Remembering those who fought in the Great War.

Robert Hope Gordon

Robert Hope Gordon was born in Greenock on the 14th of September 1893. He was the eldest son of John Hope a sugar broker and brother to Aline. Robert was educated at Fettes College, Edinburgh  before attending Exeter College, Oxford on an open scholarship to study classics. At Oxford he achieved a Class II in Classical Moderations in 1913. During his time at Oxford he was a friend of J.R.R. Tolkien (the author of Lord of the Rings) and was a member of a small club who called themselves the Apolausticks, which was co-founded by Tolkien.

Robert enlisted on the 10th of September 1914, receiving a commission as 2nd Lieutenant of  the 8th Battalion of the Kings Liverpool Regiment. He was wounded  at Ypres in the scalp and the shoulder and spent time convalescing in the highlands with his family.  Once he was declared fit for action again he was sent back to the trenches and died attacking Guillemont, part of the Battle of the Somme.

On the August 8th 1916 Robert was part of the offensive that attacked and broke through the German lines to push between the west of Guillemont and the Quarry. They entered the village but the Germans counter-attacked and they became cut off as the men who were to guard the right flank hadn't made it through the fighting. After repeated attempts to get messages through the enemy lines and call for reinforcements Robert volunteered to go and see if he would have any success in getting a message back. Word later came down the line that Lieutenant Gordon had been killed having received 6 or 7 bullet wounds and having had no success in getting the message through. The remaining men being surrounded had to surrender and 1/8th Kings lost 570 officers and men killed, wounded or captured in this action. Robert is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial, the memorial for the missing of the Somme.

letter to Gordon's father by Lieutenant WH Spargo dated 14/1/17 reads "I regret I have not been able to answer your letter before but I was in hospital having another operation when your letter arrived. But as it is all over now I will attempt to reply to your letter as fully as possible. I was with your son up until the time he tried to get the message back. Captain Murphy was also with us in the same shell hole. I will give you all the information I can. Our orders were to go through the village of Guillemont and dig ourselves in on the other side of the village and to hold a certain sector which was allotted to 8 KLR. We started off before light and got to our sector without much difficulty. The battalion on our right failed to turn up and our right flank was exposed at daylight. At about 8am we saw some Germans coming on the right flank. They surrounded us and we found we were in a dangerous position. After repeated attempts to try and get messages back but without success, your son volunteered to try and see if he could have any success in taking a message back. He went off with one of the men and shortly afterwards word came down the line that Lieutenant Gordon had been killed having received about 6 or 7 bullet wounds and had no better success than those previous. We then had an order to try and retire and in our attempt Captain Murphy was wounded and we had to leave him and got to the left of the line. When we saw all our men were being mowed down by the enemy machine gun fire another officer Lieutenant Lilley came to me and said there was no getting back as the Germans were all around and that we must surrender. On looking up we found that our men had surrendered. I was the last to leave that particular portion of the line and I saw nothing of your son. On reaching Combles we were formed up and marched in fours towards Sailly-Sal when I was hit by a piece of shell which caused the amputation of my arm. We were a party of about 300 men including men from 1 KLR Mr Lilley and myself. Mr Lilley was afterwards killed by a shell. We were the first batch of prisoners to move off. I was taken to two dressing stations on the same night and then moved to St Quentin where all wounded prisoners were brought. Nothing was seen of your son. I cannot say whether the Germans buried any men, I should hardly think so as some of our men were lying out for four days. We were taken prisoner about 8:30am. I was in St Quentin hospital for nearly a month and saw most of the new arrivals including Captain Williams of 10 KLR who died there but there was no news of your son. Lieutenant Sissons (8 KLR) who was in Dulmen Camp, a prisoner of war, came along after me and he may know something further. I am sorry I am unable to give you any more news concerning your son who was very popular with all of us. I don't think its likely to be as Lieutenant Palmer says because I have met with officers from all German hospitals and they would have mentioned the fact of any officer staying behind especially if they are of the same regiment. If there is anything further you would wish to know I should only be too pleased to answer. Yours sincerely WH Spargo." The letter was written from the Palace Hotel, Muren, Switzerland.

Robert Hope Gordon