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Friday, 26 January 2018

The death of General Gordon.

One hundred and thirty two years ago today, the Mahdist forces entered Khartoum. During the defence of his headquarters, General Charles 'Chinese' Gordon was killed.


Charles George Gordon was born in Woolwich on 28th January, 1833. (The family home faced westwards toward Woolwich Common, and was demolished as part of an urban regeneration scheme.)


His father was Major General Henry William Gordon, and after attending school in Taunton, Somerset, Charles attended the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, to train as an officer in the Royal Engineers.


He graduated as a Second Lieutenant in June 1852, and was promoted to be a full Lieutenant in January 1854.

He served in the Crimea before commanding the Ever Victorious Army during the Taiping Rebellion in China. After a spell in Gravesend, Kent, where he was in charge of the improvements to London's defences, he went to the Sudan for the first time. During his time there he did much to suppress the slave trade and to improve conditions for the population.

When the situation in the Sudan worsened after the Mahdist uprising, Gordon was asked to return there to ensure the safe extraction of Egyptian troops and civilians. He chose to disobey his orders, and decided to defend the capital of the Sudan, Khartoum. After a siege that lasted many months, the Mahdists finally broke through the city's defences, and General Gordon was killed during the fighting.

15 comments:

  1. Very interesting chap , sadly I don't think there's a modernish biography (?)

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    Replies
    1. The Good Soldier Svjek,

      The most recent biography that I tried to read - the name of which I have forgotten - seemed to be more interested in investigating Gordon's sexuality than telling his life story. In the end I gave up and passed the book on to a local charity shop.

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
  2. The RE Museum has a good display from his time in China.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nigel Drury,

      I really must re-visit the museum. It is quite a few years since I went there, and it is less than an hour's drive away,

      All the best,

      Bob

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  3. Have you looked round Fort Pitt since they joined the site up with the Great Lines?

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    Replies
    1. Nigel Drury,

      Not yet. It is something to add to my 'to do' list!

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
  4. Replies
    1. Jacko,

      I understand that it was William Augustus Gordon who went to New Zealand, and died in Invercargill, Southland Province on 12th October, 1863.

      All the best,

      Bob

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  5. My father's lodge was Gordon Lodge in N Staffs. It was formed just after his death. I am pretty certain he bought that book and then threw it on the fire for the same reason. He was chuffed when I gave him a painted model of the famous death scene one year.

    Guy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lindsay (Guy),

      For some inexplicable reason, your comment went into my spam folder, and I have only just found it!

      I didn't know that there was a Lodge named after General Gordon, and I intend trying to find out more about it.

      As to the book ... well Gordon's sexuality does not seem to have been a major factor in his life, nor did he seem to have been the subject of any serious rumours or accusations that might have indicated anything untoward. I suspect that his religion was sufficient sustenance for his physical and moral life, and that he did not need the 'pleasures of the flesh'. In retrospect I wish that I had treated the book in the way that your father did.

      A model of Gordon's famous death scene must have been something he would have enjoyed being given. That's a great present, and well done for giving it to him!

      All the best,

      Bob

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  6. Bob, it is Gordon Lodge No 2149 consecrated on 4th may 1886. My grandfather was WM in 1945 and my father in 1972. There is a book in my father's case of the first 100 years written in 1985. Dad was scretary then. Apparently there is another Gordon lodge in Bognor Regis in Sussex no 1726. That was consecrated in1877. Yet another in Melbourne also named after the great man, no 2112 and they beat the N staffs lot as they were consecrated on 11th February 1886.

    According to the book, the lodge banner contained a lock of the general's hair and the red fez on his head was woven from the thread of one of his tunics which was presented by one of his family.

    Guy ( on Lindsay's iPad!)

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    Replies
    1. Guy,

      That is a wonderful piece of Masonic history ... and one day I hope to include that information into one of my talks.

      As far as I can find out, Gordon wasn't a Freemason, although membership was strong in both the Royal Engineers and Woolwich.

      All the best,

      Bob

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    2. Guy,

      Apparently the Gordon Lodge in Bognor Regis was named after a different person. ( http://www.lodge1726.com/cgi-bin/page?History ).

      All the best,

      Bob

      Delete
  7. My dad always said the brethren of Gordon was made up of medics, lawyers and ex-gunners who did their ritual LOUDLY! I only visited twice, the last time about 6 months before my dad died. He hadn't been for about 10 years as he moved down to Sandwich but when he entered the lodge they all stood up and applauded him. V moving.

    Guy

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    Replies
    1. Guy,

      I used to sit on a committee where all the other members were ex-gunners. Luckily I leaned to project my voice when I was young, otherwise I doubt if any of them would have been able to hear me!

      You are very lucky to have a family tradition of being in The Craft. As far as I know, I am the first of my family to join. It must gave been quite something to visit your father's Mother Lodge with him and see him receive such a reception.

      All the best,

      Bob

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