Date of birth: 3 August 1865
Date of death: 6 November 1914
Killed in action aged 49
Buried in Zillebecke Churchyard near Ieper, Plot B. 2. with 31 others, six of whom are unknown.
Gordon Chesney was born in Wimmera, Victoria, Australia, the eldest son of Samuel Wilson.
Samuel Wilson was born in 1832 in Ireland and had emigrated with other members of his family, to Victoria. He made a fortune and was a philanthropist. He travelled back and forth between Melbourne and London and was elected Conservative Member of Parliament for Portsmouth 1886 - 1892.
Gordon, the eldest son, was educated at Eton and came up to Christ Church in 1885. Whilst at Eton, he had seen an attempt on the life of Queen Victoria. The Illustrated London News of March 18, 1882, reported on the case in the Magistrates’ Court in Windsor:
“Roderick Maclean, who fired a pistol at her Majesty the Queen, on Thursday the 2nd inst., as her carriage was leaving the Windsor railway station for the Castle, was again brought up, yesterday (Friday) week, before the Mayor and magistrates of Windsor, at the Town Hall, and was committed for his trial at the Berkshire Assizes, to be held next month at Reading. Amongst the Witnesses were two Eton boys, Gordon Chesney Wilson and Leslie Murray Robertson”
On 21 November 1891, Gordon married Lady Sarah Isabella Augusta Spencer-Churchill, youngest daughter of the 7th Duke of Marlborough and aunt of Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill.
Gordon joined the Royal Horse Guards and served in the Boer War as Aide-de Camp to Colonel Robert Baden-Powell who was the commanding officer at Mafeking.
Lady Sarah went out to South Africa to join him and in 1899 was recruited by Alfred Harmsworth to cover the Siege of Mafeking for the Daily Mail after one of the Mail correspondents, Ralph Hellawell, was arrested by the Boers as he tried to get out of the besieged town of Mafeking to send his dispatch. Having thus become the first woman war correspondent, Baden-Powell asked her to leave Mafeking for her own safety after the Boers threatened to storm the British garrison. This she duly did, and set off on a madcap adventure in the company of her maid, travelling through the South African countryside until she was finally captured by the enemy and returned to the town in exchange for a horse thief. When she re-entered Mafeking she found it had not been attacked as predicted. Over four miles of trenches had been dug and 800 bomb shelters built to protect the residents from the constant shelling of the town.
On 26 March 1900, she wrote: “The Boers have been extremely active during the last few days. Yesterday we were heavily shelled and suffered eight casualties … Corporal Ironside had his thigh smashed the day before, and Private Webbe, of the Cape Police, had his head blown off in the brickfields trenches.”
Although death and destruction surrounded her, she preferred not to dwell too much on the horrors of the siege. She described cycling events held on Sundays and the town’s celebration of Colonel Baden-Powell’s birthday which was declared a holiday. Despite these cheery events, dwindling food supplies became a constant theme in the stories which she sent back to the Mail and the situation seemed hopeless when the garrison was hit by an outbreak of malarial typhoid. In this weakened state the Boers managed to penetrate the outskirts of the town, but the British stood firm and repelled the assault. The siege finally ended after 217 days when the Royal Horse and Canadian Artillery galloped into Mafeking on 17 May 1900.
On the outbreak of war, Gordon left for France as Lt. Colonel in the Royal Horse Guards. He died from wounds received in action, on 6 November 1914.
Probate was granted to his wife of 21 Hertford Street, London, and Earl Howe on December 23rd 1914. He left £189,230-17s.
He was a Member of the Royal Victorian Order. [M.V.O.]
Registered Charity Number: 1143423