189553 Lieutenant Henry Langston Gordon, Gordon Highlanders, attached to the Gloucestershire Regiment
Born 11th April 1921 in Weymouth, Dorset
Killed in Action 18th November 1944 in Burma (Myanmar)
Henry Langston Gordon was born in Weymouth, Dorset, the second of the six children of Henry Robert (Harry) Gordon and Kathleen née Langston. However, in 1930 his father became the first College Secretary at Ashridge, then the Great House Bonar Law Memorial College. The 1939 Register shows the family living at Ashridge House; however, Henry’s school record notes that, in 1931, their address was New House Farm, Flaunden.
Henry’s older sister Kathleen was born on 16th September 1919, his younger brother Leslie on 27th November 1924, his twin sisters Barbara and Sheila on 7th November 1926 and his youngest sister Jean on 10th August 1938. Leslie and the twins’ births were registered in the Keynsham district of Somerset, where the family lived before moving to Hertfordshire.
From September 1931 to December 1939 Henry was educated at Berkhamsted School, to which he travelled as a Day Boy. He was in St. George’s House, Adders (1934) and then Swifts House (from 1935). A keen sportsman, Henry was in the House 1st XV Rugby and in the 2nd XI Cricket team; he boxed for the School, was part of the House Shooting VIII and a member of the House Gymnastics team. Henry became a School Prefect and, in 1939, was Head of Swifts House. He was also a member of the O.T.C., attaining the rank of Company Sergeant Major.
Military Service 6
Henry joined the Gordon Highlanders in September 1940, aged nearly 19½. The Supplement to the London Gazette of 20th June 1941 listed him among the Regular Army Cadets from O.C.T.Us (Officer Cadet Training Units) appointed 2nd Lieutenant in the Gordon Highlanders with effect from 31st May 1941.
June – November 1944 7
However, by June 1944, Henry was attached to the 10th Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment (The Glosters). After fighting on the Arakan front in Western Burma, the Battalion joined the Northern Combat Area Command under the American General Stilwell. They were part of the 72nd Brigade, 36th Division.
The Division’s first task was to advance down the Myitkynia-Mandalay railway to Katha, which was important to the Japanese supply route up the Irrawaddy. From the airstrip near Myitkynia, the Division first pushed south along the railway, slowly clearing and repairing the line.
Then, on 7th November 1944, the 72nd Brigade took the lead at Mwalu, for the advance to Katha. The 10th Glosters were in reserve. However, the forward battalions (9th Battalion Royal Sussex and 6th Battalion South Wales Borderers)
encountered stiff opposition from units of the Japanese 18th Imperial Division near Gyobin Chaung, north of Pinwe. The 18th Japanese Division had been prominent in the capture of Singapore and was a very good one. Its patrolling was first class and, for Japanese, its shooting was very accurate. The 10th Glosters were to advance around the left flank to get into the rear of the enemy position at Pinwe. The rest of the Brigade was to attack across the river.
On 15th November… 7
…the Battalion, with some 70 mules, started out over the foothills on their left flank. The hills were steep and the men heavily laden with weapons, full kit and 3 days rations on their backs. After 2 days the Battalion made it to the rear of the enemy position, but were still some 3 miles from Pinwe. Next day the Battalion advanced by compass bearing; but in the afternoon they ran into heavy enemy opposition. With no water in the area and dusk approaching, the battalion pulled back to the foothills for the night.
18th November – During a patrol, Lt. H.L. Gordon was killed.
23 year old Lieutenant Henry Gordon was killed in action during a patrol near Pinwe in Burma, whilst attached to the 10th Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment.
Commemoration in Burma (Myanmar) 8
Henry has no known grave. He is commemorated on the Rangoon Memorial, Taukkyan War Cemetery, Myanmar, Face 18, where he is listed with five others in the Gordon Highlanders:
We will remember them
Henry Gordon is commemorated on the Little Gaddesden War Memorials on the village green and in St Peter & St Paul’s Church. His regiment is given as the Gordon Highlanders, as it is on the Rangoon Memorial.
Henry is also one of the 139 former pupils commemorated on the World War II Memorial at Berkhamsted School, shown below.
When Ashridge became an Emergency Medical Services Hospital in 1939, Henry’s father Harry Gordon stayed on as Hospital Secretary. Then, after the War, from 1947 until his retirement in 1957, he was Ashridge College Bursar.
Harry is warmly remembered in the National Trust’s booklet “Ashridge in World War II”, which was compiled on the basis of memories provided by people who were there:
On arrival, many nurses and medical staff recall being welcomed by Captain Harry Gordon and his family… Whenever a new batch of nurses arrived, he gave an introductory lecture, often accompanied by a display of pictures illustrating the history of the house.
Captain Gordon made it his business to understand the running of the hospital and helped to create a warm and friendly atmosphere that was felt throughout the war years, known as ‘The Spirit of Ashridge’. It was recalled as something indefinable, which existed throughout the house and wards. Whilst the staff fluctuated, kindness and hospitality were extended to every newcomer.
Major William Mathias O’Kelly was nursed in Ashridge Hospital before his death.
5. Leonhardt, John (ed), 2002, A Century Remembered – a celebration of the Millennium in Little Gaddesden, Rural Heritage Society of Little Gaddesden, Ringshall and Ashridge
7. http://ww2talk.com/index.php?threads/war-diary-10th-bn-gloucestershire-regiment.14991/ which quotes from: Butler, Major R.S., 1947, 10th Gloucesters at Pinwe 15th-26th November 1944
9. Coult, Douglas, 1980, A Prospect of Ashridge, Phillimore & Co Ltd
10. Edmonds, Rachel, (Compiler) – date unspecified – Ashridge in World War II, The National Trust
11. The Berkhamsted School Archive
Research, text and (unless otherwise credited) photos: Jane Dickson