In 200 years of proud Regimental history, 19 Gordon Highlanders were awarded with the highest decoration for gallantry in the British armed forces: the Victoria Cross. Famously cast from the bronze of Russian cannon captured in the Crimean War, the Victoria Cross is an enduring symbol of valour of the highest order.
At The Gordon Highlanders Museum, 11 of these 19 Victoria Crosses are on permanent display. Each one represents an extraordinary story of courage, often against near-impossible odds, on battlefields as far apart as Afghanistan and the Western Front.
Victoria Cross medals held at the museum
Lieutenant Richard Wadeson
Richard Wadeson, Lieutenant, 75th Regiment. Date of Act of Bravery: 18th July, 1857. For conspicuous bravery at Delhi on the 18th July, 1857, when the regiment was engaged in the Subjee Mundee, in having saved the life of Private Michael Farrell, when attacked by a sowar (mounted Indian soldier) of the enemy's cavalry, and killed the sowar. Also on the same day for rescuing Private John Barry, of the same regiment, when wounded and helpless, he was attacked by a cavalry sowar, whom Lieutenant Wadeson killed.
Major George Stuart White
George Stuart White, Major (now Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel), 92nd Regiment (Gordon Highlanders). Date of Act of Bravery: 6th October, 1879. For conspicuous bravery during the engagement at Charasiah on 6th October, 1879, when, finding that the artillery and rifle fire failed to dislodge the enemy from a fortified hill which it was necessary to capture, Major White led an attack on it in person. Advancing with two companies of his regiment, and climbing from one steep ledge to another, he came upon a body of the enemy strongly posted and outnumbering his force by about eight to one. His men being much exhausted and immediate action being necessary, Major White took a rifle and, going on by himself, shot the leader of the enemy. This act so intimidated the rest that they fled round the side of the hill and the position was won. Again on the 1st September, 1880, at the Battle of Kandahar, Major White, in leading the final charge under heavy fire from the enemy, who held a strong position and were supported by two guns, rode straight up to within a few yards of them, and seeing the guns, dashed forward and secured one, immediately after which the enemy retired.
Captain William Henry Dick-Cunyngham
William Henry Dick-Cunyngham, Captain, The Gordon Highlanders. Date of Act of Bravery: 13th December, 1879. For conspicuous gallantry and bravery displayed by him on the 13th December, 1879, at the attack on the Sherpur Pass in Afghanistan, in having exposed himself to the full fire of the enemy, and by his example and encouragement rallied the men who, having been beaten back, were at the moment wavering at the top of the hill.
Piper George Findlater
North West Frontier, 1897
George Findlater, Piper, The Gordon Highlanders. Date of Act of Bravery: 20th October, 1897. During the attack on the Dargai Heights on the 20th October, 1897, Piper Findlater, after being shot through both feet, and unable to stand, sat up, under a heavy fire, playing the regimental march to encourage the charge of the Gordon Highlanders.
Private Edward Lawson
North West Frontier, 1897
Edward Lawson, Private, The Gordon Highlanders. Date of Act of Bravery: 20th October, 1897. During the attack on the Dargai Heights on the 20th October, 1897, Private Lawson carried Lieutenant K. Dingwall, The Gordon Highlanders (who was wounded and unable to move), out of a heavy fire, and subsequently returned and brought in Private McMillan, being himself wounded in two places.
Captain Ernest Beachcroft Beckwith Towse
South Africa, 1899 & 1900
Ernest Beachcroft Beckwith Towse, Captain, The Gordon Highlanders. Dates of Acts of Bravery: 11th December, 1899, 30th April, 1900. On the 11th December 1899, at the action of Magersfontein, Captain Towse was brought to notice by his commanding officer for his gallantry and devotion in assisting the late Colonel Downman, when mortally wounded, in the retirement, and endeavouring when close up to the front of the firing line, to carry Colonel Downman on his back; but finding this not possible, Captain Towse supported him till joined by Colour-Sergeant Nelson and Lance Corporal Hodgson. On the 30th April, 1900, Captain Towse, with twelve men, took up a position on the top of Mount Thaba, far away from support. A force of about 150 Boers attempted to seize the same plateau, neither party appearing to see the other until they were but one hundred yards apart. Some of the Boers then got within forty yards of Captain Towse and his party, and called on him to surrender. He at once caused his men to open fire, and remained firing himself until severely wounded (both eyes shattered), thus succeeding in driving off the Boers. The gallantry of this officer in vigorously attacking the enemy (for he not only fired, but charged forward) saved the situation, not withstanding the numerical superiority of the Boers.
Captain Matthew Fontaine Maury Meiklejohn
South Africa, 1899
Matthew Fontaine Maury Meiklejohn, Captain, The Gordon Highlanders. Date of Act of Bravery: 21st October, 1899. At the Battle of Elandslaagte, on the 21st October, 1899, after the main Boer position had been captured, some of the men of The Gordon Highlanders, when about to advance, were exposed to a heavy cross-fire, and, having lost their leaders, commenced to waver. Seeing this, Captain Meiklejohn rushed to the front and called on the Gordons to follow him. By his conspicuous bravery and fearless example he rallied the men and led them against the enemy's position, where he fell, desperately wounded in four places.
Corporal John Frederick Mackay
South Africa, 1900
John Frederick Mackay, Corporal, The Gordon Highlanders. Date of Act of Bravery: 29th May, 1900. On the 29th May, 1900, during the action at Doornkop, near Johannesburg, Mackay repeatedly rushed forward, under a withering fire at short range, to attend to wounded comrades, dressing their wounds while he himself was without shelter, and in one instance carrying a wounded man from the open under a heavy fire to the shelter of a boulder.
Captain William Eagleson Gordon
South Africa, 1900
William Eagleson Gordon, Captain, The Gordon Highlanders. Date of Act of Bravery: 11th July, 1900. On the 11th July, 1900, druing the action near Leehoehoek (or Doornboschfontein, near Krugersdorf), a party of men, accompanied by Captains Younger and Allan, having succeeded in dragging an artillery waggon under cover when its horses were unable to do so by reason of the heavy and accurate fire of the enemy, Captain Gordon called for volunteers to go out with him to try and bring in one of the guns. He went out alone to the nearest gun under a heavy fire, and with the greatest coolness fastened the drag rope to the gun and beckoned to the men, who immediately doubled out to join him, in accordance with his previous instructions. While moving the gun Captain Younger and three men were hit. Seeing that further attempts would only result in further casualties, Captain Gordon ordered the remainder of the party under cover of the kopje again, and having seen the wounded safely away, himself retired. Captain Gordon's conduct under a particularly heavy and most accurate fire at only 600 yards' range was most admirable, and his manner of handling his men most masterly; his devotion on every occasion that his battalion has been under fire has been remarkable.
Drummer William Kenny
William Kenny, No. 6535, Drummer, 2nd Battalion, The Gordon Highlanders. Date of Act of Bravery: 23rd October, 1914. For conspicuous bravery on 23rd October, 1914, near Ypres, in rescuing wounded men on five occasions under very heavy fire in the most fearless manner, and for twice previously saving machine guns by carrying them out of action. On numerous occasions Drummer Kenny conveyed urgent messages under very dangerous circumstances over fire-swept ground.
Lieutenant James Anson Otho Brooke
James Anson Otho Brooke, Lieutenant, The Gordon Highlanders. Date of Act of Bravery: 29th October, 1914. For most conspicuous bravery and great ability near Gheluvelt, on the 29th October, in leading two attacks on the German trenches under heavy rifle and machine gun fire, regaining a lost trench at a very critical moment. He was killed on that day. By his marked coolness and promptitude on this occasion, Lieutenant Brooke prevented the enemy from breaking through our line at a time when a general counter-attack could not have been organised.
Note: Brooke held the rank of Acting Captain when he was killed in action. The citation reverted Brooke back to his last permanent rank, that of Lieutenant.
Victoria Cross medals not held at the museum
Private Thomas Beach
Thomas Beach, Private, 55th Regiment. For conspicuous gallantry at the Battle of Inkerman, 5th November, 1854, when on picquet (sentry duty), in attacking several Russians who were plundering Lieutenant-Colonel Carpenter, 41st Regiment, who was lying wounded on the ground. He killed two of the Russians, and protected Lieutenant-Colonel Carpenter until the arrival of some men of the 41st Regiment."
Note: Private Beach was one of many volunteers for service in the Crimea from the 92nd Highlanders, at that time garrison troops in Gibraltar.
Private Patrick Green
Patrick Green, Private, 75th Regiment. Date of Act of Bravery: 11th September, 1857. For the act of bravery recorded in a General Order issued by the Commander-in-Chief in India, of which the following is a copy: "General Order - Headquarters, Allahabad, 28th July, 1858 - The Commander-in-Chief in India is pleased to approve that the undermentioned solder is presented, in the name of Her Most Gracious Majesty, with a Medal of the Victoria Cross, for Valour and daring in the field, viz, Private Patrick Green, Her Majesty's 75th Foot, for having, on 11th September, 1857 when the picque (sentry) at Koodsia Baugh, at Delhi, was hotly pressed by a large body of the enemy, successfully rescued a comrade who had fallen wounded as a skirmisher - (Signed) C. Campbell, General, Commander-in-Chief, East Indies."
Sergeant Cornelius Coghlan
Cornelius Coghlan, Sergeant, 75th Regiment. Dates of Acts of Bravery: 8th June, 1857, 18th July, 1857. For gallantly venturing, under heavy fire, with three others, into a serai (building) occupied by the enemy in great numbers, and removing Private Corbett, 75th Regiment, who lay severely wounded. Also for cheering and encouraging a party which hesitated to charge down a lane in Subjee Mundee, at Delhi, lined on each side with huts, and raked by a cross fire; then entering with the said party into an enclosure filled with the enemy, and destroying every man. For having, also, on the same occasion, returned under a cross fire to collect dhoolies (stretchers) and carry off the wounded; a service which was successfully performed, and for which this man received great praise from the officers of his regiment.
Sergeant-Major William Robertson
South Africa, 1899
William Robertson, Sergeant-Major (now Quartermaster and Honorary Lieutenant), The Gordon Highlanders. Date of Act of Bravery: 21st October, 1899. At the Battle of Elandslaagte, on 21st October, 1899, during the final advance on the enemy position, this Warrant Officer led each successive rush, exposing himself fearlessly to the enemy's artillery and rifle fire to encourage the men. After the main position had been captured, he led a small party to seize the Boer Camp. Though exposed to a deadly cross-fire from the enemy's rifles he gallantly held the position captured, and continued to encourage the men until he was wounded in two places.
Captain David Reginald Younger
South Africa, 1900
(The late) David Reginald Younger, Captain, The Gordon Highlanders. Date of Act of Bravery: 11th July, 1900. This officer, during the action near Krugersdorf on 11th July, 1900, volunteered for and took out a party which successfully dragged a Royal Artillery waggon under cover of a small kopje [small hill], though exposed to a very heavy and accurate fire at only 850 yards' range. He also accompanied the second party of volunteers who went out to try and bring in one of the guns. During the afternoon he was mortally wounded, dying shortly afterwards. His cool and gallant conduct was the admiration of all who witnessed it, and, had Captain Younger lived, the Field-Marshal Commanding-in-Chief in South Africa would have recommended him for the high award of the Victoria Cross, at the same time as Captain W. E. Gordon, of the same regiment.
Note: On the 8th August, 1902, H. M. King Edward VII authorised the posthumous award of the Victoria Cross.
Private George Imlach McIntosh
No. 265579, George McIntosh, Private, 1/6th Battalion, The Gordon Highlanders (Buckie, Banffshire). For most conspicuous bravery when, during the consolidation of a position, his company came under machine gun fire at close range. Private McIntosh immediately rushed forward under heavy fire, and reaching the emplacement, he threw a Mills grenade in to it, killing two of the enemy and wounding a third. Subsequently, entering the dug-out, he found two light machine guns, which he carried back with him. His quick grasp of the situation and the utter fearlessness and rapidity with which he acted undoubtedly saved many of his comrades, and enabled the consolidation to proceed unhindered by machine gun fire. Throughout the day the cheerfulness and courage of Private McIntosh was indomitable, and to his fine example in a great measure was due the success which attended his company.
Lieutenant Allan Ebenezer Ker
Allan Ebenezer Ker, Lieutenant, 3rd Battalion, The Gordon Highlanders. For conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty. On the 21st March, 1918, near St. Quentin, after a heavy bombardment, the enemy penetrated our line, and the flank of the 61st Division became exposed. Lieutenant Ker, with one Vickers gun, succeeded in engaging the enemy's infantry, approaching under cover of dead ground, and held up the attack, inflicting many casualties. He then sent back word to his Battalion Headquarters that he had determined to stop with his Sergeant and several men who had been badly wounded, and fight until a counter-attack could be launched to relieve him. Just as ammunition failed his party were attacked from behind with bombs, machine guns and with the bayonet. Several bayonet attacks were delivered, but each time they were repulsed by Lieutenant Ker and his companions with their revolvers, the Vickers gun having by this time been destroyed. The wounded were collected into a small shelter, and it was decided to defend them to the last and to hold the enemy as long as possible. In one of the many hand-to-hand encounters a German rifle and bayonet and a small supply of ammunition was secured, and subsequently used with good effect against the enemy. Although Lieutenant Ker was very exhausted from want of food and gas poisoning, and from the supreme exertions he had made during ten hours of the most severe bombardment, fighting and attending to the wounded, he refused to surrender until all his ammunition was exhausted and his position was rushed by large numbers of the enemy. His behaviour throughout the day was absolutely cool and fearless, and by his determination he was materially instrumental in engaging and holding up for three hours more than 500 of the enemy.
Private George Allan Mitchell
On the night 23rd/24th January, 1944, six days after the assault crossing of the River Garigliano, A Company, 1st Battalion, The London Scottish, was ordered to carry out a local attack to restore the situation on a portion of the main Damiano ridge.
The Company attacked wtih two platoons forward and a composite platoon of London Scottish and Royal Berkshiremen in reserve. The Company Commander was wounded in the very early stages of the attack. The only other officer with the company was wounded soon afterwards.
No. 9 Section of No. 9 Platoon of this Company was ordered by the Platoon Commander to carry out a right flanking movement against some enemy machine guns which were holding up the advance. Almost as soon as he had issued the order, he was killed. There was no platoon sergeant.
During the advance, the enemy opened heavy machine-gun fire at point-blank range. Without hesitation Private Mitchell dropped the 2-inch mortar which he was carrying, and seizing a rifle and bayonet, charged, alone, up the hill through intense Spandau fire. He reached the enemy machine-gun unscathed, jumped into the weapon pit, shot one and bayoneted the other member of the crew, thus silencing the gun. As a result, the advance of the platoon continued, but shortly afterwards the leading section was again held up by the fire of approximately two German sections who were strongly entrenched. Private Mitchell, realising that prompt action was essential, rushed forward into the assault, firing his rifle from his hip, completely oblivious of the bullets which were sweeping the area. The remainder of his section, inspired by his example, followed him and arrived in time to complete the capture of the position, in which six Germans were killed and twelve made prisoner.
As the section was reorganising itself to continue to its objective, yet another enemy machine-gun openend up on it at close range. Once more Private Mitchell rushed forward alone and with his rifle and bayonet killed the crew.
The section now found itself immediately below the crest of the hill, from which heavy small-arms fire was being directed and grenades were being thrown. Private Mitchell's ammunition was exhausted, but in spite of this he called on the men for one further effort and again led the assault up the steep and rocky hillside. Dashing to the front, he ws again the first man to reach the enemy position and was mainly instrumental in forcing the remainder of the enemy to surrender.
A few minutes later, a German, who had surrendered, picked up a rifle and shot Private Mitchell through the head. Throughout this operation, carried out on a very dark night, up a steep hillside covered in rocks and scrub, Private Mitchell displayed superb courage and devotion to duty of the very highest order. His complete disregard of the enemy fire, the fearless way in which he continually exposed himself, and his refusal to accept defeat, so inspired his comrades, that together they succeeded in overcoming and utterly defeating an enemy superior in numbers, and owning all the advantages of the ground.
(Extract from original citation)