b. 16/08/1891 Launceston, Tasmania, Australia. d. 19/10/1963 Torquay, Queensland.
Bernard Sidney Gordon (1891-1963) was born on 16th August 1891 at Beaconsfield, Tasmania, son of Charles Gordon, cabman and later hotel proprietor, and his wife Mary, née Roland. 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 27th 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 5th 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 1st 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 19th October 1963, and was cremated at Mount Thompson Crematorium, Brisbane with Methodist forms. Gordon had married Evelyn Catherine Lonergan on 29th 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 15th 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.
In 2006, Bernard’s medals were sold at auction by Bonhams & Goodman of Sydney, Australia for a hammer price of AUS$400,000 (£160,356 ). The VC was accompanied by Gordon’s two coronation medals of 1937 and 1953, but the whereabouts of his Military Medal, British War Medal and Victory Medal from the First World War are unknown. The successful bidder was a lady bidding on behalf of businessman Kerry Stokes. At a small ceremony held on Tuesday, 12th December 2006, the Victoria Cross awarded to Bernard Gordon was handed over into the care of the Australian War Memorial.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: AUSTRALIAN WAR MEMORIAL, CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA.
BURIAL PLACE: MOUNT THOMPSON CREMATORIUM, BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA.
ASHES INTERRED AT PINNAROO LAWN CEMETERY, ALBANY CREEK, QUEENSLAND.
Richard Yielding – Image of Mount Thompson Crematorium Plaque.
Steve Lee www.memorialstovalour.co.uk – Image of Gordon VC Medal Group at Australian War Memorial, Canberra.