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Gordon, Bernard Sidney (1891–1963)

by James W. Courtney

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Bernard Sidney Gordon (1891-1963), soldier and dairy farmer, was born on 16 August 1891 at Launceston, Tasmania, son of Charles Gordon, cabman and later hotel proprietor, and his wife Mary, née Rowlands. After schooling at Deloraine and Devonport he worked as a cooper's machinist at Beaconsfield. He later went to Townsville, Queensland, where he was in charge of remounts en route to India.

Gordon enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force at Townsville on 27 September 1915 and joined the 41st Battalion as a private, embarking for overseas service on the Demosthenes in May 1916. He remained with the battalion throughout the war, serving in France and Belgium where he was first wounded on 5 October 1917. In June 1918 he was promoted lance corporal.

In July 1918 the 41st Battalion, as part of the 11th Infantry Brigade, was involved in an attack on Hamel, and Gordon was awarded the Military Medal for gallant conduct. He was later awarded the Victoria Cross, for 'most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty on 26th-27th August, 1918, east of Bray'. In this action, the citation stated, Gordon displayed 'a wonderful example of fearless initiative'. He led his section through heavy shell-fire to its objective, which he consolidated. 'Single-handed he attacked an enemy machine-gun which was enfilading the company on his right, killed the man on the gun and captured the post, which contained one officer and ten men. He then cleaned up a trench, capturing twenty-nine prisoners and two machine-guns … Practically unaided, he captured, in the course of these operations, two officers and sixty-one other ranks, together with six machine-guns'.

Gordon was again wounded on 1 September while the battalion was advancing in the Mont St Quentin area. He returned to Australia in January 1919, and was discharged in Queensland in April. He ran a grocer's shop at Clayfield but then took up a dairy farming and Jersey stud property, Lincolnfield, near Beaudesert, where he farmed for forty-three years. A keen amateur rider, he was also a good horse-breaker and keen sportsman, a promoter of racing, cycling, boxing and football; he won many amateur boxing tournaments and medals for his achievements. He was a popular man in any company, with a ready wit and a keen sense of humour, and was well known for his stories and anecdotes. In 1956 he attended the Victoria Cross centenary celebrations in London, and in 1960, in his honour, the Gordon Soldiers' Club was opened at Cabarlah, Queensland.

Gordon remained at Lincolnfield until ill health forced him to move to Hervey Bay early in 1962. He had suffered for years from pulmonary tuberculosis. He died at Torquay, Queensland, on 19 October 1963, and was cremated in Brisbane with Methodist forms. Gordon had married Evelyn Catherine Lonergan on 29 December 1915 at Launceston, with Catholic rites; there were six children of this marriage. He was a widower when he married Caroline Edith Manley, née Victorsen, a widow, on 15 September 1938, at Ann Street Presbyterian Church, Brisbane; they had two sons and one daughter. Gordon was survived by his second wife and eight of his children.

Select Bibliography

  • C. E. W. Bean, The A.I.F in France, 1918 (Syd, 1942)
  • L. Wigmore (ed), They Dared Mightily (Canb, 1963)
  • London Gazette, 24 Dec 1918, 21 Jan 1919
  • Reveille (Sydney), Dec 1963
  • records (Australian War Memorial)
  • private information.

Citation details

James W. Courtney, 'Gordon, Bernard Sidney (1891–1963)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/gordon-bernard-sidney-6426/text10991, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 19 January 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

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