes home from No 8 Stationary Hospital, Boulogne. He writes that he was sent this far 'down the line' as they were trying to keep the Field Hospitals closer to the front clear owing to the current heavy fighting.
He moved to No2 Territorial Base Camp at Rouen on 8th May. Still there on 4th June he complains of being there for an exceptionally long time as there are not enough men from the 4th battalion to send 'up the line' as yet.

Having heard of his brothers death he writes to his sister Jenella from Rouen on 12th June and returns to his unit near Hooge the following week.

Map of German front line trench system at Hooge - Bellewarde Ridge

This map is reproduced here by kind permission of The Liverpool Scottish Museum Trust.
The Liverpool Scottish also took part in the action at Bellewaarde

4 Battalion GH, 26 May-20 June 1915

The Battalion had been in front line trenches near Hooge for nearly a month. They arrived here from camp at Brandhoek near Vlamertinge and returned here after the battle.

16 June
The First Attack on Bellewaarde sometimes referred to as The Battle of Hooge or Menin Road was fought in an area between the Menin Road and the Ypres-Roulers railway line. The German front line of the Ypres Salient ran along the edge of 'Y' Wood ( see plan above). The action began with a highly accurate artillery bombardment which commenced at 2.50am on 16th June. When it stopped at 4.15am 7th Brigade advanced on the German line. At 10.30am 'D' Coy advanced to 'Y' Wood from trenches across the Menin road near Birr Cross Roads undergoing heavy shelling from shrapnel. No room could be found in 'Y' Wood as the trenches were all occupied, with more men being driven back by German bombs, shrapnel and machine gun fire from 'Y' Wood.

At 12.00 'D' Coy, having failed to find unoccupied trenches, start to dig new trenches in 'Y' Wood amid considerable confusion and poor communications. The trenches in 'Y' Wood were severely shelled during the afternoon and evening. At 3pm 42nd Brigade arrive in the front line trenches but are unable to advance due to heavy German shell fire and GAS shells. At 5pm 42nd Brigade withdraw to Ypres. 8-9pm all now quiet. 10-12pm, the wounded are collected. 'D' Coy are relieved in 'Y' Wood. Casualties 4 Officers wounded, 7 men killed, 46 wounded, 1 man missing.


The Menin Road at Hooge

The Menin Road towards Ypres from the German Front Line position at Hooge (Aug 2001).

The Gordons advanced from their start point up the similar rising ground of Bellewaarde Ridge from positions to the left of the black car (Birr Cross Roads), to 'Y' Wood. Bellewaarde (42.5m) and the other ridges of the Salient i.e. Frenzenberg, Pilkem, Passchendaele, etc gave the Germans commanding views and defensive positions overlooking the Flanders Plain and was to become the front line for nearly four years. The town of Ypres two miles away was reduced to rubble by shelling but never fell into German hands.

Further images of Ypres and the Menin Road 1915-16

17 June
The Battalion are in reserve in GHQ Line. Germans shell communication trench for first time, 3 killed, 5 wounded.

18 June
'A' & 'D' Coys are in CHQ line south of Menin Road. 'B' Coy north of road. 'C' Coy go to 'Y' Wood to bury dead. Quiet day, no casualties.

19 June
Battalion distributed as 18th. Some shelling, relieved by KRR (King's Royal Rifle Corps) at 9.30pm and marched back to bivouacs at VLAMERTINGNE. 1 man killed, 5 wounded.

20 June
Resting at bivouacs, 1 man accidentally wounded.


It is interesting to note that the The Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the memorial card record that Pat Gordon died on 19th June. This information will have been supplied by the War Office. The Aberdeen University Roll of Honour states he was ' killed in action in an assault on German lines in a wood near Hooge on 17th June'. From the War Diary it is clear that the action in 'Y' Wood took place on the 16th / 17th and on the 18th / 19th the Battalion were clearing up with the loss of one man.

In a letter of 20th June 1915 to his father Capt Henderson Begg, OC 'D' Coy states that the company were holding a line of trenches just previous to being relieved and that Pat, having returned from hospital the night before, was hit in the head and killed instantly by a fragment of a shell which fell right into the trench. He writes that Pat was buried in a little garden just behind the trench where others from the company lie and that the grave was marked by a wooden cross bearing his name.

His friend Pte (later Sgt) Alec Rule of Huntly wrote to his father on 21st June and confirms that Pat was killed by a shell which burst in the trench traverse where Pat was and that he believed he was nearest it. The others in the traverse were slightly wounded. This ties with the War Diary entry of 19 June - 1 man killed, 5 wounded. Rule writes that Pat returned to the front a day or two earlier.

He describes taking an active part in the burial that same evening. The simple service was conducted by a Sergeant of 'D' Company (a divinity student) and the grave was marked by a wooden cross. A wreath was placed on the grave.
The grave was subsequently lost due to the constant military activity in the area during the next three years. Having no known grave the name of Robert Gordon is recorded on The Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing at Ypres.


The brothers In Memoriam card

This sad memorial card bears the photographs and details of the deaths in action of Pat and his younger brother George.
Dod Gordon (6th GH), aged 17, was killed at Festubert two weeks before his brother. He too has no known grave and is commemorated on
the Memorial to the Missing at Le Touret Military Cemetery, France.

1914-15 trio The 1914-15 Star The British War Medal The Victory Medal
Move mouse over medals to view reverse The British War Medal

Robert Gordon was awarded these medals for serving his King and Country in The Great War.

Robert qualified for the 1914-1915 Star (left). It was awarded to all personnel (including naval) who served in any theatre of war between 5th August 1914 and 31st December 1915, other than those who had already qualified for the 1914 Star.

The British War Medal (centre) and Victory Medal (right) were awarded to all personnel.
The trio were commonly called "Pip, Squeak and Wilfred" after newspaper cartoon characters of the day.
The British War Medal

View letter from Pat, en route to France

Pat's letter to his father at Christkirk written on the troop train taking his battalion to Southampton from their camp at Bedford in Feb 1915. This was the first stage of the journey to Flanders.


The Gordon family headstone at Insch Cemetery

Insch Cemetery

The family headstone at Insch Cemetery has details of the Gordon brothers.

Private Robert Patrick Gordon
who died near Ypres 19 June 1915 aged 19 years
Pte George Gordon
who died at Givenchy 4 June 1915 aged 17 years


Photographed Nov 2001


This is an extract from the University of Aberdeen Memorial Book.
It lists students of the University who fell in The Great War, the majority in 'U' Coy, 4GH.
Most have brief details, some including Robert, had a fuller account at the front of the book.

Robert Gordon - Student Soldier


The Gordon Family, Christkirk, circa 1910

The Gordon Family, Christkirk. c 1911

Jenella, George, Robert, James,
Constance, James A Gordon, Christina, John, Mrs Jeannie Gordon

(A sister, Lizzie, died in infancy in 1904)

Family photographs, letters and medals are reproduced here by kind permission
of his nephews George, Robert and James Gordon, Alford.