The project we got involved in, was one of the best projects I have ever had in my many years of research and collecting. A true friendship was made between the Gordon family members and many further opportunities for exchange have developed in due course. The research brought me to the English archives, previous articles on the internet, visiting other various important related areas of interest and most of all reading Major Gordon's memoirs in his book 'Culled from a diary' that was published in 1941. During this research, I was amazed to find out, how important Major Gordon had been for the Royal Family of King Albert I and many Belgian and British units. It was a journey into the unknown and I had the utmost fun and privilege to be involved with the (re)discovery of this story. The second pleasure I had was that of discovering all the people Major Gordon got involved with. Persons as, General Charles G. Gordon, Arthur Wellesley - 4th Duke of Wellington; Colonel and later General J.E.B. Seely - Lord Mottistone, Mrs Knocker and Mss Chisholm, the photographer Savage Landor, Captain-Commander Davreux, Captain Liddell V.C. and many he met with at the front, were names that came as magic to me, because of their importance during the war or during the lifetime of Major Gordon.
One of my greatest pleasures was to read the book 'Culled from a Diary', which really tells the details of Major Gordon's life and gave me a wonderful insight into the man as he was and how his personality had made a perfect match with King Albert I of Belgium. Because of their fidelity, respect and honour for each other, their bond was forged into their lifelong friendship, involving trust and support for each other during one of the worst conflicts in human history which resulted in death and shame.
Major Gordon lost his three sons' and a grandson during his lifetime, the first one on second Christmas day in 1893, who was the twin brother of William Hyde Eagleson Gordon who himself died during the Battle of Loos on September 30, 1915. Maj Gordon’s last son Edmund died in 1932 after he had struggled with acute tuberculosis sustained from wounds during the First World War. These events must have been one of the saddest and most dominating during Major Gordon's lifetime and although not many historians are looking into the emotional and physical pain of events like these. I have found much strong emotion and understanding in the written words of Baron Ferdinand Rothschild about the physical transfer that happens with a person when losing someone you are attached to from their childhood onwards and then lost by tragedy. It is natural that this lost person in older years will become more attached to you, and deeper loved and eventually will grow so in someone's heart that the only wishes, cares, joys and sentiments a man can possess about his children, would be directly or indirectly wound up with their existence!
Major Gordon most definitely deserves the salute he was given by King Albert, the entire royal family and my fellow countrymen on November 22, 1918 in the streets of Brussels. He also deserves our gratitude and respect, because the band between King Albert I and Major Gordon, which stood by radian companionship, stand-fast ranks of power and the glory of both nations. These two men have lived in such splendid valour and honour that they must have greeted each other in the Beyond, with the upmost Chivalry!
Archibald Alexander Gordon was born on September 3, 1867, as the second child of Dr William Eagleson Gordon and Emily Dick. William Eagleson Gordon (Sr) had married Emily Dick on the 12th of July 1865 in Edinburgh, Scotland where the family lived at Riddles Entry 35 New Street, Edinburgh. Archibald Alexander Gordon was five years old when his father suddenly died at the age of 51 on January 15, 1873. His mother then moved the family to Switzerland for a years stay . The family took up residence in Ouchy, near Lake Geneva. Archibald and his older brother William went to the same school as the nephews of General Charles G. Gordon (‘Chinese Gordon’), who was famous for his actions in suppressing the Taiping uprising and later the siege of Khartoum, against the Sudanese Mahdi in which he was killed. General Gordon visited Lausanne and taught the Sunday class for several weeks. His way of teaching inspired Archibald and many others. Archibald also met with General Gordon outside of school hours near the lake where he told many of the students some amazing stories.
In 1879 the family went back to Scotland and Archibald and his brother went to Dr Hamilton Bruce's School in Edinburgh. Archibald was further educated together with his older brother at Edinburgh Collegiate School and finally at the University of Edinburgh where he studied for five years and earned the title of 'Chartered Accounted'.
Archibald founded together with Sheriff James Ferguson of Kinmundy and another friend, a volunteer battalion that later came known as the Ninth (Highlanders) Royal Scots. Because of hostilities in South Africa, Gordon volunteered for service, but his request was denied and instead, he was made Honorary Secretary to the Edinburgh and East of Scotland Field Hospital for South Africa. Later on, Archibald became secretary of the Franco-Scottish Society, a post which earned him the Knight of the Legion D’Honneur (France) in 1898. Archibald Alexander Gordon enlisted in 1896 in the Royal Company of Archers, King's Bodyguard for Scotland. The unit, which had a ceremonial purpose for protecting a British monarch during his or her visit to Scotland. He was promoted to Captain in the 9th Royal Scots on August 6, 1900. Archibald Gordon left Edinburgh in 1906 for London, where he was appointed to be the private secretary of Arthur Wellesley, 4th Duke of Wellington. Archibald took up his duty at Aspley House in London from 1906 till 1924.
LATER LIFE AND DEATH
Major Gordon records in the final chapter of his memoirs:
"I end with what I might have preceded my account of my service under King Albert. Almost his first request was; Major, I always wish the truth. I do not always get it! And please never publish anything when with me".
Major Gordon kept his double promise to the King.
In his memoirs, Major Gordon does not mention the tragic death of King Albert on the 17th of February 1934. But he most certainly had to be informed directly by the Royal Family or by the Royal Household.
Major Gordon died in August 1949.
MARIAGE AND CHILDEREN
Although Archibald had a degree in Chartered Accountant he never intended to practice this profession but decided to become a resident agent and took a job with the Wimborne estates at Cranford, Dorset. During those two years, he spent at Dorset he had the opportunity to meet his beloved lifelong companion Maude.
Gordon married Lizzie Maude Smith, who was five years younger than him. Her father was Major General Edmund Davidson Smith, who was the former Assistant Adjutant General of the Dublin district and served in the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny. Major General Edmund Davidson Smith died on the 8th of September 1916.
Archibald and his wife Maude had their first-born twins on 23 August 1893 in Haddington, East Lothian, Scotland. There two sons were named Archibald George Ramsay Gordon and William Hyde Eagleson Gordon. Sadly the first twin, Archibald, died on his second Christmas day. Three years later the family had a third son Edmund Robert Adam Gordon, who was born in Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland. Both sons were educated at Haileybury College. William was a Cambridge undergratued for studying Holy Orders until in 1914 the First World War broke out. He and his brother both enlisted being William in the 8th Gordon Highlanders and Edmund in the 7th Seaforth Highlanders both as a second Lieutenant and were shipped to France on the 5th of May 1915.
THE GREAT WAR
During the First World War, he was given his former rank of Major and served with the staff members of the 63rd (Royal Naval) Division during the siege of Antwerp in 1914. Colonel (later General) Seely appointed major Gordon to his liaison-officer and together they overlooked the positions of the British forces outside Antwerp. After the fortress' of Antwerp fell a massive evacuation was ordered by King Albert I of Belgium. Every allied soldier had to be evacuated to the towns of Brugges and Ostend. Major Gordon and Colonel Seely organized the evacuation of the British troops from the frontlines and went to St Nicolas and St Gillis Waes before the forces could board trains in the station. After Major Gordon's return to London, he received a message from Belgium, with the question to deliver a package to La Panne for the Belgian Sovereigns. Here he was asked to become Kings Messenger to King Albert. Major Gordon accepted this position with great honour and served King Albert from 1914 till 1922. During his time as kings Messenger he fulfilled many tasks and missions for the Belgian Royal Family in Belgium, France and England and became a most respected member in the Belgian Royal household.
THE MAJOR A. A. GORDON SOCIETY, founded in 2019, is the worlds prominent international non-profit educational society for preserving the historic legacy of Major A. A. Gordon and his family.