Roland Elphinstone Gordon

9 mars 2018


Major Roland Elphinstone Gordon (died 30 August 1918, aged 25) was a Scottish rugby union player. He was killed in World War I.



He played for Royal Artillery RFC and was capped for Scotland in 1913. He served as a Major with the Royal Artillery and was killed in World War I.

He played with Eric Milroy in 1913 against France to Parc des Princes Vélodrome, Scotland won 31-3 an Gordon scored two try during this match.

He was educated at the King’s School Canterbury from January 1907 to July 1911, appointed as a School Monitor in 1913 and played in the 1st Cricket XI from 1909 to 1911 being Vice Captain in 1911. In summary of his 1910/11 season on the rugby field the Cantuarian recorded : "(10st 6lbs right centre) Has found his place, and has improved out of all knowledge.


Runs hard and straight with a good swerve, and makes good openings for his wing.

Good tackler, but must learn to mark his man more closely." In 1911 he gained 45th place in the examinations for entry to the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich where he was captain of the Rugby XV in 1912. He also represented the Royal Artillery and the Army at Rugby. On 22 January 1913 he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery. He played rugby for Blackheath and for Scotland at centre in three international matches.

Against France at Parc des Princes on 1 January 1913 in which he scored two tries on his debut with Scotland winning 21-3. Against Wales at Inverleith on 1 February 1913, which Wales won 8-0 and against Ireland on 22 February, also at Inverleith with Scotland winning 29-14.


On 5 March 1913 he sailed for India where he was attached to the 82nd Battery, Royal Field Artillery stationed at Kirki. In November 1914 he was posted to Mesopotamia where he was severely wounded in the summer of 1915 and returned to Britain. During this time he wrote a letter home which was reproduced in the Cantuarian. "I expect you saw in the paper that I had been hit and I was really very lucky not to have been done in altogether. I was doing advanced observation officer with the infantry and took it in the chest sideways. It went in at the left side and stuck under the muscles of the right shoulder and did a certain amount of damage to my lungs. It missed various vital organs by very small margins. I have been in bed for over three weeks and am getting awfully sick of it. This hospital is not the last word in comfort, and I hope to be sent to India for a month or so soon. We carried off quite a good show at Es Sinn and are supposed to have accounted for 3,000 of the enemy with losses to ourselves of 1,200 - the majority of whom are slightly wounded. We took quite a number of guns and rifles and quantities of ammunition as well. The weather here is now really arctic which is an enormous change from the 120-130 we have had in the shade."


He returned to the front and was awarded the Military Cross in June 1917, was wounded for a second time in November 1917 and for a third in May 1918. He was awarded a bar to his Military Cross in the King’s birthday honours list of June 1918. He was also mentioned in despatches. Following his wounding in May he was offered a posting in England but refused it, preferring instead to return to the front. A friend wrote, "Was a really great three quarter, if I am any judge, as he was equally good in attack and defence - beautiful hands and a great kick. Only 25 years of age, and so, what a loss to the game ! Besides all that, the best and dearest fellow alive." He went to Mesopotamia in November 1914, was severely wounded during Summer 1915 and Invalided home to Devon. He was wounded again in 1917 and awarded the Military Cross in 1918, then severely wounded in France in August 1918 while Officer Commanding a Royal Field Artillery Battery. He died of these wounds in a military hospital in England on 30 August 1918, age 25, and is buried at Daours Communal Cemetery.


Gordon was a strongly built man of about six feet high, and possessed the very deceptive speed which means so much on the football field. Like all the greatest players, he was always moving fast, and towards the goal-line, while he was bluffing with hands and head. So many players attempt the bluffing, but forget to run fast during the attempt, so that when they are felled their side has not progressed much in the desired direction. Gordon was a natural player of great gifts, who, had he not been in the Army, would have been world famous at the game, as his effortless play always bore the unmistakable hallmark of class. He had the faculty of playing well whoever were his partners, or the opposition. I never saw him on a wet day, but his style of running, which was of the firmest, gave one no fears on this important point. He was, indeed, one to be envied - his happy disposition, his peerless ability at our great game, and his glorious death. by © Alistair McEwen 2014


He burried to communal cemetery to Daours closest Amiens.
He played with Eric Milroy in 1913 against France, Scotland Won 21-3.