Gordon Edwin Horricks Inglis (1918 - 1944)

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Gordon, my father, was severely wounded by a sniper during the Battle of Kohima while taking ammunition to the front line. This happened on 10 April 1944, his 26h birthday. He lay in enemy territory, with wounds to the lower abdomen and groin, for several days before being rescued and taken to hospital. He died there on 30 April. I know many details but little of the basic things. I know he was funny and kind, as my mother and other relatives told me. He knew several languages and was training to be an accountant. BUT - I don't know if he was fully English/British, or Anglo-Indian? I don't know what his religion was yet I am his daughter. There is so much I don't know about the circumstances of the end of his life. I have many items of memorabilia and other information, both personal and military. I don't think he ever saw me as he died when I was a baby, (14 months old) but I have his diary with my date of birth ringed on the calendar.

Gordon Edwin Horricks Inglis Biography & Family History

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Birth

Death

Cause of death

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Burial / Funeral

Imphal War Cemetery 7. K. 11.,
India

Obituary

Last Known Residence

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Average Age

Life Expectancy

Family

Father: Peter Inglis
Mother: Elizabeth "Rosamond" Inglis

Wife: Joyce Inglis
Children with Joyce: Janet Margaret Cameron

Education

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Professions

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Organizations

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Military Service

Service number: 217781
Rank: Lieutenant
Regiment: Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment
Unit/ship/squadron: 4th Bn.

Middle name

Edwin Horricks Cameron

Surnames

Ethnicity

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Nationality

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Religion

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Gender

Male

Family Photos

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Timeline

1918 - In the year that Gordon Edwin Horricks Inglis was born, in January, President Wilson presented his Fourteen Points, which assured citizens that World War I was being fought for a moral cause and outlined a plan for postwar peace in Europe. The only leader of the Allies to present such a plan, the Europeans thought Wilson was being too idealistic. The points included free trade, open agreements, democracy and self-determination. They were based on the research and suggestions of 150 advisors.

1926 - He was merely 8 years old when on October 31st, Harry Houdini died in Michigan. Houdini was the most famed magician of his time and perhaps of all time, especially for his acts involving escapes - from handcuffs, straitjackets, chains, ropes slung from skyscrapers, and more. He was president of the Society of American Magicians and stringently upheld professional ethics. He died of complications from a ruptured appendix. Although he had received a blow to the area a couple of days previously, the connection between the blow and his appendicitis is disputed.

1930 - By the time he was only 12 years old, on August 6th, N.Y. Supreme Court Judge Joseph Crater went through papers in his office, destroyed some of them, withdrew all his money from the bank - $5,150, sold his stock, met friends at a restaurant for dinner and disappeared after getting into a taxi (or walking down the street - his friends' testimony later changed). His disappearance was reported to the police on September 3rd - almost a month later. His wife didn't know what happened, his fellow Justices had no idea, and his mistresses (he had several) said that they didn't know. While his disappearance was front page news, his fate was never discovered and after 40 years the case was closed, still without knowing if Crater was dead or alive.

1932 - When he was just 14 years old, five years to the day after Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic, Amelia Earhart flew solo from Newfoundland to Ireland, the first woman to cross the Atlantic solo and the first to replicate Lindbergh's feat. She flew over 2,000 miles in just under 15 hours.

1944 - In the year of Gordon Edwin Horricks Inglis's passing, on June 6th, the largest amphibious invasion in history was launched - the Normandy landing (called D-Day). Soldiers from the United States, Britain, Canada, and the Free French landed on Normandy Beach and were later joined by Poland, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Greece, and the Netherlands. Almost 5,000 landing and assault craft, 289 escort vessels, and 277 minesweepers were involved. Nearly 160,000 troops crossed the English Channel on D-Day - Allied casualties on the first day were at least 10,000. 4,414 were confirmed dead.

Gordon Edwin Horricks Inglis Family Tree

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Gordon Edwin Horricks Inglis
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Obituary

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Gordon Edwin Horricks Cameron Inglis died aged 26 on 30 April 1944 of wounds incurred on 10 April 1944, his 26th birthday. He is buried at IMPHAL WAR CEMETERY, Grave Reference 7, K, 11.


This interview with my mother before she died in 2008 is the closest I got to my father, Gordon, so I hope it will serve as a fitting obituary. I called it "Above the Rest."

There were many things I knew about her and many more I needed to know. A little time, an afternoon on our own so I could fill in those gaps.

‘Look at him in these photos,’ she says now, ‘Look at the way he stands out, head and shoulders above everyone else. But it’s not just his height.’

She’s right. There’s a presence, indefinable but distinctive and – yes – special. She enjoys telling this story. She’s so tiny now. Her hands curl in her lap, finger tips touching as she speaks, arthritis having put paid to the relentless knitting.

My father, Gordon, was twenty-six when he died in one of World War I I’s most critical campaigns, the Battle for Burma, fighting with the 4th Battalion of the Queen’s Own Royal West Kents. Born 10 April, 1918, son of an Indian Railway employee, he attended boarding school from five, a necessity since his mother had died
‘He never learned to look after himself,’ says my mother. ‘His clothes were picked up after him and washed, his meals served, his room kept clean.’ She’s anxious, though, to convince me that by today’s standards, his upbringing wasn’t comfortable. Among other enforced privations, the boys were expected to take cold showers to ‘toughen them up’.

My mother’s Uncle Bert travelled to India and there he’d married and settled down with his bride, Gwen. The couple came to England every five years on holiday, and stayed with an aunt. As India collapsed into turmoil in her struggle for independence, Bert and Gwen took pity on the motherless boy and decided to look after him.

‘Money had been left for the support of Gordon and his elder brothers, but it disappeared,’ says my mother. ‘So they brought Gordon, the youngest, back to England with them.’ Joyce Johnson was just fourteen in 1937 when Bert and Gwen brought Gordon to her house, and the young man was entranced by the vibrant young girl with the mass of dark curls, who was just starting work as a milliner.

‘Gordon got a job in Maples furniture store, to learn accountancy,’ my mother explains. ‘He wanted to become qualified.’ Then she adds, ‘But I hated millinery. All the other women were much older than me and I longed for bright young company.’

Meanwhile, Gordon had already made up his mind about Joyce. ‘I’m waiting for Joyce to grow up then I’m going to marry her,’ he told her parents.
She tells how he was clever and funny, how he loved playing practical jokes on people, how he teased her and laughed with her. Ballroom dancing became their mutual passion, although Joyce was sceptical. ‘I’m terrified,’ she’d told him. ‘How can I go to grand things like that?’ My mother is smiling now, at these gentle memories. ‘He’d just say, ‘You’re not just sitting there, you’re dancing. Anyway, who do you think is looking at you?’’ She recalls how unspoilt Gordon was in spite of his upbringing, wanting to learn all the things that had formerly been done for him. He even tackled ironing her beautiful dance dresses. ‘He could do it much better than I could.’

She’s fiddling with her rings. She tells how in 1939, Gordon joined the Army and was stationed in Monmouthshire, Scotland, as a private in the London Scottish. He posted an engagement ring to her and she was thrilled by the row of five sparkling diamonds. She extends her hand; there are only two stones left now and the ring has worn thin as a coiled thread of gossamer around her finger. ‘We had lovely holidays. Sometimes in Margate, or All Hallows. Gordon’s dad Peter came too. He always adored me.’

They were married at St. Stephen’s Church in Lewisham, London on 26 January, 1940. Cousin Kathleen made the wedding dress and Joyce created the hats, while Gordon serenaded his young wife with his favourite song, ‘Goodnight Sweetheart’.

Now she reaches a painful part of her story. It’s hard to find the words. ‘It was his cleverness that ended his life,’ she says simply. My father’s aptitude for languages, among them German, Spanish, Hindi and other Indian dialects, influenced his transfer to India, and he was promoted to lieutenant to serve with the Royal West Kents. ‘He thought it would be best for me if he accepted the commission. He said I would get a better pension if he was an officer. You see, he was only ever thinking of me. And that’s why he died.’

Gordon was killed in action at the siege and defence of Kohima, the Battle for Burma, where the Japanese advance into India was halted. Four hundred and sixty men, along with the Assam Regiment and Assam Rifles, held their position in appalling conditions for sixteen days until help arrived. Imphal, the capital of Manipur State in north-east India was Japan’s main objective; it was strategically placed for attacks on railways, roads and airfields, vital to Allied operations.

My mother cannot talk about this, so I must fill in for her. On 10 April, 1944, Gordon’s birthday, the Japanese moved forward into the front-line trenches, pouring petrol over the bodies of the dead, both ours and theirs, then setting them alight. Although they were surrounded by Japanese, the men, exhausted and sodden, were told to hold their positions so another section could lay booby traps and destroy enemy food supplies. They remained for over six hours before withdrawing, crawling along the ground. The Japanese bombarded them with mortar fire from nearby Jail Hill.

Gordon, along with fellow-officer Lieutenant Phythian, was commanded by a superior officer to take ammunition to the front line. ‘He was hit by a sniper in the groin and stomach,’ my mother says. ‘It was impossible to reach him.’ Gordon lingered, lying wounded and alone for several days in enemy territory. Eventually he was rescued and taken to hospital.

She shows me the telegram, which arrived on 5 May 1944 to tell her that her husband was wounded in action on 10 April and died a few weeks’ later. ‘My mother had to take over,’ she tells me. ‘You were only fourteen months old, but I couldn’t do anything but cry every time I looked at you.’

Six months later, a V2 rocket hit the family home in Brockley, killing four of the eight occupants. My mother, my grandfather, Aunt Jean and I were rescued – but my grandmother died. For a long while my shocked mother lapsed into amnesia until Cousin Kathleen, ‘An angel who gave us shelter’, took in the homeless family.

‘Eventually, I had to step into my mother’s shoes and look after the family,’ she says. ‘I never wanted to marry again. But I don’t really miss Gordon now. I know that sounds strange, but you see, I always remember him as a very young man. It’s as though he belongs just to the past.’ For my mother, the past is ‘the other’; it is simply another country, relegated to its special place.

I’ve something else to tell my mother, discovered from a chance encounter on the Internet. A fellow-soldier, Donald Easten had said, ‘I knew Gordon Inglis well and was close-by when he was killed. He was a very likeable and brave man.’ My mother nods, looks pleased and hands me a little notebook of Gordon’s.
Poignantly, it has a small calendar marked with a ring around the expected date of his baby’s birthday in February, 1943. I realise that was all he knew of me.

That most intimate interview is over now. She’s told me what she could. It’s not nearly enough. But now that she’s gone, I’m glad I asked, glad I have this paltry but precious record of an ordinary woman who lived a most extraordinary life.

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