AN AFFINITY FOR THE GORDON HIGHLANDERS
Over five years ago saw the acquisition of a rather humble battledress blouse attributed to Major John T. D. Durbin of the Gordon Highlanders. At the time it was the second non-United States uniform added to the collection with little knowledge of anything related to researching Scottish or British servicemen or regiments. The history surrounding his service and the lineage of the Gordon Highlanders was immediately fascinating and has evolved into a great appreciation for the regiment and its characters.
Unlike American Army organization, officers and men of the British Army tended to serve their entire careers within one unit, whether it be regular or territorial service. Postings or being 'seconded' to other units was only temporary and they always returned home. This idea seems to make the regiments deeply personal in their own character and enriches the history not just on events, but on people. Like people they develop their own habits, sense of style and truly become individualistic entities within a larger machine. As this collection is based on personal lives and narratives, the almost personification of a regiments lineage is a very attractive concept.
The story of John Durbin in particular is fascinating and researching his service history was a five year (and ongoing) journey. His effects were scattered to the winds - the battledress being only a small portion - the rest residing in the hands of other collectors and dealers. His medals sold at auction, some of his personal photos cared for by a member on Flickr, and two more of his uniforms in the hands of a dealer that fell through on a trade.
The research was more promising with the help of the amazing staff at the Gordon Highlanders Museum in Aberdeen. The very professional and thorough research volunteer, Bert Innes, has been most patient and attentive with all requests regarding Durbin's history and without access to the regimental journals, museum materials and Mr. Innes' own knowledge, much of the story would have been lost.
Picking up a copy of 'The Life of a Regiment' was a pleasure and shed further light on the Gordons in their post war period, with many mentions of Major Durbin personally as well as many other individuals who shaped the regimental history after World War II.
So, why the brief article on this liking for the Gordons? It has been at least five years since taking on research in unfamiliar territory, but this draft of Durbin's narrative can finally be considered 'final' (though any new information could change this quickly). Throughout this time, however, the story of the Gordons has become close to the heart of the collector and hopefully the future will bring more content of all eras related to this honorable and historic Scottish regiment.