PERSONS OF INTEREST
IMPORTANT PEOPLE IN THE LIFE OF MAJOR A. A. GORDON
Major Gordon wrote the following chapter in his book: 'Mrs Asquith at the front'. This indicates that his presence with this woman must have been important for him. Major Gordon wrote in a previous chapter he had met with Mr and Mrs Asquith at Gosford.
In December 1914, Gordon had to deliver a package from the Belgian Ministers to Miss Elizabeth Asquith in London. On his entry of No. 10 Downing Street, he was greeted by Mrs Asquith. She insisted Major Gordon would come upstairs with her and tell her about his experiences on the front. When Major Gordon told this to Queen Elisabeth, she replied that she would love to meet Mrs Asquith for a few days in La Panne. Later arrangements were made for here to accompany Major Gordon across the Channel. A few days later they both headed for Dover and stayed in the Lord Warden Hotel and went for Dunkirk next morning in a small steamer from the Stranraer-Larne service. Once in France, they drove to Furnes, where the British mission to the Belgian army was stationed under the command of Colonel G.T.M. Bridges and his subordinates Prince Alexander of Teck and two other officers. Major Gordon and Mrs Asquith had a warm welcome from the officers and of H.R.H. Princess Alice, who spend a few days with her husband (Prince Alexander). After spending a cup of tea, Major Gordon and Mrs Asquith were headed for La Panne. The following day took Major Gordon, Mrs Asquith to Pervuyse, to see the trenches and the flooded area. Next morning they went to visit the new hospital L'ocean. The next day, both headed for Ste Adresse, near Le Havre where the Belgian Government was in exile because Mrs Asquith was invited to stay in the hotel, where all Belgian ministers where housed. On their way to Ste Adresse, Major Gordon stopped in a village outside Ieper. He hid the car behind a ruined building and proceed on foot to do some official business. Mrs Asquith stayed in the car to write in her diary. After Major Gordon's departure, German artillery units started to shell Ieper very badly. This resulted that he had to find cover for almost two hours, whiteout the possibility to return to Mrs Asquith, which worried him allot. After his return to the care, he was amazed that Mrs Asquith was still quietly writing in her diary, without interruption of the enemy fire. Major Gordon drove off to Merville to meet General Sir Henry Rawlinson, who invited Mrs Asquith to spent the night at the headquarters. On his way to Merville, Major Gordon arranged to meet with his brother-in-law in Laventie and had tea together, afterwards they arrived at Merville in a bad rainstorm. Major Gordon and Mrs Asquith departed next morning to Ste Adress and stayed there for the remaining days. They both travelled back to England, after reaching Boulogne. Mrs Asquith insisted that Major Gordon accompanied her tot Downing Street because the Prime Minister wanted to see him. H.H. Asquith was according to Gordon kind and interested, and above all glad that he brought his lady home in safety.
MRS ASQUITH DIARY - PUBLISHED IN HER AUTOBIOGRAPHY (1934)
The following parts are featuring Major Gordon:
'Henry and I went to Hackwood to stay with Lord Curzon to meet the Queen of the Belgians and her children. After dinner when I told her I thought the war would certainly last over two years she was amazed and I could see she did not think it would be half as long. She asked me to go and stay with her in Belgium and see the fighting Front. There was a handsome Scotchman staying in the house, Major Gordon, secretary to the Duke of Wellington, with whom I made friends, and on hearing of Her Majesty’s invitation he said he would accompany me; so on the 10th of December 1914, we started off together. I spent an uncomfortable night at the Lord Warden, and at 7.a.m. the next day Major Gordon and I crossed over to Dunkirk in the Admiralty ship, Princess Victoria.'
We took untold time to pass through the locks into Dunkirk Harbour. There we were met by a private chauffeur and the best Benz motor I have ever driven in, both smooth and powerful. Our Belgian drove us at a shattering pace on sheer and slippery roads. Major Gordon was more than resourceful and kind: quite unfussy, and thinking of everything beforehand.
After lunch M. Davreux, Major Gordon and I motored to the Belgian trenches and on to Pervuyse station. We passed a dead horse lying in a pool of blood and heard the first big guns I have ever heard in my life; the sound of which excited and moved me to the heart. Aeroplanes hovered like birds overhead in a pale and streaky sky.
Major Gordon had brought a wooden cross with him to put on the grave of the Duke of Richmond’s son, and I had taken one out at the request of Lord and Lady Lansdowne to put on their boy’s grave at Ypres, where we ultimately arrived.
Major Gordon, who had borrowed a spade, asked me if I would help him by holding the cross upright, which I was only too glad to do till we had finished. All the time I was standing in the high wet grass I thought of the Lansdownes and my heart went out to them.
As Major Gordon had left me to go to a further cemetery, I was glad enough to accompany them. (Belgian officers)
A French officer, looking furious, arrived panting up the hill and coming up to me said I was to go down and remain under the shelter of the Hospital walls immediately. Two Belgian soldiers who had joined us asked me if I was not afraid to stand in the open, so close to the German guns. I said not more than they were, at which we al smiled and shrugged our shoulders; and the French officer took me down the hill to the Hospital quadrangle, where I waited for Major Gordon.
I began to think Major Gordon must be killed, as he had been away for over an hour. The sun was high and when he returned his face was bathed in perspiration. He told me he had put the Duke of Richmond’s cross on his son’s grave in a cemetery so close to the German lines he thought every moment would have been his last, and after munching a few biscuits we started off on our journey south.
LORD BERNARD CHARLES GORDON-LENNOX
(SON OF THE DUKE OF RICHMOND)
LORD CHARLES MERCER-NAIRNE
(SON OF LORD AND LADY LANSDOWNE)
On our way to Merville we stopped at Major Gordon’s brother in law’s house, a cottage at the side of the road. It was pitch dark and we had tea with him in the kitchen, lit by one dim oil lamp. We had not been at the table more than a few minutes when a loud sound, like the hissing of an engine, made the whole cottage rock and sway.
I felt genuinely frightened and wondered what the children were doing at home.
An aide-de-camp dashed out of the room and came back scarlet in the face.
‘If you please, sir’, he said, saluting: ‘four Jack Johnsons have dropped thirty yards from the door.’
General Nicholson jumped up white as a sheet and said to his brother-in-law:
‘Great God, what will the Prime Minister say? I’ve let you in, my dear Gordon!... but I assure you, Mrs Asquith, we’ve not had a shell or a shot here for weeks past…’
I reassured him as to his fears of my personal safety and asked him why the Germans wasted ammunition on such a desolate, inundated spot, to which he replied:
‘Pure accident ! But let me tell you, if there had been no water, not a brick in this cottage would have remained above ground, and neither you nor I would have had an eyelash left!... Now, Dopp, give us the tea.’
I was glad to observe how popular my chaperon, Major Gordon, was wherever we went – nor was I surprised, as a better looking, better hearted, more capable and devoted person I have seldom met.
Mrs Asquith was born as Emma Margaret Tennant on 2nd February 1864 in Peeblesshire. She was the sixth daughter and eleventh child from Sir Charles Tennant, 1st Baronet and Emma Winsloe. Her family always referred to her as Margot and she grew up insuperable with her sister Laura on the 'The Glen' estate. Both were full of adventure and recklessness. Both entered the society in 1881 in London. Together they became central figures of de aristocratic group of intellectuals 'The Souls'. When Laura married Alfred Lyttelton in 1885 and died three years later, Margot was devastated, from which she will never recover. She developed chronic insomnia for the rest of her life.
Margot married with H. H. Asquith on 10 May 1894 and supported his political ambitions. She became an
unenthusiastic stepmother of five children, from H.H. Asquith previous marriage. H.H. Asquith became Prime Minister in 1908. By this time his daughter Violet was the only one who lived at home. The huge estate of Cavendish Square in London, with a staff of 14, was left for 10 Downing Street. In 1912 the Asquith's bought the estate 'The Wharf' in Sutton Courtenay, Oxfordshire for their weekends stay.
Asquith was a great opponent to the Sister Suffragette movement. During their holiday in Clovelly Court in 1909, the couple was harassed by famous Suffragettes as Elsie Howey, Jessie Kenney en Vera Wentworth.
Mrs Asquith gave birth to 5 children, of which only two survived their infancy. Elizabeth Asquith was born in 1897 and married with Prins Antoine Bibesco of Romania in 1919 and Anthony Asquith was born in 1902 and became an English movie director.
During the First World War, Mrs Asquith was involved in some scandals because of bold statements. She visited a German prisoners camp and accused her stepson Herbert, who suffered from Shell-shock of being drunk. This negative media attention has certainly contributed to Mr. Asquith political downfall. In 1918 she was accused of supporting homosexuality in the high society. This resulted in the poem of Lord Alfred Douglas called "merry Margot, bound with Lesbian fillets".
After the war, the couple was in huge debt. After H. H. Asquith died in 1928, the financial burden came on the shoulders of Margot and she involved herself in Interior Design and advertising in Wix cigarettes. Her luxury house were replaced by a residential hotel chamber in the Savoy Hotel and later a house in Thurloe Place, Kensington.
The last great tragedy in Margot's life was when her daughter Elizabeth was imprisoned in Bucharest in 1940. Margot schemed for her rescue, but with no result. Elizabeth died from pneumonia in April 1945. Completely devastated she outlived her daughter by a few months. Margot died on 28 July 1945.