Family Research – English, Scottish and Irish Genealogy

3/10/2005

A Gordon for me!



Napolean called them Amazons. To Churchill they were “the finest regiment in the world:’ And tenor Robert Wilson immortalised them by singing lustily of “the pride o’ them a’
They were the Gordon High formed 200 years ago and the stars of this August’s Edinburgh Tattoo, who are now involved in their final campaign, prior to amalgamation with the Queen’s Own High in the autumn.
Army cutbacks have meant the Gordons identity will now be swallowed up by the new regiment formed under the simple, broad tide of The Fligh
So, in order to preserve their long. proud heritage and traditions, the Gordons have embarked on a battle to refurbish, redesign and expand their museum premises at St. Luke’s in Viewfield Road. Aberdeen, into a fitting shrine to the brave men of north east Scotland who performed heroic deeds for their country over two centuries. It all started with a kiss.
That was in the spring and summer of 1794 when the Duke of Gordon enlisted the help of his beautiful wife Jean to raise a regiment to help combat the revolutionary fervour of France which was threatening these shores.
On horseback and dressed jauntily in trews, plaid, red tunic and glengarry cap with cockade, she toured fairs and villages throughout Aberdeenshire, Banffshire and Kincardineshire.
With a meny gleam in her eye, she promised a kiss to any man who accepted the “King’s Shilling” and her ploy must have proved irresistible to many for recruits joined in droves and the regiment was officially formed on June 24 in Aberdeen. They first saw action against the French in 1799 in Holland and again a year later in Egypt.
During the Peninsular ‘War they fought under Sir John Moore and vastly outnumbered and hemmed in, proved resolute and stoical during his prolonged, bitter rearguard action which ended at Corunna with the defeat of the enemy but the death of the inspiring commander.
In honour of Moore, the officers thereafter changed the blue line of their lace to black and also wore black buttons on their spats.
Along with the Highland Light Infantry and under the dogged but brilliant generalship of the Duke of Wellington, the Gordons fought their way up through Spain, driving the French before them at battles such as Fuentes d’Onor, Almaraz and Vittoria. At the battle of Arroyo Des Molinos the Gordons emulated their Jacobite forebears by charging, bayonets fixed, into the French at sunrise to the pipe tune ‘Hey, Johnnie Cope, are ye waukin’ yet?’
At Maya, although outnumbered and reduced by casualties, the Gordons were reinforced and then ordered not to advance. However, this last instruction seems to have got mislaid for the troops duly rallied and set off on a victorious charge to the strains of the ‘Haughs of Cromdale’.
When Napoleon escaped from Elba and threatened Europe once more, the Gordons were on hand to deal with him. A group of them played the pipes and performed sword dances at the Duchess of Richmond’s famous Brussels Ball on the eve of the Waterloo Campaign. During the latter, the Highlanders distinguished themselves at the battle of Quatre Bras and it was by leaping over their heads on horseback and hiding in their ranks that the harassed Duke of Wellington narrowly escaped capture by French cavalry.
At the battle of Waterloo Napoleon, staring in wonderment through his telescope at the distant kilted figures marching in formation towards him, made his famous remark, “What are these Amazons they are sending against me?”
At a crucial stage in the battle the Gordons were finding it hard going
against the massed French columns when they were joined by the mounted ranks of the Royal Scots Greys who launched a spectacular cavalry charge to shouts of ‘Scotland Forever’. The infantry got literally carried away in the frenzied attack, many of them grasping onto the legs and stirrups of the cavalrymen as the onslaught swept down to overwhelm the enemy.
After the end of the Napoleonic Wars there was peace in Europe but plenty to occupy the Gordons who helped expand the British Empire in India and Africa.
They were prominent in quelling the Indian Mutiny in 1857 and marched with their pipes skirling to the relief of Lucknow.
They fought savage rebels on the north-west frontier. patrolled the Khyber Pass and during the Afghan Wars took part in the hazardous 23 day march from Kabul to relieve Kandahar in 1879 where they led the successful attack on massed enemy guns.
Wherever they marched. the stirring bagpipe tunes of the Gordons brought hope and inspiration to beleaguered British colonists.
This was never more apparent than at the battle of Dargai Heights in northwest India where rebel tribesmen had successfully held off the advances of three battalions trying to over-run their main base in a mountain village.
Then the Gordons were sent forward through the withering crossfire and up the precipitous slopes.
Within forty minutes they had stormed and over-run the rebel positions to the pipe tune and regimental march ‘Cock of the North’ played by Piper George Findlater who had been shot through both ankles and lay on the ground in agony under fire. He won the V.C. for his gallant musicianship and a second medal was won by a Private Lawson who brought in wounded comrades under fire although he had himself been shot. In all the regiment throughout its history won nineteen V.C,s.
The Boer War found the Gordons uncharacteristically on the defensive, lasting out the 120 days of the siege of Ladysmith before they were relieved.
In more typical fashion. they took part in an unfaltering charge under intense, withering fire at Doornkop in 1900 and it was there that a young war correspondent called Winston Churchill despatched back home the words., “There is no doubt they arc the finest regiment in the world!”
Much of this bravery was wantonly wasted as “the devils in skirts” fought through and perished in many of the horrendous bloodbaths of the First World War losing 30.000 men in the process.
World War Two started off badly with defeats at Dunkirk and Singapore but the regiment went on to recoup and distinguish itself at El Alamein, Tripoli. D Day and the consequent
push through France and Germany and also in the Burma campaign.
Since 1945 the Gordons have acted with tact, firmness and restraint in numerous anti—terrorist actions in Malaya. Cyprus, Borneo and Northern Ireland and have also been involved in United Nations peacekeeping actions.
They served in the Gulf War and last year were in Bosnia and have for decades been part of the occupation forces in Germany.
Ironically they returned to the battle of Waterloo in 1970 – this time to face the Red Army. For the multi national epic film ‘Waterloo’ filmed in Turkey, producer Dino de Laurentis hired the Gordons for authenticity.
The Gordons have always been the most closely-knit family regiment Highland in nature, spirit and tradition, reaping the best manly qualities of Dee and Don, of Buchan, Banif, the Mearns and Aberdeen.

(c) Scottish Memories

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