General Gordon

Page added 22nd March 2016

General Gordon

General Gordon, 'Gordon of Khartoum'

In amongst research material recently loaned to me was the remarkable fact that Haverfordwest has a memorial, unofficial though it might be, to General Gordon; Gordon of Khartoum as he’s better known.

General Charles George Gordon was a figure in Victorian Britain who not long after gaining his commission in the Royal Engineers in 1852 was sent to Pembrokeshire to begin the construction of the numerous forts that remain dotted around Milford Haven.

At only thirty years of age he gained fame for his actions in China where British forces were used to defeat rebels. The Chinese Emperor was so impressed with him that he awarded him high rank and made him governor of a Chinese province.

This early in his life he became known to the masses in this country who gave him his first nickname; Chinese Gordon.

He subsequently became involved in the Sudan, working tirelessly to eradicate the slave trade but retired exhausted in his forties due mainly to overwork and went initially to Switzerland to recuperate.

And then came the Mahdi, (Mohammed Ahmed) an educated Sudanese man steeped in religious belief who proclaimed himself to be the awaited redeemer of the faith of Islam and started an organised and bloody revolt.

Gordon, by now recovered and considering various senior positions all over the world, was sent to organise the evacuation of the garrison from Khartoum along with a large number of British and European civilians.

The British government under Gladstone had no interest in keeping a British presence in the Sudan but Gordon had other ideas influenced largely by his extremely deep religious convictions and was more interested in defeating the Mahdi. As such he continually requested reinforcements, his telegrams from Khartoum which the Times published, becoming more embittered and acrimonious.

The subsequent siege of Khartoum lasted almost a year during which the population in Britain became emotionally and frustratingly impassioned on Gordon’s side.

On the 26 January 1885 Khartoum was overrun, all defenders and civilians killed, and Gordon beheaded. A much delayed relief force from this country arrived two days after the event. The British people reacted as though they had lost a favourite son, a personal relative.

Gladstone, by this time almost eighty years of age had long had the letters GOM affectionately added to his name which stood for Grand Old Man; these letters were now reversed to MOG to stand for Murderer Of Gordon.

The mass grief was similar to that displayed at the death of Nelson and it is this attitude that undoubtedly led the builders of these two properties in Prendergast, to portray a bust of Gordon at the top and in the centre. These builders, J Morgan and Son, were also monumental masons and not only are their skills displayed elsewhere on the face of the properties, but Gloria Roach, occupier of the property on the right reveals that the fireplace in her home is decorated with white swans.

An old chapel was demolished to make space for these houses which during its life had been twinned with the Baptist chapel in Rhydwilam, a beautiful valley just north of Llandisilio. Rhydwilam Chapel is one of the oldest active Baptist chapel in the world and the bridge by the side of it was the entire front page feature for the Western Telegraph during the floods of 2009.

Mark Muller wishes to thank David Griffiths (Dai the post) for help in formulating this article.