The Gordons

Captain Jack White DSO

James Robert White was the only son of Sir George White VC, the commander of Ladysmith and Colonel of the Gordon Highlanders from 1897 to 1912. James 'Jack' White was born in Ireland on 22nd May 1879 and commissioned into the Gordons, his father's regiment. He was with the Mounted Infantry at Graspan and patrolling nearby when he mistook approaching Boers for British troops. They captured him and stripped him, but he escaped and ran 6 miles to warn Colonel de Lisle of the presence of the enemy and the danger they posed to the troops at Graspan.

His action saved the lives of many and he was awarded the DSO. While in South Africa his dislike of the British officer class took hold. At Doornkop it is claimed that when a 17 year old was shaking with fear in the face of a terrible barrage of Boer bullets, an officer threatened to shoot him. Jack White pointed his revolver at the officer and said "If you do that, I will shoot you."

He served as ADC to his father in Gibraltar from 1901-05. There he met his first wife Dollie Mosley with whom he had one daughter. She was Catholic and he was a Protestant, which caused some difficulty. His army service continued in India and the UK, until 1907 when he resigned his commission. His life followed a very different path from this point.

He went to Bohemia, then lived in a Tolstoyan commune in England. He went to Canada and then Dublin where he met James Connolly who introduced him to socialism and trade unionism. Jack helped raise the Citizen's Army to protect strikers from the police, and was involved in the Irish struggle against British Rule. He tried to unite Catholics and Protestants but his own Protestant background caused suspicion amongst Catholic Republicans.

When Connolly was arrested and condemned to hang, Jack organised a strike in South Wales in protest. He was himself arrested and imprisoned for 3 months while Connolly was on the scaffold. He later joined the Workers Socialist Federation and the Republican Congress, but when the Civil War broke out in Spain he went over to help with ambulance work. There he sided with Anarchists who had split from the communists.

He married for a second time, to Noreen, with whom he had 3 children. Both his marriages were fraught with arguments. He lived through World War 2 but died of cancer in 1946, in Belfast.

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by Stephen Luscombe