Statue of General Gordon (Ron Strutt) / CC BY-SA 2.0 Statue of General Gordon (Ron Strutt) / CC BY-SA 2.0

The annual memorial service for Charles George Gordon is to take place at the Gordon Memorial Gardens on Friday 24 January, 2014 at 11am.

This year marks the 129th anniversary of his death at Khartoum and a small working party have devised a special service to commemorate this local hero.

The service is to be officiated by Rev Graham Herbert from Milton Church and attended by the Mayor of Gravesham, Cllr Derek Sales who along with pupils from Chantry School, members of the Royal Engineers Association and the president of Gravesend and Meopham Rotary Club, will be laying flowers placed at the foot of Gordon’s Memorial.

The Gravesend Borough Band with additional members from the Salvation Army will be providing musical accompaniment to the service and members of the Gads Hill School Combined Cadet Force will be in attendance as guard of honour.

General Charles Gordon 1833 – 1885
British general Charles Gordon became a national hero for his exploits in China and his ill-fated defence of Khartoum against Sudanese rebels. Gordon lived and worked in Gravesend between 1865 and 1871 and during that time showed great generosity and kindness to the poor people of the borough. He was appointed to upgrade the various fortifications along the Thames which included the New Tavern Fort. He lived in Fort House in the grounds of the New Tavern Fort. The building was demolished following an explosion caused by a V2 in 1944.

Charles Gordon was born on 28 January 1833, the son of a senior army officer. He was commissioned into the Royal Engineers in 1852. He distinguished himself in the Crimean War (1853 – 1856) and in 1860 volunteered for the ‘Arrow’ war against the Chinese. In May 1862 Gordon’s corps of engineers was assigned to strengthen the European trading centre of Shanghai, which was threatened by the insurgents of the Taiping Rebellion. A year later he became commander of the 3,500-man peasant force raised to defend the city. During the next 18 months Gordon’s troops played an important role in suppressing the Taiping uprising.

He returned to England in January 1865, where an enthusiastic public had already dubbed him ‘Chinese Gordon’. In 1873 he was appointed governor of the province of Equatoria in the Sudan. Between April 1874 and December 1876 he mapped the upper Nile and established a line of stations along the river as far south as present day Uganda. He was then promoted to governor-general, where he asserted his authority, crushing rebellions and suppressing the slave trade. However, ill health forced him to resign and return to England in 1880 before travelling once more to places including India, China and South Africa.

In February 1884 Gordon returned to the Sudan to evacuate Egyptian forces from Khartoum, threatened by Sudanese rebels led by Muhammad Ahmad al-Mahdi. Khartoum came under siege the next month and on 26th January 1885 the rebels broke into the city, killing Gordon (against al-Mahdi’s instructions) and the other defenders. The British relief force arrived two days later.

The British public reacted to his death by acclaiming ‘Gordon of Khartoum’, who had had a strong Christian faith, a martyred warrior-saint and by blaming the government, particularly Gladstone, for failing to relieve the siege.

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