b. 10/07/1886 Westminster, London. d. 31/03/1946 Southwark, London.
John Standish Surtees Prendergast Vereker, 6th Viscount Gort (1886-1946) was born in Westminster, London on 10th July 1886 into the Prendergast Vereker noble dynasty, an old Anglo-Irish aristocratic family, and grew up in County Durham and the Isle of Wight. The family peerage, Viscount Gort, was named after Gort, a town in County Galway in the West of Ireland. His father was John Gage Prendergast Vereker, 5th Viscount Gort, a descendant of Thomas Gage and Margaret Kemble, and descendant from the Schuyler family, Van Cortlandt family, and the Delancey family from British North America.
Educated at Malvern Link Preparatory School and Harrow School, Gort succeeded his father to the family title in 1902. He entered the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich in January 1904, was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Grenadier Guards on 16 August 1905, and was promoted to Lieutenant on 1st April 1907. Gort commanded the detachment of Grenadier Guards that bore the coffin at the funeral of King Edward VII in May 1910. He was made a Member of the Royal Victorian Order for his services in that role.
In November 1908 Gort visited his uncle, Jeffrey Edward Prendergast Vereker, a retired British army major and youngest son of the 4th Viscount Gort in Kenora, Ontario. During a moose hunting trip, Gort slipped off a large boulder and his rifle discharged, wounding his guide, William Prettie. Prettie later died of his wound in Winnipeg. Viscount Gort immediately returned to England.
On 22nd February 1911, Gort married Corinna Vereker, a second cousin; they had two sons and a daughter. They divorced in 1925. Their eldest son, Charles Standish, was born on 23rd February 1912 and died on 26th February 1941 while serving as a lieutenant in the Grenadier Guards and is buried at Blandford Forum in Dorset. Their second son, Jocelyn Cecil, was born on 27th July 1913 but died before his second birthday. Their daughter, Jacqueline Corinne Yvonne, born on 20th October 1914, married The Honourable William Sidney (later the 1st Viscount De L’Isle) in June 1940.
On 5th August 1914, Gort was promoted to captain. He went to France with the British Expeditionary Force and fought on the Western Front, taking part in the retreat from Mons in August 1914. He became a staff officer with the First Army in December 1914 and then became Brigade Major of the 4th (Guards) Brigade in April 1915. He was awarded the Military Cross in June 1915. Promoted to the brevet rank of major in June 1916, he became a staff officer at the Headquarters of the British Expeditionary Force and fought at the Battle of the Somme throughout the Autumn of 1916. He was given the acting rank of lieutenant colonel in April 1917 on appointment as Commanding Officer of 4th Battalion Grenadier Guards and, having been awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) in June 1917, he led his battalion at the Battle of Passchendaele, earning a Bar to his DSO in September 1917.
During the attack of the Guards Division on 27th September 1918, across the Canal du Nord, near Flesquieres, when in command of the 1st Battalion, Grenadier Guards, the leading battalion of the 3rd Guards Brigade. Under heavy artillery and machine-gun fire, he led his battalion with great skill and determination to the “forming-up” ground, where very severe fire from artillery and machine guns was again encountered. Although wounded, he quickly grasped the situation, directed a platoon to proceed down a sunken road to make a flanking attack, and, under terrific fire, went across open ground to obtain the assistance of a Tank, which he personally led and directed to the best possible advantage. While thus fearlessly exposing himself, he was again severely wounded by a shell. Notwithstanding considerable loss of blood, after lying on a stretcher for awhile [sic], he insisted on getting up and personally directing the further attack. By his magnificent example of devotion to duty and utter disregard of personal safety all ranks were inspired to exert themselves to the utmost, and the attack resulted in the capture of over 200 prisoners, two batteries of field guns and numerous machine guns.
After the war Lord Gort had a varied career. In 1919 he attended the Staff College at Camberley, returning as an instructor in 1921. After a spell with his regiment he became chief instructor at the senior officer’s school at Sheerness in 1926, at which point he was promoted to colonel. In 1930 he was promoted to command the Grenadier Guards, in 1932 he became director of military training in India, and in 1936 he returned to the Staff Collage again, as commandant.
In the following year Lord Gort began the sudden and somewhat unexpected rise that would end with his appointment to command the B.E.F. Early in the year he was appointed military secretary to the secretary of state for war, Leslie Hore-Belisha, who was looking for a younger officer to revitalise the high command. This was followed later in the year by promotion to the most important post in the army, Chief of the Imperial General Staff. He was appointed above hundreds of more senior men, and to support this move was also promoted two grades, to full General.
Gort commanded the British Expeditionary Force from 1939-40 and he oversaw the evacuation from Dunkirk. After his return to Britain, he was made ADC to King George VI, and then held the position of Governor of Gibraltar (1941-42), and Governor of Malta (1942-44). He was diagnosed with inoperable cancer in 1945 and died on 31st March 1946 in Southwark, London. He was buried in the Sidney Family Vault at St John the Baptist Church, Penshurst, Kent. His medals are not publicly held.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: NOT PUBLICLY HELD.
BURIAL LOCATION: SIDNEY FAMILY VAULT, ST JOHN THE BAPTIST, PENSHURST, KENT.
Thomas Stewart – Images of the Vereker VC Memorials in St Paul’s Cathedral and the Guards Chapel, London.
Brian Drummond – Image of the Vereker VC name on the Freemasons Memorial, London.
Mark Sanders – Image of the Vereker VC Medal Card.