Stories of Remembrance

Army, First World War (1914-18)The Story of Private 'James' Gordon,A lost digger of Fromelles

John would have only been 15 years of age when he was killed. This gave him a title for which he will be remembered: Private James Gordon is one of the youngest diggers to have ever been killed in action.
Georgia Lee

In 1901 a son was born into the Gordon family in Carlton, Victoria. This boy was named John and he would soon become one of the many sad historic figures of the Great War only a few years away. When the war arrived in 1914 and the call was put out across the nation young James, although underage, tried to enlist to the Australian services using his elder brother William’s name. He was discovered however and sent back home. On the 26th of July 1915 John tried again. This time he used his deceased brother’s name. An elder brother of the name ‘James’ who had died aged only 2 years. This time John was accepted, saying he was 18 years old, though in truth he was only 14.


Young Private ‘James’ Gordon embarked from Melbourne aboard the HMAT A11 ‘Ascanius’ as a part of the D-Company on the 10th of November later that year. He served as a part of the 29th Battalion and went to both Egypt and France. He did his part as an Australian solider for eleven months before he was tragically killed in action amongst the thousands of Australian casualties from the disastrous attack on the heavily defended ‘Sugar Loaf’ in Fromelles. He was initially labelled as missing and believed to be deceased. His family were not notified of this status for a number of weeks. Private Gordon’s personal items were returned home and his name was found on a German death list dated the 4th of November 1916. This sadly confirmed his passing. Evidence found from the German war and death records as well as other particular clues lead to the belief he was buried in a mass grave located at a place called Pheasant Wood in Fromelles.
 

In 2009 a team of people including an amateur historian named Lambis Engelos collected enough evidence for an excavation into the possible burial site at Pheasant Wood. They began a dig that uncovered a significant number of Australian soldiers. Since their discovery, the individuals have been identified and then each given their own grave in a beautiful cemetery located in the small town near Pheasant Wood, ‘Sugar Loaf’, the location of the battle of Fromelles. Private James Gordon was identified amongst the masses and buried in this cemetery. From the dates of his death, which would have been either the 19th or the 20th of July 1916, John would have only been 15 years of age when he was killed. This gave him a title for which he will be remembered: Private James Gordon is one of the youngest diggers to have ever been killed in action. He became as mentioned earlier a sad, and yet historic figure of the Great War. James Gordon’s story as well as all the many others should not be forgotten. Lest We Forget.  

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