John Gordon-Duff

Discussion in 'North Africa & the Med' started by Charley Fortnum, Mar 14, 2015.

  1. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    I'd be most grateful if anybody could supply any information whatsoever about the following soldier:

    Major John Gordon-Duff (1899-1996).

    I've read in one of the fleeting references to him online that he "had a distinguished military career in India & the Middle East," but there's nothing more floating around apart from the fact that he attended Winchester and Sandhurst and in later life privately published four volumes of memoirs.

    Strangely, his entry here: cites an entry at but I can't find it anywhere.

    Has he turned up in anybody's reading or research?

    Edit: According to the description of a film held at the IWM, he was six miles east of Mareth Line, Tunisia on 26/02/1943 with 5/7th Gordon Highlanders! That would chime with his name and make him part of the 153rd Infantry Brigade (of the 51st Highland Division).

    More: full name: MAJOR JOHN BEAUCHAMP GORDON DUFF, M.B.E., P/15381
    By 6th Jan. 1944 he was on Malta and had moved to the Rifle Brigade (in which he served in WW1 and inter-war) and by 21st Nov. 1945 he was serving as Liaison Officer to Lieutenant-General Sir Alan Gordon Cunningham, who had been appointed High Commissioner & C in C for Palestine.

    Can anybody manage anything more personal?

    Edit2: War Diary online but no reference:
  2. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    I managed to find a mention of a John Gordon Duff receiving his commission as a 2/Lieutenant on 9th February 1941. His name does not have a hyphen, so we cannot be sure it is definitely him.

    See attached London Gazette. I've placed an arrow against the relevant entries.

    View attachment LG 28:03:1941.pdf
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  3. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Name: John Beauchamp Gordon-duff
    Registration Year: 1899
    Registration Quarter: Jan-Feb-Mar
    Registration district: Shipston on Stour
    Inferred County: Warwickshire
    Volume: 6d
    Page: 742

    Name: John Beauchamp Gordon Duff
    Birth Date: 15 Feb 1899
    Date of Registration: Oct 1996
    Age at Death: 97
    Registration district: Tenbury
    Inferred County: Herefordshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire
    Register Number: 9A
    District and Subdistrict: 5251
    Entry Number: 60

    Name: John Beauchamp Gordon-Duff
    Gender: Male
    Age: 38
    Birth Date: abt 1899
    Departure Date: 17 Nov 1937
    Port of Departure: Southampton, England
    Destination Port: Vancouver, Canada
    Ship Name: Europa
    Search Ship Database: Search for the Europa in the 'Passenger Ships and Images' database
    Shipping line: East Asiatic Company, Limited
    Master: A Rasmussen

    Name: John B Gordon Duff
    Birth Date: abt 1899
    Age: 39
    Port of Departure: Montréal, Québec, Canada
    Arrival Date: 28 Nov 1938
    Port of Arrival: London, England
    Ports of Voyage: Montreal
    Ship Name: Ascania
    Search Ship Database: Search for the Ascania in the 'Passenger Ships and Images' database
    Shipping line: Cunard White Star
    Official Number: 147307

    1901 Census:
    Name: John Beauchanp G Duff
    [John Beauchamp G Duff]
    Age: 2
    Estimated Birth Year: abt 1899
    Relation to Head: Son (Child)
    Gender: Male
    Father: A F Gordon Duff
    Mother: Francis Blanche Duff
    Birth Place: Ebrington, Gloucestershire, England
    Civil Parish: Ebrington
    Ecclesiastical parish: St Ethelburgha
    Town: Ebrington
    County/Island: Gloucestershire
    Country: England
    Street address:


    Condition as to marriage:


    Employment status:

    View image
    Registration district: Shipston on Stour
    Sub-registration district: Blockley
    ED, institution, or vessel: 5
    Neighbors: View others on page
    Piece: 2945
    Folio: 76
    Page Number: 4
    Household schedule number: 41
    Household Members:
    Name Age
    A F Gordon Duff 37
    Francis Blanche Duff 35
    Ellen Alice Gordon Duff 3
    John Beauchanp G Duff 2
    Julia Giffin 57
    Martha Shoebridge 22
    Jessie Thorne 28
    Charlotte Duke 15
    Amy E G Eames 30
    C Sarah Eames 18

    1911 Census - Boarding School
    Name: John Beauchamp Gordon Duff
    Age in 1911: 12
    Estimated Birth Year: abt 1899
    Relation to Head: Boarder
    Gender: Male
    Birth Place: Ebrington, Gloucestershire
    Civil Parish: Hove
    County/Island: Sussex
    Country: England
    Street address: The Wick Furze Hill Hove
    Occupation: school
    Registration district: Steyning
    Registration District Number: 80
    Sub-registration district: Hove
    ED, institution, or vessel: 4
    Household schedule number: 208
    Piece: 5178

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  4. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Hi Charley,
    You did say "Can anybody manage anything more personal?"

    Marriage to Ellen Susan Williams
    1937 9 Nov
    Age: 38

  5. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Thank you, chaps. Wondering whether he might have got a mention in anybody's autobiography or memoirs.
  6. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    In case you don't have it, here is the Gazette entry for his MBE. I think we can discount my previous post with the addition of Beauchamp in the title.

    View attachment MBE.pdf
  7. Andreas

    Andreas Working on two books

    I was wondering about the age, but a commission from the ranks does of course explain it.

    All the best

  8. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Don'tre member

    Interesting chap - he is shown here in the LG 21 Dec 1917 as a cadet being promoted to 2nd Lt

    View attachment data.pdf

    He is also apparently a descendant of William the Conqueror

  9. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Pretty certain that that isn't our man. The hyphenation is not consistent for our man, but he certainly has 'B' as an initial, which seems to occur in all official paperwork - also the service number doesn't match.

    Of course, he could have transferred for almost any reason under the sun, but having apparently served in the Rifle Brigade during the first world war and the inter-war years, is there any obvious reason he'd turn up in the Gordon Highlanders in North Africa and then transfer back to the Rifle Brigade at some point later that year 1943. He's of Scottish blood and I've heard of 'Scottish' formations trying to hoover up as many of their kin as possible from other places. Following another train of thought, could he, conceivably, have been wounded? Was Malta used as an evacuation point once the siege was over? And do we think it conceivable that he would be related to the Captain T. R. Gordon-Duff who fought with the Rifle Brigade and was captured at Calais in 1940 (as mentioned in Airey Neave's Flames of Calais)?

    Edit: My interest has been piqued enough to order a copy of his second book of memoirs, It Was Wartime Then, so I may well be able to answer some of my own questions then. By the way, I love privately published books - they're hard to obtain and frequently overlooked but full of gems and sidelights. I've started on a copy of Hugh Mainwaring's Three Score Years and Ten With Never a Dull Moment [1976] - which took me a while to find - and there's a wealth of information that really sets the scene for the desert war (he was BGS to Scobie in Greece and on Monty's staff before being captured along with Monty's stepson Dick Carver).
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  10. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member


    You're absolutely right, as soon as I saw the update which included the name Beauchamp, I realised that this wasn't your man. I agree with you about privately published books and memoirs, they can shine new light on many a subject.

    Good luck with your continued search.

    Lee Lidbury likes this.
  11. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Addendum: The Gordon-Duffs are multiple!

    The chap in the Gordon Highlanders at Mareth Line is not the one for whom I was searching.

    The second chap - whom I had in Malta and Palestine - is MAJOR JOHN BEAUCHAMP GORDON DUFF, M.B.E., P/15381 - the one about whom I was originally enquiring.

    He was in the Rifle Brigade officer and served as personal assistant to Lord Gort at first Gibraltar, then Malta and finally Palestine, where he stayed on for a spell after Gort's health failed. I now have his book (mentioned above), but, frustratingly, it seems that his distinguished soldiering in India and the Middle-East was likely during either the Great War or inter-war years, neither of which are covered by the volume I have - although it does look interesting in itself.

    I feel as if I now have a small duty to delve into the mysterious Gordon Highlander and enlighten myself!

    Incidentally, Captain T. R. Gordon-Duff, who fought and was captured at Calais, was John's cousin, it seems. He was known by his middle name - Robin.
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  12. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Thanks for the update on the multiple Duffs. :)
  13. Lee Lidbury

    Lee Lidbury New Member

    Thankyou for the information on such a distinguished officer
    I Have his Tunic
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  14. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    Fantastic, how did you acquire that?
    Bought, found or inherited?

    (Can anybody more qualified that I am decode that ribbon?)
  15. amberdog45

    amberdog45 Senior Member

    Charley, a couple of pages I've scanned from a book The Gordon Highlanders A Concise History by Trevor Royle. Palestine briefly mentioned on page 176. No reference to John Gordon Duff or Mr. Cunningham. Gordon Highlanders 1.JPG Gordon Highlanders 2.JPG
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  16. Charley Fortnum

    Charley Fortnum Dreaming of Red Eagles

    I think as a L.O. to a senior general, he'd likely be far from his original unit yet retain the cap badge etc.
    That said, an interesting read--so thank you.
  17. Pat Atkins

    Pat Atkins Patron Patron

    Had a very quick dig around in Ancestry, and frankly can't add much! But anyway: according to his medal index card John Beauchamp Gordon Duff went to France on 2nd April 1918 as a subaltern in 12th Bn Rifle Brigade, serving in France from 2nd April 1918, finishing the war as a Lieutenant in the 2nd Bn. The theatre of operations given for the 1942 award of his MBE was 'Middle East (Malta)'.

    Cheers, Pat.
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  18. 8RB

    8RB Well-Known Member

    Ribbons from left to right are:
    - MBE/OBE (both had same ribbon);
    - War Medal, 1914-1918
    - Victory medal WW1
    - 1939-1945 Star
    - Africa Star (maybe with 1st army number?)

    Wondering why no War Medal 1939-1945 and WW2 Defence Medal. And would like to see a close up of those black buttons. Don't know if Gordon Highlanders had black buttons. Thought that was typical of Rifle regiments...
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2017
  19. Lee Lidbury

    Lee Lidbury New Member

    Hi Charley
    Purchased from a vintage cloathing dealer who got it from a recycling company so it was nearly shredded !
    Best Regards
  20. Lee Lidbury

    Lee Lidbury New Member

    This is as much as I can find on him

    WW1 Rifle Brigade

    Wounded WW1



    Aide Du Camp To Viceroy Of India

    M.I.D Mentioned In Despatches WW2



    Assistant Military Secretary To Field Marshal Gort


    M.B.E Member Of The British Empire
    Liasion Officer To General A. G. Cunninham Palistine

    Deputy Lieutenant Aberdeenshire

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