Gordon Whittaker


Lance Corporal, R8408 8th Kings Royal Rifle Corps.
Lived 23 Stoneholme Terrace, Crawshawbooth.
Killed in Action, 30th July 1915.
Commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial, Belgium.

whittakergordonGordon was born in 1886 to Thomas and Harriet Whittaker and was one of eight children including John, Thomas Stanley,  (who enlisted in the  4th Battalion Welsh Fusiliers at Rawtenstall Dec 1915  later discharged), William, George , Herbert, Leah and Sarah. Gordon was baptised at Providence Chapel aged 10 weeks, in 1886. Their home address was 23 Stoneholme Terrace Crawshawbooth.  A local lad he was described as an ardent supporter of Tariff Reform and as such lectured all over Rossendale Valley on the subject, he was highly respected in the district his early death being regretted by many. He served with D Company 8th Battalion Kings Royal Rifle Corps with his mate from Crawshawbooth Joe White, their consecutive Numbers being R8408  and  R8407 respectively. They entered France on the 19th May 1915.

Gordon wrote home to his parents on the 25th of July 1915 telling them “We had just come out of a rough trench and had got wet through in the heavy rain they were experiencing”, and goes on to describe a German attack, “ First came their Trench Mortars and then they began to shell with the result that I got wounded”. He states that some of the men were buried in the bombardment and Gordon had helped to dig them out, fortunately they were only shocked but their trench had been blown to level country, and also goes on to say he had to see a Doctor to dress his wounds. Later they were congratulated by the Commanding Officer for their work and he reflects on with the trenches being blown in, how he lost everything bar what he stood up in, and how, only 200 yards from him he saw his old mate Joe White who he was glad to say came through safely. A certain Pathos to the letter attached to the fact that he was looking forward to being home on furlough (leave) if the rumours were correct.

Gordon Whittaker was killed in action on the 30th of July 1915;during this action Flamethrowers were used reportedly for the first time. Shortly after, his Sergeant E.Hindle wrote home to his parents at their home in Crawshawbooth stating “that Gordon had been killed by his side when a German Shell struck him killing him instantly and every one was cut to the heart when they heard of his death”. The Sergeant goes on to say Gordon was a Britisher to the backbone and proved a hero after being wounded and returning to the trenches.

Hindle describes how he and Gordon were awakened from their sleep by a heavy bombardment and a big battle-taking place, the Huns having used burning acid (flamethrower) on the British troops. They took up their positions just in the rear of the firing line waiting to be sent as support to the men in front, Hundreds of shells were flying about and one of them struck Gordon burying both men, on getting free Hindle was horrified to see his friend dead. Sgt Hindle describes the fighting they had to do at tremendous odds and by the time they got to their trenches (German Trenches) they hadn’t enough men to hold them and had to retire.

The Sergeant assures Mr and Mrs Whittaker that their son was a splendid soldier and died doing his duty as only a British soldier could, and expressed sympathy from all who knew him in the regiment.
Joe White

The Rossendale Free press carried its own obituary to Gordon in their Crawshawbooth and Loveclough section shortly after his death and reads.

Lance Corporal Gordon Whittaker who was killed in action at Ypres
Another hero has been added to the already long list of victims from the Rossendale Valley.
I remember very vividly the deceased being home on furlough, and his bright and cheery conversation regarding life in the British army.
His natural ability and characteristic dash were sure to come to the front, and I have not the least doubt had he been spared, he would have gained further rapid promotion. Prior to the war he was best known in this district perhaps for his advocacy of Tariff Reform, and he belonged to that type who rather courted than shirked any public opposition. But all classes deplore the death of such a promising young fellow, and the deepest sympathy is felt with the bereaved parents and family.
The flag at the Conservative Club is flying half-mast as a token of the esteem felt by the members.

Gordon’s Parents
Harriet Whittaker, Gordons mother died on the 4th of May 1916, aged 64, a report from the Rossendale Free Press stated
Death of Mrs Whittaker
We deeply regret to record the death of Mrs Whittaker of Stoneholme Terrace Crawshawbooth. The deceased lady who had been in delicate health for a considerable period received a shock by the death of her son Gordon who was killed in France. Mrs Whittaker was a highly esteemed resident of this district, and was associated with Providence U.M.C.
Gordon’s Father, Thomas Whittaker now a widower wrote to the Town Hall on April 16th 1917 requesting, as many bereaved families did, a Mayors Card, which acknowledged the sacrifice and loss of the soldier named. Thomas died on the 3rd of June 1917 and both parents are buried within Providence Chapel Graveyard.

23 Stone Holme Terrace
April 16th 1917
Respected Sir
I see in the Free Press of Saturday last that it is your intention to present a memento of all the lads who have made the Great Sacrifice for King and Country, and I am sure it is very thoughtful and kind of you to do it.
My son is L’Cpl Gordon Whittaker 8408 of the Kings Royal Rifles killed in action July 30 1915 in France.
Gordon Whittaker 8th Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps

The Letters.
On enlisting and dealing with day to day army life Gordon Whittaker 8th Battalion K.R.R.C. D Coy,
wrote to his local newspaper, the Rossendale Free Press to tell them about his exciting new life. In the period April to august 1913 his letters to the same paper were of a more political theme and he received quite a few conflicting reply’s in return, however here are the Letters from his early life as a soldier, full of enthusiasm, and a true patriot, but sadly he was to lose his life just seven months later.

We have received the following interesting letter from Private Gordon Whittaker, formerly of Crawshawbooth, whose name will be familiar to many of our readers through the letters on political topics which he has contributed to our correspondence columns at various times: –
Kings Royal Rifle Depot,
January 2nd, 1915.

Dear Sir, – It gives me great pleasure to write to you upon a different subject than usual. As you and your readers are perhaps aware, I have taken upon myself the duties of training to defend my King and Country. Having had nearly a week in Barracks, I can assure you and the young men of Rossendale that it is a most healthy and jovial life. You are put through your drill day after day by men fully qualified, who are very willing to teach you and who are patient. I may say that my comrade, Rifleman White, and I have had various trainers, and we find each of them good and patient. From the Sergeants down to the Lance Corporals you find every one willing to learn. Training may seem hard to some, but when you have good trainers it is excellent and easy. You may have heard that a soldier’s life is a hard one, We find it very easy. You hear the Bugle call at 6.30 a.m. when you rise and dress and clean up your room, at 7.30 a.m. you parade for breakfast, then you finish until 9.15 a.m. Then you have four drills of 45 minutes between 9.15 and 4p.m. parade at 4.30p.m. for tea and finish for the day. Of course you are not allowed to leave the Barracks before 5p.m. without leave, but you can leave at 5p.m. until 9.30p.m.without leave. At 10p.m. the bugle calls for lights out. That is the day’s work of a recruit. You may get one or two days a week on what they call “fatigue” work; that is, assisting in various departments in the Barracks such as cookhouse, gymnasium, tea rooms, etc, which only lasts a few hours per day. When you are on fatigue work you don’t drill that day. There is one thing that handicaps recruits, and that is meals. We can honestly say that it is like going to a tea party every day. When there are something like thousands parading outside the tea rooms, a new recruit would necessarily think there would be a famine, but we have the first famine to see since we arrived. You get for breakfast bread and butter as much as you like, with bacon and ham and fried tomatoes, but when you come to Friday morning you find a nice frizzled kipper or two waiting for you to devour. As for dinner, we have potatoes, beef, roasted or stewed, peas, carrots, cabbages or beans and bread as much as you like. I may say that I omitted from breakfast menu pigs feet. At tea time we get bread and butter, cheese, marmalade, and jam, and sweet bread. If you want supper you buy it yourselves and it can be got for about 2d each in the temperance canteen in the Barracks. As regards recreation there is plenty provided,. There is a large billiard room, reading room, and recreation room at the disposal of the soldiers between drills, and after drill hours until 9.p.m. One thing which makes the soldiers life happy is the merry way old soldiers welcome you, and in bedrooms, which on an average contain about twenty beds, you hear soldiers relating to their experiences and bang off singing the latest parody “On the Blue Ridged Mountains of Germany”. This makes things jolly and we have no need to be downhearted at all. In such a crisis a soldiers life is the best life for each young man to live. In conclusion I may say that we look out every day for recruits from Rawtenstall, but alas we see none. Yet there are hundreds coming in every day , men come from Rochdale, Bolton, Keighly but none from Rawtenstall. Men of Rossendale if you had heard and seen the men we have, men who have come from the firing line , you would not hesitate a minute, but join the Regiment with a fine record of Battle honours. Hoping to hear in the next news from Rossendale that there has been a big rush of recruits then Germany can pack up and retreat.-
We remain yours etc.
Rifleman J . WHITE, 8407
P.S.- I shall esteem it a favour if you publish this in your next issue.- Gordon Whittaker, late of Stone Holme Terrace Crawshawbooth.
Gordon wrote to the Free Press again and this letter appeared in the Saturday 23rd of January edition.

Private Gordon Whittaker, of the King’s Royal Rifles, formerly of Crawshawbooth sends the following letter from camp at Surrey.
Sir it gives me great pleasure to write and let you know that I am A1 and in the pink. I am doing well down here. We have some good pals, and good instructors. We have been drilled rather hard since we came to Surrey. On Wednesday January 6th we had drills with rifles. We were examined by the adjutant and he passed our squad as fit for joining the Regular Forces. He said we did our drills well for the short time we had been here. We have to leave here some day next week for Aldershot to fire our course of musketry. Then we shall be full soldiers. We shall then come back to Surrey to go through what is called inoculation. Some like it , some don’t, and if you don’t have it, you don’t get leave, so I shall be inoculated, and then come home for a weeks furlough. The only fault we find here is that we have not very good accommodation. We are put up in schools and stables. All schools in the district are used for housing the soldiers. We happen to be in one. In the room where I and my pal are there are two bags of straw and three blankets and with our coats thrown on the bed at night we are kept quite warm. We have to go out to feed in big tents . The food is excellent. We keep in the best of health and though we have to rough it we feel much better when we think of the reason we are here. I think that the 8th King’s Royal Rifles will have their revenge when they get out at the front. They are supposed to be the finest shooters in the British Army, and I feel honoured in being attached to such a fine regiment. We are all trained to make the Germans Fly with very little casualties on our side. Out of the whole 8th Battalion there are very few who do not want to go to the front and do their little share. Anyhow we shall soon have the chance. About six more weeks and we shall be drafted out as efficient men. I don’t know of anything else at present but remain, yours faithfully,
P.S.- I was pleased to see my last letter in your issue. We receive your paper every week.
A week later Gordon kept Rossendale up to speed of his experiences, with this letter in Sat January 30th 1915.

Sir, it gives me great pleasure to take up my pen and write to you once more, when we know of the Germans’ latest raid. We heard the German Navy were to make the Kaiser a beautiful birthday present of England but they had not asked permission of the ” Rulers of the Sea”- the British Navy. Sir Donald Beatty was waiting and presented the Kaiser with the sinking of the “Blucher” as a present from the British Navy with warmest congratulations. I may say that the Kaiser fully expected having England for his Birthday but his expectations were not realised. Anyone, it is the duty of our young men to realise the danger of allowing the “baby killers” to capture our shore, and the only safeguard is to be prepared to meet them and defeat them, when they make their raids. The young men should join some of the Regiments for they get some good training and nothing is lost by so doing. I may say I am delighted in being attached to one of the best shooting Regiments in the British Army, and when the 8th Battalion King’s Royal Rifles gets out there will be some dirty work , for we shall be trained and fully competent men. Old men who have finished their time with the Colours have re joined and make it their duty to prepare us, and spare no energy in showing us how to use the rifle as far as shooting and bayonetting is concerned. We are leaving here this week to go to Aldershot to fire our course of musketry, then we join the Battalion for Battalion training after which we shall have Divisional training. Then we shall be sent to the base ready to reinforce troops in the firing line. I may say that we have been inoculated. We were told by some that it was a very painful operation, but I am convinced otherwise now that I have gone through it. I am now prepared for the second dose, which we get in about ten days time. When we have been inoculated we get two days rest to get over it, but one day is enough as we were all right the day following. As regards the place we are training in it is lovely, and on Friday it was snowing all day, and when we got up on Saturday we saw one of the loveliest winter scenes one could wish to see. All the fir trees were weighted with snow, and I may say that there are hundreds of such trees here. Up the drive from the school in which we are billeted there are fir trees as high as telegraph poles, and they were curved over with the weight of snow. On our way to the doctors on Saturday afternoon for inoculation we saw several telegraph poles brought to earth by the weight of snow on the wires. Snow fell to about one foot in depth, and we were employed clearing it away on Saturday morning.- Yours sincerely,
Rifleman GORDON WHITTAKER (8408),
8TH Battalion K.R.R. “D” Company
Remonham, Hind Head, Surrey.

Early February 1915 this report appeared in the Crawshawbooth/Loveclough section of the Free press.
Private Gordon Whittaker, who was well known to readers before war broke out as a strong advocate of Tariff Reform, has been home on furlough for a few days before returning to Aldershot on Thursday. He carries his breezy air along wherever he goes, saying, he’s never felt better in his life. He would make an admirable recruiting Sergeant and whether one agrees Politically or not his enthusiasm for the Army is to be admired. Asked about how he progressed with Tariff Reform in these times he says a few discussions had taken place but a political truce was observed by the rank and file.

Not every one shared Gordon’s enthusiasm and love of his Regiment as this reply appeared on the 30th of January, same page as Gordons heading about the Kaisers lost present.


Sir -When I arrived home at Rawtenstall on Saturday for 48 hours leave I received my “Free Press” as usual and by your kind permission I wish to reply to a letter I read from a member of the 8th Battalion King’s Royal Rifles. It is only some few weeks ago I perchanced to see his name in your column of local recruits. After months of agitation for men by expert militarists he at length decided to join the K.R..R . Not five days after his enlistment he endeavoured to inspire your readers with a spirit of chivalry, and said he had taken upon himself the duties of training to defend King and country. Having had nearly a week in barracks he goes on to tell us of various trainers, jovial times, and that a soldiers life is the best life to live.
The latter I am not going to dispute- it may be, and it may not be. The life of a soldier may be a splendid one for a man of spirit. Neither is it my ambition to disparage anyone who has taken the oath, yet it is my duty (as Carlyle said) to feed you on facts. I myself am a member of the Northumberland Fusiliers, stationed at Wendover, who are being prepared by men with the fullest knowledge of military drill and the use of firearms, and whenever the N.F. have seen active service, they have done it nobly and well. The Officers are men of courtesy and competency. Your correspondent of the K.R.R. says in your last issue of the “Free Press”: “When the 8th Battalion King’s Royal Rifles get out there will be some dirty work, for we shall be fully trained by competent men”. I do not know what the Officers have instilled in the mind of their docile pupil, but I feel sure they have not wasted their energy practising “dirty work”. If your correspondent is seeking some world planet, distant from strife, or easy position, I advise him to wait until he has gained experience. There are scores of Rossendale lads , who have joined the colours months ago, some of them even winning battle honours, who do not boast about it in the Press.- I remain, yours,
Lance Corporal “A. W.,” N.F.
Gordon must have read the reply for no further letters to the free press have been observed.
He was killed in action just off the Menin road, July 30th 1915. On August 14th 1915 this letter appeared in the Free Press from one of Gordons former rivals in the Tariff Reform debate that raged in the free press in the summer of 1913.


Sir, It is with deepest sorrow I write to express my sympathy with the family of Lance Corporal Gordon Whittaker. Knowing him as I did, Gordon was a young man who struggled unceasingly with the ideas of progressive thought. Just after the outbreak of war he put the love of patriotism into action, and joined the King’s Royal Rifles, and I have every reason to believe he made a cheerful and dutiful soldier. Politically our views were as wide apart as the Arctic Poles, and everyone who knew him could not help but admire him for his bold stand against austere criticism. During April to August, 1913, the readers of the “Rossendale Free Press” were confronted with many letters on the subject of Tariff Reform. Myself (under the nom de plume of Democrat) and others wrote in opposition to Tariff Reform and the party advocating it. In one of Gordon’s letters he requested me to read Longfellow’s poem-
“Be noble in every thought
And in every deed !
The last time I met our patriot it was on Easter week. He then looked in good health, and spoke in glowing terms of the Army life. Yet ’tis true, none can foretell the results of war, when all other problems and political issues shrink into insignificance. As the Lacdaemonians in ancient days sacrificed all they possessed:-
“Go tell the Spartans thou that passest by
That here obedient to their laws we die”
Gordon’s end was a brave and courageous one, his death was the death of a martyr for freedom.
In the words of Tolstoy, “The advance of humanity towards righteousness is due not to tyrants but to martyrs” with these remarks-
The toll of war tells sadly
In the village home where he was held most dear,
Hearts are now stricken with sorrow grief and tear,
Hearts that are yearning for his kindly face,
His voice his touch to fill the silent place.
No passion flower which bloome’d for you and me,
Will ever fill the vacant chair left by he,
No mother’s last embrace and fondling kiss,
Would touch the cheek of him they miss.
No more to roam the sunkissed hills,
Of Rossendale, where those pleasant rills
Send out the joy of Nature’s music sweet,
For now he lies in dreamless sleep.
No more, no more will he wield the pen
On topics important that interest men,
No more will the Press publish his letters,
For he has died to free us from fetters.
Brave deeds, thou wrought in ancient days,
Are mirrored in histories warring page.
They tell of men who nobly fought and died
Where duty placed them side by side.
Since last he bade farewell to fathers home
He’s sacrificed his blood and bone
To fight for England while there was breath
A splendid soldier dies a hero’s death.
Yes, for honours sake the ghastly deed was done
For honours sake his duty was not to shun
His days of active life through mart and street
Are gone forever yet leave a memory sweet.
New Mills Stockport.

Joe White No 8407 8thBattalion D Company Kings Royal Rifle Corps.whitejoegrave
Gordon’s friend Joe White mentioned earlier survived the war and became the well-known Secretary of the then Discharged Soldiers and Sailors living at 14 Cooperation Street Crawshawbooth, but alas was to succumb to the terrible influenza epidemic of 1919, dying from the illness within a day of his own father who had the Robin Hood pub in Edgeside Holme.

Joe lies buried in Rawtenstall Cemetery under a Commonwealth War Graves headstone

The letters from Gordon’s long running argument with the Democrat amongst others are reproduced here and can be found in the Rossendale Free Press of May 1913 and quite entertaining it must have been too, like a long running soap perhaps?.

Sir , – Would you kindly allow me space in your valuable paper to criticise a very bold statement made by Councillor J.Taylor, J.P.. at the Scoutbottom Liberal Club and reported in your issue of March 22nd . the statement I refer to is that : “From a revenue stand point Tariff Reform would be a huge failure”. On February 28th Mr Ure made an appearance in Manchester and used a similar argument and explained it in the very same way that Councillor Taylor explains it, namely. “What taxes will you lay on? Is your Tariff for revenue or Protection?. Mr Bonar Law (our leader ) answered “We shall put on our Tariff for the sake of both, and we shall secure both”. “The answer meant that goods would come in and at the same time stay out; that a thing is and a thing is not”. The answer meant nothing of the sort. Practical experience shows that Tariff countries today employ their customs duties for protective and revenue purposes. The American Tariff gives protection and brings in revenue. The German Tariff gives protection and brings in revenue. And so will the reformed British Tariff. The explanation of the (Mr Taylor and Mr Ure ) phenomenon is that some goods are kept out by protective duties while others are able to come in despite of the Tariff . it is worth while pointing out that the Exchequer gains in either case. For, when foreign goods are kept out and products of native manufacture take their place, the “internal” revenue benefits by reason of additional production and employment so afforded. Every £100 worth of increased production means increased revenue from rates and taxes, and every man on that additional production will necessarily contribute to the nations wealth in the process of spending his wages. Mr Ures pet argument supported by Councillor Taylor is that Tariff Reform would fail to bring in anything like an adequate amount of revenue. In his latest speech he placed the sum it was likely to raise from manufactured imports at 2-1.7 million pounds. “That ” he said, was “why Tariff Reform was the most colossal swindle ever attempted on the people of this country”. The following facts largely discount his fatuous objurgation. Firstly, his estimate is not based on the avowed proposals of tariff Reformers. They propose an average duty of 10 percent on imported manufactures, the duty varying with the amount of labour represented in the commodities imported . Mr Ure takes an average duty of 5 percent . Secondly, in making his estimate Mr Ure excludes over 50 percent of our manufactured imports because they are not completely finished. Thirdly Mr. Chiozza Money M.P. a Gentleman whose statistical abilities are somewhat more conspicuous than the Lord Advocate’s, admitted so long ago as 1907 that an average 10 percent duty on imports of manufactures would raise 13 million pounds a year. Manufactured imports have increased since then so the revenue therefrom would be proportionally greater, let Councillor J.Taylor J.P. know that his “pet argument” has been exploded many times and is only a very weak argument against Tariff Reform , so weak that it would be wise to send it back to his leaders and tell them that if there is no stronger argument “Free Trade” is doomed in the country . Thanking you in anticipation, I am yours etc,

A swift reply came from the Democrat to Gordon’s letter in the following issue of the Free Press!
Sir – Your correspondent Gordon Whittaker seems to be suffering from grave disappointment. The word “Democrat” seems to stick in the forepart of his neck. Three times in his last letter he disgorges some ranting declaration as to who this “Democrat” might be , I have no desire to choke him, and I hope he will soon get over it ; still I am quite content with my nom de plume. In my last letter to your valuable paper I gave some homely advice to those who were inimical. I was asked by Gordon Whittaker to know the meaning of Democrat and I have so far succeeded in making it’s definition as clear as the noon day sun. It is perfectly obvious that Gordon Whittaker exhibits a very pronounced form of prevarication which is characteristic of the party to which he belongs and, from his letters he has developed a state of shallow flippancy. He is too, very unstable, first he takes up position of bold attack , and then when opposition appears he suddenly evacuates that position and takes up another of mild and feeble defence. Reverting back to our previous letters , in one of them I made remarks that the American worker is no better off than the British worker , This I maintain and I conscientiously believe that the American workers with their Tariff slavery have been robbed, and have allowed their country for many years (as we are now allowing ours) to be the happy hunting ground for the protectionist trust maker.

Nowhere have the crude fallacies of protectionist argument , the contention that the protectionist duties benefit working men , and that you make a nation richer by making goods dearer, been more vigorously preached by Trust fed Politicians and a Trust owned Press. In his letter for April 19 Gordon Whittaker refers with his usual and useless pernicious bigotry in regard to the Marconi scheme. It is idiotic for the Tariffists to make accusations against Ministers for investigating in an American Company which has no connection with British Government contracts, for they would do well to compare the high standard of morality recognised by Radical administrations with that of the Tory party. While no Liberal Minister since 1882 has been allowed to hold a single directorship while in office, the two Tory administrations held between them eighty nine directorships in companies which in many cases were interested in Government contracts. Gordon Whittaker says “Democrat” would do well to look at the figures for the Presidential election , and note the large majority of 1,500,000 for Protection. I have seen those figures and made remarks about them in my last letter . It is evident “you” are under the influence of moral strabismus , and subject to reading between the lines, or you would have noticed my remarks. On this point I have proved that in the House of Representatives there is a Democratic majority, and they are at the present time getting to the heart of the fiscal mystery . They now know, and have informed the world, that Protection or Tariff Reform, which is one and the same meaning, or atrocious crime , necessarily tends to destroy and ruin a nation. The Democratic party of America have made a bold start for the removal of the heavy load of Protection which has rested so long on American shoulders. President Wilson has himself dismissed as “audacious and impudent” the pretence that high Protection is a benefit to the worker. It is true the more Democratic the Government of any country becomes, the greater it’s freedom from political corruption will grow. Surely , Mr Editor, our abstruse and zany crank is not enmeshed in the garbage of superfluity, or plainly speaking, using too many words. Gordon, did you say “scurrilous”? I am sorry; in fact I thought your hide was too thick for anything to penetrate , but after writing that sentence I imagine you would sit back in your chair and try and understand it. I hope you inwardly digest it. Doubtless you thought it sounded severe, though it only succeeded in being silly. I can almost catch a faint echo of the words you would say to yourself, ” What a terrible plight the day of my birth was to me.” It may probably give you inspiration in allowing me to tell you, there is more knowledge to-day than ever there was, an’ there’s more cranks. Could only the Tariff Reform League get rid of it’s cranks in the same way as the factories get rid of their cinders, an’ pay so much a load for cartin’ them away, the unemployed would be busy shovelin’ from now till the next Haley’s Comet appears. Before I conclude, allow me, Mr Editor, to plead once more with our forlorn and shipwrecked brother, let me ask him once more to leave those motley crew of Bandits, come out of the quagmire and abyss into which “you” have allowed “yourself “to sink so low. Abdicate “yourself ” from the party with the manners of a Yahoo, and who now in the House of Commons indulges in antics which are happily rare in the human species, which is only a mere description of the wandering tribe of Tariff Reformers.-
Thanking you Mr. Editor, once more I am etc,
May 12th, 1913.

After Democrat’s letter, another plea from Gordon was published in the same issue.
Sir- In answer to your correspondent “Conservative Free Trader”, of the 7th inst., let me point out that before I can make any arrangements for a debate I must know who “Democrat” is. The questions which C.F.T. says are the most important must be boldly and manfully faced, and the fallacies and mendacities of the Free Trade case must be ruthlessly exposed. There-fore if “Democrat ” is willing to defend Free Trade and condemn Tariff Reform, and is a man with reasoning abilities, then I will consider meeting him in a debate . Hoping that he will now disclose his identity and be a man and show his cause is worthy of his name, I am yours etc,

Also in the same issue that our two opponents aired their views of each other, another observer entered the fray.
Sir,- I have followed during the last few weeks the controversy in your paper between “Democrat” and Gordon Whittaker, and I sincerely sympathise with “Democrat” in his effort to convert this advocate of “the motley crew”. He is certainly beyond the reach of reason ; no argument however plain and logical, appears to have had the least effect on his moribund mind. Scientists tell us that a certain stage of a man’s life the molecules of his brain solidify , and render him incapable of comprehending fresh ideas, and I look upon Mr Whittaker as a living proof of this theory. For many years he has been a persistent pest in the columns of your paper , simply repeating in a “parrot-like” form, the old stale arguments of the “Protectionist Brotherhood”. Times without number he has had his statements ridiculed and proved erroneous and absurd, still he continues to persist in the propagation of his insane doctrine. As he has not put any propositions yet that are worthy of replies, I will ask him (if he thinks he has a case) to give us in a lucid form, what he really proposes to do , stating clearly the relations of “Labour and Capital,” defining the true meaning of the terms “wealth” and “capital”, explicitly stating the ways and means by which he intends to carry on the production and distribution of wealth, so that we may for once clear the air of any uncertain matter and march on, “each siding each , the higher truth to find”. Yours etc.

Excerpt from War Diary 8th Battalion Kings Royal Rifle Corps and the action in which Gordon Whittaker lost his life.
Sanctuary wood
Dugouts made, Communication Trenches cleared, parapets raised especially in F1. 7thK.R.R relieved 8th K.R.R about midnight. 8th Battalion returns to Ypres, A+D Coys to Ramparts near Lille Gate, B+C Coys to dug outs near White House west of Asylum.

Enemy attack trenches occupied by 8th Rifle Brigade and 7th Kings Royal Rifles at 3.am using Liquid fire on G3+G4. Front Line Trenches opposite Zouave Wood lost. Bombardment by our guns and counter bombardment opens at 3.45.am. Platoons of 8th Kings Royal Rifles ordered to reinforce 8th Rifle Brigade in Zouave Wood.
D.Coy (Gordon Whittaker’s) leads off getting to Zouave Wood at 6.30 am. The 3 Platoons are under Major Green and Captain Barber, remainder of Battalion goes to Sanctuary Wood.
The three Platoons of D Company reinforce A Company of the 8th Rifle Brigade at the edge of Zouave Wood and are heavily shelled and are withdrawn to Sanctuary Wood at 12.noon.
Lt Hawkes R.A.M.C is killed just past Bridge 14 on the way up to Sanctuary Wood with the Battalion.. Intensive Bombardment by our Artillery opens at 2.15pm, counter attack arranged for 2.45pm. 8th Battalion to support 7th Battalion and attack to be launched from Sanctuary Wood and the Rifle Brigades from Zouave Wood. Enemy machine gun fire makes it impossible to leave wood, edge of wood being heavily crumped, a few platoons succeed in getting some way out from wood, A and B Company’s in front line supported by C Company, D Company kept in reserve in trench near Headquarters in Sanctuary Wood.

About 3.15a.m. a message was received by Colonel Green from Major Seymour saying that the 7th Battalion and our own advance was stuck up, and asking whether he should again attempt to push on. Colonel Green seeing that the Rifle Brigade attack had also been held up decided to hold on and ask for orders. The order was shortly received from the Brigadier not to press the attack further. Colonel Green issued orders for a trench to be dug through Sanctuary Wood at the point held by our firing line; this was done by all available men, and helped by the 7th Notts and Derby’s and the D.C.L.I who had sent two Companies to reinforce.

The losses had been very and the Medical arrangements were entirely inadequate and with Dr Hawkes having been killed only one Doctor was available to deal with over 500 cases. Great difficulties were experienced in finding and collecting the wounded in the thick woods, and when found in bringing them in to the dressing station. With it being impossible to bring the ambulances within 900 yards of the first aid station, many men had to remain out exposed for over 24 hours.
This coupled with the fact the Battalion had no rations for 36 hours and suffered for the want of water, caused the loss of many riflemen who might have been saved.
At about 3.a.m. a terrific rifle and machine gun fire was opened by both sides and the Artillery, Flare lights, and rockets of both sides added to the confusion of what appeared to be a heavy night attack took place.
The 7th Battalion and A and D had been relieved, and only B and C Company’s and machine Guns were present and the two of them took up positions and awaited developments under Colonel Green.
One Machine Gun under rifleman Bentley particularly distinguished itself.
At daybreak the firing died down and the two Company’s having been relieved withdrew.
The Sketch below shows the area where Gordon Whittaker fought and died along with 10 Officers, and 190 men, killed wounded or missing of his Battalion, the 8th Kings Royal Rifle Corps.
Menin Road
Kings Royal Rifle Corps Memorial

Just along the Menin Road past Hooge Crater Museum, is a Memorial Cross to the various  Battalions of the Kings Royal Rifle Corps who fought in Flanders, the base of which is shown in the picture on the left,  there is a similar one near Poziers, on the Somme.

  One Response to “Gordon Whittaker”

  1. Thankyou for taking the time to put this together, Gordons borther John was my Great Grandfather. Just one small point, Gordon was one of eight children not seven his brother Thomas Stanley is missing from the report. Thomas enlisted in the the 4th Batt Welsh Fusiliers in Dec 1915 at Rawtenstall. At this time he was married to Mary Matilda Draine, and they lived at Globe Terrace Crawshawbooth. Before enlisting he was a labourer at the printworks. On the 29th Sept he was discharged due to being unfiit for service.

 Leave a Reply

© 2022 Providence Chapel Memorial