Gordon Flowerdew (1885-1918) was born in Norfolk, England, and lived as a rancher in British Columbia until the outbreak of the war. He joined Lord Strathcona's Horse and became a commissioned officer in 1916. As a cavalry officer, he did not see much action in the muddy trenches of the Western Front. However, the sudden advances of the German army in 1918 led to horsemen being used again. In France on March 30, 1918, Flowerdew led a charge against German soldiers who were attempting to pass through Moreuil Wood. He led the charge into the German's flank, and his squadron suffered tremendous casualties as a result. However, his actions had frustrated the Germans enough that they later broke off the attack. Flowerdew was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously for leading the charge that overtook two lines of German infantry despite heavy losses. Over half of the men involved in the charge were killed, including Flowerdew himself. His actions at the Battle of Moreuil Wood were immortalized in the painting "Charge of Flowerdew's Squadron," by war artist Alfred Munnings. The painting is part of the Beaverbrook Collection of War Art and held at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. His actions have also been referred to as "The Last Cavalry Charge."
Service Record Details
Date of Birth: January 2, 1885 (Billingford, Norfolk England)
Date of Attestation: September 24, 1914 (Valcartier, PQ)
Age at Enlistment: 29 years
Height: 5 feet, 7 inches
Weight: 9 stone, 10 pounds (approximately 136 pounds)
Description: Medium complexion, brown eyes, brown hair. Church of England. Scar base index finger left hand.
Home Address: Mother's address is in care of Stanford Gillot Esq., The Knoll, Yaxley, Eyre, Suffolk, England.
Next of Kin: Mother, Mrs. Hannah Flowerdew (crossed out and replaced with: Miss Flowerdew care of St Thomas's Hospital, London).
Theatre of War: France
Casualties / Medical History
- May 21–June 6, 1917 – He is slightly wounded at duty, treated, and then granted 10 days' leave before being returned to duty. (Page 8)
- April 5, 1918 – A note added to a file card (Form R. 149.) indicates that he died of a gunshot wound to the thigh. (Page 20)
- April 1918–March 1919 – Notes indicate that he "Died of Wounds" and was awarded the Victoria Cross for actions " N.E. of Bois de Moreuil, France 30-3-18." (Page 13)
Interesting Details from the Service Record
- 1915–1916 – He lands in France and two months later is promoted to Sergeant. He has eight days' leave in December 1915, and is granted leave again in April 1916 after being promoted to Temporary Lieutenant. In November 1916 he attends a course for three weeks and then returns to the field. His next leave is in January 1917. (Page 8)
- April 24, 1918 – He is awarded the Victoria Cross for his valiant actions in battle northeast of Bois de Moreuil, France, on March 30, 1918. (LG 31259) (Page 14)
- Undated – A second person, Mrs. W. Miller Higgs (Box 734 Victoria, BC), is listed among the people to be informed in the event of his death. (Page 24)
- June 1, 1918 – King George appoints him posthumously to the rank of temporary Lieutenant. (Page 7)
- July 4, 1918 – A typewritten copy of his will, originally dated May 28, 1917, states: "My Sole Executor Hermann H. Flowerdew of Vancouver, B.C. I leave to my three Godsons named below £20 Each – Richard son of George S. Flowerdew Esq. Suffolk. G.M.F. above son of Hermann H. Flowerdew Vancouver, B.C. Alex son of S. Pelliam Flowerdew, India and to Peter son of Arthur T.E. Loyd Wallachin B.C. I leave £20 to Eleanor M. Flowerdew of St. Thomass' hospital I leave £50 to my Executor Hermann H. Flowerdew I leave £50. The remainder of my Estate I leave to my Mother Hannah Flowerdew." The will was witnessed by G. Gill. (Page 31)
The London Gazette
The London Gazette, April 23, 1918—Supplement 30648, Page 4968
"Lt. Gordon Muriel Flowerdew, late Can. Cav. – For most conspicuous bravery and dash when in command of a squadron detailed for special service of a very important nature. On reaching the first objective, Lieutenant Flowerdew saw two lines of the enemy, each about sixty strong, with machine guns in the centre and flanks, one line being about two hundred yards behind the other. Realising the critical nature of the operation and how much depended upon it, Lieutenant Flowerdew ordered a troop under Lieutenant Harvey, V.C., to dismount and carry out a special movement while he led the remaining three troops to the charge. The squadrons (less one troop) passed over both lines, killing many of the enemy with the sword; and wheeling about galloped at them again. Although the squadron had then lost about 70 percent of its numbers, killed and wounded, from rifle and machine-gun fire directed on it from the front and both flanks, the enemy broke and retired. The survivors of the squadron then established themselves in a position where they were joined, after much hand-to-hand fighting, by Lieutenant Harvey's party. Lieutenant Flowerdew was dangerously wounded through both thighs during the operation, but continued to cheer on his men. There can be no doubt that this officer's great valour was the prime factor in the capture of the position."
Military Medals Honours and Awards
In 1911, Gordon Muriel Flowerdew is living in Yale—Caribou, British Columbia, and working as a general store keeper. Many of his neighbours are Chinese labourers. He is listed as the head of his household, even though he is unmarried and appears to be living alone. The census states that he arrived in Canada in 1903.