Help Identifying Army Officer in Photo.

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Re: Help Identifying Army Officer in Photo.

Postby Davel » 01 Apr 2017 09:12

Thanks so much for your help crimea1854, frogsmile & mconrad; unfortunately, there is no more detail in the photo to bring out the detail in the belt buckle.

I think I have the details now for the officer in the photo, which I have compiled from the Army Lists etc.

He was William David Gordon and was born in Jubbulpur in India on 19th September 1855. He joined the 17th Regiment of Foot (Leicester Regiment) on 11 Sep 1876 aged 19.

He was appointed to the Indian Staff Corp 18 May 1879, this being the year that he had his first experience of warfare, during the second Anglo-Afghan War of 1878-80. During this period, he saw actions at Shuturgardan, Surkh Kotal & in Chardeh Valley. He was also involved in operations around Kabul in December 1879, and participated in Lord Roberts’ march from Kabul to Kandahar in August 1880 & the subsequent Battle of Kandahar. Saw service in Mari expedition on the North West Frontier in 1880.

I am unsure what happened to Gordon between 1880 & 1887. However, by the beginning of 1887 he had left the 17th with his pay reduced by half.

Gordon came off half pay on 7 April 1887 to become effective with the Bengal Staff Corps, joining the newly raised 36th (Sikh) Bengal Regt on 6th June 1887. The uniform of the 36th was red with yellow facings. He was promoted to Captain & Wing Officer 19th December 1888.

He married Ethel Mary Stogdon at Lahore cathedral in 1894. In the November of that year he was appointed Wing Commander, being based at Regimental HQ in Peshawar.

By 1897 36th Bengal Infantry were based at Fort Lockhart. Captain Gordon, one of the senior captains on the Indian Staff, was their 2nd In Command and detached at Fort Parachinar, Kurram Valley. He had received the Afghanistan medal with 2 clasps, Kabul to Kandahar star & India GSM with Hazara 1891 clasp.

Whilst detached here he was shot dead by one of the Indian soldiers on 5th July 1897. A contemporary report of the murder stated that ‘another British officer has fallen victim to Native fanaticism’. He was buried at Parachinar, the epitaph on his grave reading - "In loving memory of William David Gordon I.S.C. Captain 36th Sikhs who died on the 5th July 1897 aged 40 years.".

The photograph was taken between 1891 (receiving his GSM) & 1894 (marriage – no ring). This is consistent with the red uniform with yellow facings of the 36th, and with his award of the Afghanistan medal (2 clasps), Kandahar Star & India GSM with Hazara 1891 clasp).

His GSM displays the reverse instead of the conventional obverse facing forward; could this indicate that he had just received it, this being the reason why the photo was taken?

How does this sound?
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Re: Help Identifying Army Officer in Photo.

Postby Frogsmile » 01 Apr 2017 10:32

I think that you have the chronology bang on accurate, but I am most puzzled by his uniform, which is of the pre-1881 pattern with much lower collar, with curved join and not designed for collar badges. Also the facings seem too pale to me to be yellow and thus I feel that he is for some reason still wearing his 17th Regt uniform. If you compare with other contemporary uniform images you will see what I mean. The 1890s collar was much higher and 'Prussian' in style.
Incidentally, if you do a separate, close up shot of his waist in the same way as you did his chest and shoulders it should be possible to make out detail on his belt buckle, albeit I think it will be GS levee anyway.

I cannot comment on the reverse/obverse medal conundrum beyond saying that the pivot pin, if loose, does allow the medal to twist around during movement if the medals are not 'court mounted' and it is possible he simply did not notice. There is no rationale that I know of for it to be deliberate so it does seem odd otherwise.
As regards 'half pay', that was a form of semi-retirement that could be imposed when a battalion was disbanded (leaving the officer 'on-call'), or requested if the officer needed time out to deal with personal affairs such as losing a father, or any other matter requiring close attention. Such an officer then usually had first call on any vacancy that should come up, providing that he had the support of a regimental colonel to vouch for him.
sq
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Re: Help Identifying Army Officer in Photo.

Postby Davel » 01 Apr 2017 17:54

Could one of the actions that he was recorded as participating in whilst in the 17th have qualified him for the GSM in the late-70s - early-80s, thereby making it possible for the photo to have been taken whilst he was still serving with that regiment? There is no reference to him having received any clasp other than the '91 Hazara but surely he must have qualified for one earlier in his career, given his military record? It also fits that the image was taken at this time as he looks more likely to be in his mid-late 20s than mid-late 30s, Gordon having been born in 1855.
I haven't access to the original photo at present to scan in the belt at a higher resolution but from memory can say it showed a grainy lion surmounting a crown with the laurel surround.
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Re: Help Identifying Army Officer in Photo.

Postby Frogsmile » 01 Apr 2017 19:52

Davel wrote:Could one of the actions that he was recorded as participating in whilst in the 17th have qualified him for the GSM in the late-70s - early-80s, thereby making it possible for the photo to have been taken whilst he was still serving with that regiment? There is no reference to him having received any clasp other than the '91 Hazara but surely he must have qualified for one earlier in his career, given his military record? It also fits that the image was taken at this time as he looks more likely to be in his mid-late 20s than mid-late 30s, Gordon having been born in 1855.
I haven't access to the original photo at present to scan in the belt at a higher resolution but from memory can say it showed a grainy lion surmounting a crown with the laurel surround.


There is nothing to indicate 17th Regt participation that would warrant an India GSM during his time with that regiment, but there is no reason why he might not have served attached to another unit, albeit this would be recorded in his military record.

The description you have given of the belt buckle perfectly matches the general pattern used on the gold laced levee belt.
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Re: Help Identifying Army Officer in Photo.

Postby Davel » 03 Apr 2017 09:09

Thanks Frogsmile. I will carry on my research into this photo and will probably post some more questions to due course!
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