James Douglas Gordon

Date of birth: 3rd May 1881
Place of birth: Aldershot Barracks
Regiment: Y.M.C.A
Rank / Service No:
Died: 30th August 1917, aged 35 years
Buried: Boulogne Eastern Cemetery (Plot VIII, Row I, Grave 21)


James was the only child of James Douglas and Harriet Elizabeth Gordon; Harriet’s maiden name and the date and place of marriage are not known.


James was a Sergeant-Major in the Army, hence young James’ slightly unusual birth place.


He was born in Aberdeen in 1844 and died in Southampton in 1920.

Harriet was born in Bombay in 1861 and she passed away in Bristol in 1908.


The family lived in Bristol for many years, both the 1891 and 1901 Census showing that fact.


Young James married Minnie Harriet Hughes in Bristol in 1902; it’s probably safe to assume that the family and James’ father moved to Southampton after 1908, and the death of Harriet.


The couple had two children……


Edwin DOUGLAS   b. 22 March 1904 Bristol   d. 1966 Southampton   Married Daisy I. Pattison in Southampton in 1928.

Doris Irene   b. 1907 Bristol   d. November 1994 Southampton   Married Norman Sydney Fountain in Thanet in 1929. Norman died on 30 September 1994 in Southampton; the couple had been married for 65 years.



At the outbreak of war, James was an electrician by trade. He was deemed to be too old for active service and became a Welfare Officer for the Y.M.C.A.


It can be surmised that he spent a lot of time at the hospitals in northern France and it was at one of the Boulogne military hospitals that he succumbed to pneumonia.


Until June 1918, the dead from the hospitals at Boulogne itself were buried in the Cimitiere de L’Est, the Commonwealth graves forming a long narrow strip along the right-hand edge of the cemetery.


It now contains 5,577 Commonwealth WW1 burials; the new cemetery at Terlincthun took over from it in July 1918.


James’ headstone reads: “He knoweth our sorrows.”


Interestingly a son of Doris and Norman (Nigel) wrote a personal account of his mother and the father she idolised in The Guardian on 10 November 2007.


Young James ran away from his parents in Bristol (cruelty is mentioned) and he and Minnie concentrated all their time on the Alexandra picture theatre in Southampton.

James was the projectionist and Minnie the manager cum usherette. They lived at 27 Manchester Street, opposite the Baker’s Arms, and took in lodgers.


When Doris was six or seven, her father came down the street with a large black man. It was no less than Jack Johnson, the first black world heavyweight boxing champion.

Further enquiries have shown that Johnson was actually “on the run” in 1913-14 from the US law enforcement, a well-known case in the US.


Interestingly, despite being married for 65 years, Doris did not attend Norman’s funeral…..all had not been well in the marriage, by all accounts.



Researcher: Mark Heritage
Published: 3rd August 2016


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