Repatriated to Australia
James Gordon VC was a Western Australian farmer and soldier. His Victoria Cross (VC) was one of only 2 awarded to any Australian during the Syrian Campaign of World War II.
James, or 'Jim' as friends and family called him, was born into a large family. He had 4 sisters and 3 brothers. Two of these, Ken and Talbot, also served in the army. Talbot Gordon was killed in 1942 at El Alamein, Egypt.
James' parents were William and Harriet Gordon. William was a former Liberal Party politician in the West Australian parliament. He later became a farmer and stock and station agent. James grew up on the family farms at Namban, near Moora, and later at Gingin.
James enlisted in the 2nd Australian Imperial Force (AIF) at Northam on 26 April 1940. He was 33. Although the maximum age allowed for enlistment was raised to 40 in 1940, many who joined up were younger. Biographer Jolyon Horner said James downplayed his actual age and recorded his middle name as 'Heather', instead of 'Hannah'.
Soon after enlisting, on 14 June 1940, James married Myrtle Anzac Troyat St Edmund's Church of England in Perth. Three months later, he left for the Middle East.
James was posted to the 2/31st Infantry Battalion. On the night 9 to 10 July 1941, near Jezzine, Lebanon, his company was attacked by Vichy French troops. With enemy machine guns firing and grenades blasting nearby, James inched towards the enemy. He then charged, killing the machine gunners with his bayonet. On 28 October 1941, James was awarded a VC for his 'high degree of courage' and 'equal gallantry.'
James returned to Australia in March 1942. Suffering from malaria, he did not return to action until November, when he joined his unit in Papua.
Malaria continued to trouble James and he returned to Australia in January 1944. He left the army in February 1947 but rejoined in December to train cadets. James remained in the army until his retirement in 1968.
James was married to Myrtle until his death on 19 July 1986. The couple had one son, Lindsay.
Commemorating James Gordon
Official war artist, Sir William Dargie, was commissioned to paint Jim Gordon's portrait in 1941. Gordon's VC was freshly minted and the latest of Australia's VC recipients was recovering from malaria before preparing to ship out to Papua.
Dargie later described his subject as a modest, humble man, concerned not for glory, but looking out for his mates. Gordon's portrait hangs in the Australian War Memorial and his medals are in the Hall of Valour.
Gordon is also commemorated by his hometown of Gingin, Western Australia. The Gordon VC Trail is a 45-minute walk through native bushland. Gingin's war memorial also has a plaque honouring the local veteran.
- Australian War Memorial (undated), Corporal Jim Gordon, viewed 10 August 2020, https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/C169307
- Australian War Memorial (undated), Private James Heather Gordon, viewed 10 August 2020, https://www.awm.gov.au/collection/P10676327
- Department of Veterans' Affairs World War II Nominal Rolls, viewed 12 August 2020, https://nominal-rolls.dva.gov.au/veteran?id=846650&c=WW2#R
- Find A Grave, James Heather Gordon, Find a Grave Memorial ID 7723892, added 30 Jul 2003, viewed 10 August 2020, https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/7723892/james-heather-gordon
- Horner, Jolyon (2007), 'Gordon, James Hannah (Jim) (1907–1986)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, viewed 10 August 2020, https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/gordon-james-hannah-jim-12554/text22599
- Johnson, Mark (1996), The civilians who joined up, 1939-45, Journal of the Australian War Memorial, Issue 29, viewed 12 August 2020, https://www.awm.gov.au/articles/journal/j29/civils
- Parliament of Western Australia (2015), William Beattie Gordon, Biographical Register of Members of the Parliament of Western Australia, viewed 12 August 2020, https://www.parliament.wa.gov.au/parliament/library/MPHistoricalData.nsf/(Lookup)/385AFB5CA741169D482577E50028A609?OpenDocument
- Reinfrank, Alkira (2016), Warrant Officer James Gordon: 'Humble' farmer turned war hero remembered at AWM, ABC News Online, posted Thu 12 May 2016 at 11:54 am, updated Fri 13 May 2016 at 4:30 am, viewed 10 August 2020, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-05-12/humble-farmer-james-gordon-turned-war-hero-immortalised/7408194
- The London Gazette, 24 October 1941, Supplement 35325, p 6237, viewed 10 August 2020, https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/35325/supplement/6237