Poppy Charles Gordon JELF (1886–1915) Poppy

Gordon Jelfs

Charles Gordon Jelf (aways known as Gordon) was born in Rochester, Kent on 8 June 1886, the son of George Edward Jelf (born in Berlin as a British subject on 29 January 1834), and the grandson of Richard William Jelf, D.D., who had been the Principal of King’s College, London from 1844 to 1868.

His mother was George Edward Jelf's second wife Katharine Frances Dalton, who was born at Lambeth Rectory in 1850 and baptised at St Mary's Church there on 6 January 1851 by her own father, the Revd. Charles Browne Dalton.

Gordon’s father George Edward Jelf had married his first wife, Fanny Crawley, in the chapelry or St Michael at Highgate on 27 April 1861, and they had two sets of twins:

  • Mary Agnes Jelf (TWIN: born at Clapton on 18 January 1862 and baptised at St John's Church, Hackney by her grandfather on 16 February 1862)
  • Edith Louise Jelf (TWIN: born at Clapton on 18 January 1862 and baptised at St John's Church, Hackney by her grandfather on 16 February 1862)
  • Fanny Jelf (TWIN: born at Clapton and baptised at St James the Great Church, Hackney on 18 April 1865; died shortly after birth)
  • George Edward Jelf (TWIN: born at Clapton and baptised at St James the Great Church, Hackney on 18 April 1865).

Fanny Jelf, the first wife of Gordon's father, died in the third quarter of 1865 in the Hackney registration district.

Gordon's father was a widower for nine years. During this period he was the first Vicar of Blackmoor (near Selbourne, Hampshire) from 1869 to 1874. His twin daughters Mary Agnes Jelf and Edith Louise Jelf both died in Hampshire of scarlet fever at the age of eight near the beginning of 1871.

The 1871 census shows George Edward Jelf living at Blackmoor Vicarage with his sister-in-law Miss Caroline Crawley (42) and his only surviving child George (6), plus six servants.

On 20 January 1876 in the Chapelry of St Michael, Highgate, Gordon's father George Edward Jelf (41) married his second wife, Katharine Frances Dalton (25), the daughter of the Revd Charles Henry Dalton. They had seven children, including Gordon himself:

  • Arthur Selbourne Jelf (born in Saffron Walden on 10 October 1876)
  • Dorothy Frances Emmy Jelf (born in Saffron Walden in 1878 and baptised there on 31 August
  • Frederica Mary Jelf (born in Saffron Walden in 1881 and baptised there on 22 April)
  • Inez Katherine Jelf (born in Saffron Walden in 1882 and baptised there on 4 October)
  • Philip Wordsworth M. Jelf (born in Rochester in 1884, registered fourth quarter)
  • Charles Gordon Jelf (born in Rochester on 8 June 1886)
  • Meriel Edith Jelf (born in Rochester in 1890, registered second quarter, wrongly transcribed as Muriel).

Gordon’s father, the Revd George Edward Jelf, D.D., was Canon Residentiary of Rochester from 1880 to 1907. He was also Vicar of Saffron Walden from 1874 to 1882, and at the time of the 1881 census was living in the vicarage there with his wife and their first three children (plus four domestic servants, and a monthly nurse to help with the youngest child, who was newborn). His only surviving child from his first marriage, George Edward Jelf, was boarding at Haileybury School at the time of the census.

From 1883 to 1889 Gordon’s father was Rector of Chatham.

At the time of the 1891 census all seven children (including Gordon, aged 4) were at home with their parents in the precincts of Rochester Cathedral. Gordon’s widowed grandfather, Charles B. Dalton, the Prebendary of St Paul’s Cathedral, was living with them, and they had five servants (a nurse, cook, housemaid, nursemaid, and a page).

From 1896 to 1897 Gordon’s father was Rector of Wiggonholt, and from 1897 to 1904 the incumbent of St Germans, Blackheath. In 1907 he was appointed Master of Charterhouse

Gordon attended Felsted Preparatory School and then The Grange in Folkestone, before going up to Marlborough College. At the time of the 1901 census, when he was 14, he was boarding at Marlborough College, while his older brother Philip (16) was at Haileybury. His parents and sisters (plus four servants) were now living in London at 9 St German’s Place, Charlton & Kidbrooke.

Gordon won an open scholarship to Exeter College, Oxford in 1905 and gained his BA degree in 1909 with a Second Class in both Moderations and Literae Humaniores.

Gordon’s father George Edward Jelf died on 19 November 1908 at the age of 74 at the Master's House, Charterhouse. He was buried at Highgate Cemetery.

In 1909 Gordon was attached to the Department of Antiquities in Egypt for seven months, and the next year was appointed an Assistant Master of Classics at Fonthill School, a private preparatory school for boys in East Grinstead. He was living on his own at Saint Hill, East Grinstead at the time of the 1911 census, aged 24.

In about 1909 Gordon’s widowed mother came to live at 34 Norham Road, Oxford, where she can be seen in the 1911 census with her three unmarried daughters Dorothy (32), Inez (28), and Meriel (20). They now had only three servants (a housemaid, cook, and parlourmaid). In the second quarter of 1911 Inez married Edward Bickersteth in Oxford.

In August 1911, after a few months’ study of German, Gordon joined the staff of The Times, and was assistant correspondent in Berlin until the outbreak of war. His family had German relations: his grandfather Dr R. W. Jelf had been tutor to George, the future King of Hanover, and had married Countess Emmy Schippenbach.

In about 1913 Mrs Jelf moved to 80 Woodstock Road in St Margaret’s parish.

Gordon Jelf volunteered to serve very near the beginning of the First World War, commencing service on 27 October 1914. He spent nine weeks in the Public Schools Battalion of Royal Fusiliers, and then applied for a commission to a Kentish Regiment. His letters show how keen he was to fight: one on 21 May 1915 to his mother stated, “It has been definitely decided now that I am to go over the top with the Battalion, and I was overjoyed when W. told me the great news. Indeed, I wouldn’t be out of it for worlds.”

Jelfs's grave

Poppy In the first World War (Charles) Gordon Jelf served as a Second Lieutenant in the 6th Battalion of The Buffs (East Kent Regiment).

Jelf was killed in action near Loos (between Vermelles and Hulloch) at the age of 29 on 13 October 1915. He is buried at the Vermelles British Cemetery (I.E.12).

He was mentioned in despatches by General Sir Douglas Haig.

Right: Photograph of C. G. Jelf’s grave in France, kindly supplied by British War Graves. The text reads:

[Emblem of the Buffs]



This is one of the 40% of war graves that bears a personal message at the end (for which the family had to pay 3½d per letter).

Jelf on Felsted war memorial

Jelf is remembered on the war memorial outside St Margaret’s Church in north Oxford; on the Felsted School Roll of Honour (left); on a memorial plaque in Rochester Cathedral; and on a brass plaque in Exeter College (below):

Jelf remembered in Exeter College

The following short obituary appeared in The Times of 19 October 1915:

   We deeply regret to record the death in action of another member of the editorial staff of The Times, Second Lieutenant Charles Gordon Jelf, of the 6th East Kent Regiment (The Buffs).
   Mr Jelf, who fell on October 13, was the youngest son of the Rev. Dr. Jelf, late Master of the Charterhouse, and of Mrs Jelf, Bushley, Oxford, and was 29 years of age. He was educated at Marlborough and at Exeter College, Oxford, where he was a scholar, and took his degree in 1909. Before the war he was assistant correspondent of The Times in Berlin.

The following comment was added in The Times of 26 October 1915:

Lady Teynham, whose husband commands a company of the 6th East Kent Regiment, writes of the late Second Lieutenant Jelf:— “I am sure you will like to know how much Lord Teynham appreciated him. Several times in his letters he has said that he has been much helped by having two splendid subalterns, of whom Mr. Jelf was one. In my husband’s last letter received a few days ago, he writes, “I have lost a very dear young subaltern, who was killed by my side.”

Gordon Jelf’s letters from France were privately published as a book soon after his death. On 10 August 1915 he wrote:

Dear old England! she will be better and stronger than ever, the good old land. We must pay our price – we here in lives and wounds – and you all, I’m afraid, in sorrow and straitened means. But we are only temporary tenants of England – just one generation, holding her for the next hundred years, or more, and earning the gratitude of our grandchildren and their families’ families. As Kipling said – ‘Who dies if England live?’ We can’t be English without paying coin for it, can we?

And on 11 October 1915, two days before his death:

The shelling is now absolutely continuous; but the trenches here are splendid against it, and all day south of us there have been tremendous bombardments. The bombardment inflicted on us which I mentioned is said by the artillery to have been the worst the Germans have yet given the British. If that is the case, we don’t mind a bit, therefore so much for that.

The Colonel of his regiment wrote that he had “times without number proved himself absolutely fearless, and it was in a most magnificent attack that he was killed”, and a brother officer that “he met his death in a fine way, showing an especial example of bravery to his men in an exceptionally trying moment”.

Administration (with Will) was granted in London to Gordon’s widowed mother, Katharine Frances Jelf, on 5 February 1916. He left £136 8s. 4d.

St Margaret's Church War Memorial

After the War

Gordon’s widowed mother
  • Mrs Katharine Frances Jelf moved away from 80 Woodstock Road very soon after her son’s death in 1915. She was living at Squerryes Lodge, Westerham, near Sevenoaks after the war. She died at 28 Granville Road, Sevenoaks at the age of 83 on 22 December 1933. Her effects came to £6,390 2s. 9d., and her executors were unmarried daughter Dorothy Jelf, her son-in-law the Edward Monier Bickersteth, and the stockjobber Hugh Grace.
Gordon’s sisters
  • Frederica Mary Jelf (born 1881) married Hugh Douglas C. Grace in the Medway registration district of Kent in the second quarter of 1907. She died in the Tonbridge district at the age of 77 in 1958.
  • Inez Katharine Jelf (born 1882) was living at 34 Norham Road when she married the Revd Edward Monier Bickersteth of the Vicarage, Leeds at Christ Church Cathedral on 20 April 1911. (The Bickersteth papers are in the Bodleian Library.)
  • Meriel Edith Jelf (born 1890) married Captain Ralph Chevenix-Trench of the Royal Engineers at St Margaret’s Church on 2 December 1916.
Gordon’s brother
  • Arthur Selbourne Jelf (born 1876) served in the Malayan Civil Service from 1899 to 1925, and was seconded for Military Service (Intelligence) from 1917 to 1919. He married Blanche Connell at St George’s, Hanover Square in the first quarter of 1908, and their son Hector Gordon Jelf (born on 6 May 1917) was baptised at St Margaret’s Church on 20 June 1917: their address was given in the register as Perak, Federated Malay States. Blanche died later that year, and Arthur then married Evelyn Mary Hardcastle, and they had two sons and one daughter. Arthur Jelf was knighted in 1932, and served as Mayor of Hythe for 1938/9. He died on 26 February 1947. See his entry in Who Was Who.

See also

  • CWGC: JELF, Charles Gordon
  • Entry for Charles Gordon Jelf on De Ruvigny's Roll of Honour
  • Who Was Who: entry on Gordon’s father, JELF, Rev. George Edward, DD
  • Charles Gordon Jelf, Charles Gordon Jelf: Letters, with an introduction and a portrait (1915). It is out of print (see current Amazon status), but is available in the Bodleian Library (22281 e.1869).
  • Wikipedia: Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment)

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