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About John Standish Surtees Prendergast Vereker
VC GCB GBE DSO and 2 Bars MVO MC
Note: John Vereker is on the left in the profile photo.
Field Marshal John Standish Surtees Prendergast Vereker, 6th Viscount Gort, VC, GCB, CBE, DSO & Two Bars, MVO, MC (10 July 1886 – 31 March 1946), was a British and Anglo-Irish soldier who served in both World War I and II, rising to the rank of field marshal. During World War I he received the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.
Gort was born in London into the Prendergast Vereker dynasty, an old Anglo-Irish aristocratic family, and grew up in County Durham and the Isle of Wight. He was educated at Malvern Link Preparatory School and Harrow School and then entered the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, in January 1904, having succeeded his father to the family title in 1902. The family peerage, Viscount Gort, was named after Gort, a town in County Galway in the West of Ireland. He was commissioned in the Grenadier Guards in July 1905.
On the death of King Edward VII in 1910, the young Viscount Gort was a Lieutenant in command of the Grenadier NCOs detailed to bear the coffin and attend the catafalque. He was made a Member of the Royal Victorian Order for his services. Later that year he went moose hunting in Canada and accidentally shot his Indian guide, prompting an immediate return.
On 22 February 1911, Lord Gort married Corinna Vereker, a second cousin, at the Guards Chapel, Wellington Barracks, London. They had three children, Charles in 1912, Joscelyn in 1913, and Jacqueline in 1914. They divorced in 1925.
On 3 September 1913, he was appointed ADC to General Francis Lloyd, General Officer Commanding London District.
First World War
In August 1914, Gort was promoted to captain. He fought on the Western Front and served as a staff officer achieving the brevet rank of major and acting rank of lieutenant-colonel. In June 1915 he was awarded the Military Cross. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) in June 1917, a bar to the DSO in September 1917 and a second bar in January 1919. He was also Mentioned in Despatches eight times.
On 27 November 1918, Gort was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 27 September 1918 at the Battle of Canal du Nord, near Flesquieres, France. Gort's batman, Guardsman Ransome, was killed while helping Gort to safety.
Victoria Cross citation
Captain (Brevet Major, Acting Lieutenant-Colonel), 1st Battalion The Grenadier Guards Citation: For most conspicuous bravery, skilful leading and devotion to duty during the attack of the Guards Division on 27th September 1918, across the Canal du Nord, near Flesquieres, when in command of the 1st Battalion, Grenadier Guards, the leading battalion of the 3rd Guards Brigade. Under heavy artillery and machine-gun fire he led his battalion with great skill and determination to the "forming-up" ground, where very severe fire from artillery and machine guns was again encountered. Although wounded, he quickly grasped the situation, directed a platoon to proceed down a sunken road to make a flanking attack, and, under terrific fire, went across open ground to obtain the assistance of a Tank, which he personally led and directed to the best possible advantage. While thus fearlessly exposing himself, he was again severely wounded by a shell. Notwithstanding considerable loss of blood, after lying on a stretcher for awhile, he insisted on getting up and personally directing the further attack. By his magnificent example of devotion to duty and utter disregard of personal safety all ranks were inspired to exert themselves to the utmost, and the attack resulted in the capture of over 200 prisoners, two batteries of field guns and numerous machine guns. Lt.-Col. Viscount Gort then proceeded to organise the defence of the captured position until he collapsed; even then he refused to leave the field until he had seen the "success signal" go up on the final objective. The successful advance of the battalion was mainly due to the valour, devotion and leadership of this very gallant officer.
Subsequent to this he became known as "Tiger" Gort.
Gort was promoted to the substantive rank of major in November 1919. After attending a short course at the Staff College, Camberley in 1919, Gort returned in 1921 as an instructor, and was made a brevet lieutenant-colonel. He left the Staff College in May 1923.
He took up sailing in 1922 and was a keen yachtsman until the next war intervened, joining the Royal Yacht Squadron in 1922 and participating in the 1925 Fastnet race. In 1924, he rewrote the Infantry training manual.
Gort was promoted to colonel in April 1926 (with seniority back dated to January 1925). In January 1927, he went to Shanghai, returning in August to give a first hand account of the Chinese situation to the King and the Prince of Wales. In June 1928, he was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. He went on to command the Guards Brigade for two years from 1930 before overseeing training in India with the temporary rank of brigadier. In 1932, he took up flying, buying the de Haviland Moth aircraft Henrietta and being elected chairman of the Household Brigade Flying Club. In November 1935, he was promoted to major-general. He returned to the Staff College in 1936 as Commandant.
In May 1937, Gort was appointed a Companion of the Bath. In September 1937, he became Military Secretary to the War Minister, Leslie Hore-Belisha, with the temporary rank of lieutenant-general. On 6 December 1937, as part of a purge by Hore-Belisha of senior officers, Gort was appointed to the Army Council, made a general and replaced Field Marshal Sir Cyril Deverell as Chief of the Imperial General Staff. On 1 January 1938, he was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath.
As Chief of the Imperial General Staff (C.I.G.S.), Lord Gort advocated the primacy of building a land army and defending France and the Low Countries over Imperial defence after France had said she would not be able on her own to defend herself against a German attack.
On 2 December 1938 Gort submitted a report on the readiness of the British Army. He observed that Germany, as a result of the acquisition of Czechoslovakia, was in a stronger position than the previous year and that as a result of the government's decision in 1937 to create a "general purpose" army, Britain lacked the necessary forces for the defence of France.
On 21 December Gort recommended to the Chiefs of Staff that Britain would need to help France defend Holland and Belgium and that for that purpose the British Army needed complete equipment for four Regular army infantry divisions and two mobile armoured divisions, with the Territorial army armed with training equipment and then war equipment for four divisions. The First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Roger Blackhouse, replied that Britain's continental commitment might not be a limited liability. Gort replied: "Lord Kitchener had clearly pointed out that no great country can wage a “little” war". He also attacked as a fallacy the theory of strategic mobility by the use of seapower because in modern war land transport was faster and cheaper than by the sea. The experience of David Lloyd George's 1917 Alexandretta project "proved that [maritime side-shows] invariably led to vast commitments out of all proportion to the value of the object attained". If a purely defensive position was taken the Maginot Line would be broken and that the British Army (with anti-aircraft defence) was only getting £277 million out of a total £2,000 million spent on defence.
Second World War
At the outbreak of war he was given command of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in France, arriving on 19 September 1939. During this time he played a part in a political scandal, the Pillbox affair, that led to the dismissal of British War Minister Leslie Hore-Belisha. Following the Phony War, the 1940 German breakthrough in the Ardennes split the Allied forces and communications between the British Expeditionary Force and the French broke down, and on 25 May 1940 Gort took the unilateral decision to abandon his orders for a southward attack by his forces. Gort's command position was difficult, serving under French high, theatre, and army group command while also being responsible to London. Withdrawing northwards, the BEF together with many French soldiers were evacuated during the Battle of Dunkirk.
Gort is credited by some as reacting efficiently to the crisis and saving the British Expeditionary Force. Others hold a more critical view of Gort’s leadership in 1940, seeing his decision not to join the French in organising a large scale counter-attack as defeatist.
Gort served in various positions for the duration of the war. On the day of his return, 1 June 1940, he was made an ADC General to King George VI. On 25 June 1940 he went by flying boat, with Duff Cooper, to Rabat, Morocco, to rally anti-Nazi French cabinet ministers, but was instead held on his flying boat. He quickly returned to Britain.
Lord Gort was given the post of Inspector of Training and the Home Guard, and with nothing constructive to do visited Iceland, Orkney and Shetland. He went on to serve as Governor of Gibraltar (1941–42). He pushed ahead with extending the airfield into land reclaimed from the sea, against the advice of the British government, but was later thanked by the War Cabinet for his foresight when the airfield proved vital to the British Mediterranean campaign. As Governor of Malta (1942–44) his courage and leadership during the siege was recognised by the Maltese giving him the Sword of Honour. The King gave Gort his field marshal's baton on 20 June 1943 at Malta. On 29 September, Gort, together with Generals Eisenhower and Alexander, witnessed Marshal Badoglio signing the Italian surrender in Valetta harbour.
He ended the war as High Commissioner for Palestine and Transjordan. He served at this office only one year. In 1945 he nominated William James Fitzgerald, Chief Justice of Palestine, to enquire into the Jewish-Arab conflict in Jerusalem. Chief Justice Fitzgerald issued his report in which he proposed to divide the city into separate Jewish and Arab Quarters.
 Later yearsDuring a meeting in November 1945 with Field Marshals Brooke and Montgomery, Gort collapsed and was flown to London where the diagnosis was cancer.
In February 1946, he was created a Viscount in the Peerage of the United Kingdom under the same title as his existing Viscountcy in the Peerage of Ireland. Upon his death on 31 March 1946 without a son, the Irish Viscountcy of Gort passed to his brother, and the British creation became extinct.
He was the father-in-law of Major William Sidney, 1st Viscount De L'Isle VC, and first cousin-once-removed to General Sir Ian Standish Monteith Hamilton. Gort was present when his son-in-law received the VC from Alexander on 3 March 1944 in Italy (the VC ribbon was cut from one of Gort's uniforms).
Field Marshal John Standish Surtees Prendergast Vereker, 6th Viscount Gort's Timeline
July 10, 1886
Westminster, London, England
February 23, 1911
Westminster, London, England
February 23, 1912
Chelsea, London, England
July 27, 1913
October 20, 1914
December 6, 1937
- September 3, 1939
May 14, 1941
- May 31, 1942
- September 26, 1944