William Duff GIBBON (1880-1955)
Major (acting Lieutenant-Colonel) William Duff Gibbon, MC, DSO (1880-1955) was a colleague of Cyril Sladden in the 9th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment.
William Duff Gibbon was born on 5th February 1880 at New Machar, Aberdeen, Scotland, the youngest of eight children of William Duff Gibbon and his wife, Catherine (née Murray). All of William’s older siblings were born in Kandy, Ceylon, where William Senior was a tea-planter (he was knighted in 1912 for his 56 years developing the tea industry in Ceylon and for his services to the Legislative Council in Kandy, Ceylon). Through his mother’s side of the family, he was related to Sir Eric Geddes, a prominent war-time politician, and Dr Mona Chalmers Watson, instigator and first Chief Controller of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, who were his second cousins.
William was educated at Gordon’s College, Aberdeen, and Trinity College, Oxford, where he read Modern History, graduating in 1904. Whilst still an undergraduate at Oxford on 26th January 1900, he signed on for a year with the colours, Oxford Light Infantry Corps. He was sent to South Africa on 10th March 1900. Just over a year later, on 22nd April 1901, he was “discharged at his own request in South Africa, his services not being further required, in view to seeking employment”.
From 1904 William Duff Gibbon was Assistant Master at Dulwich College, London, a post which he held until the outbreak of the First World War.
In September 1914, Gibbon joined the Worcestershire Regiment, serving with the 9th Battalion until June 1919, rising ultimately to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel. He first went overseas to Gallipoli on 11th July 1915. He was in command on the night of 12th August 1915 when the Worcesters fought in the battle of Sari Bair. He was badly wounded and, according to a letter written nearly a year later on 18th July 1916 by Cyril Sladden (who was also wounded on the same day), he and Gibbon were on the same hospital ship that took them to Malta.
In a letter of 15th February 1916, Cyril Sladden alludes to Gibbon being mentioned in despatches. He was later awarded the DSO, described by Cyril in a letter of 4th March 1916: “I hear that Captain Gibbon has been awarded the DSO. This is an honour that will please everyone who knows him. He earned it well. He was slightly wounded on August 9th but didn't give up, and survived the next day to take command. And it was no fault of his that we failed on the night of the 12th. I cannot think of any man I ever met of whom I hold a higher opinion. I am afraid he was too badly damaged ever to rejoin us. He has been a master at Dulwich College for a long time, and fought through the Boer War in the ranks.” He later said: “He is a most excellent fellow, and a valuable officer. I should think he will be made a major and become 2nd in command.”
Gibbon was eventually able to rejoin the regiment in July 1916 after nearly a year’s absence. He was in command during the second battle of Kut in February 1917 and was awarded the DSO for his conduct during the battle.
For certain amounts of time in the period 1917-1919, Cyril Sladden was in charge whilst Major Gibbon was either away on leave in India or engaged on a special mission.
Gibbon returned to teaching at Dulwich College after the war, then moved to Campbell College, Belfast in 1922. He was with the Advisory Council, Ministry of Education, Northern Ireland, from 1925.
William Duff Gibbon never married. He died on 16th February 1955 at 67 Lodge Hill Road, Lower Bourne, Farnham, Surrey.