FARMER,  Donald Dickson  [1877 - 1956]

Donald Dickson Farmer was born on 28th May 1877 in Kelso, Scotland. Aged fourteen he enlisted in the Cameron Highlanders and saw action in Sudan and South Africa, including the action at Omdurman. It was while he was serving in the Boer War that his bravery was recognised by the award of the Victoria Cross for outstanding courage under fire when recuing a wounded officer. His citation read

Donald Farmer, Sergeant 1st Battalion Cameron Highlanders. Date of act of bravery 13th December 1900. During the attack on General Clement’s camp at Nooitgedacht, Lieutenant Sandilands, Cameron Highlanders, with fifteen men went to the assistance of a picquet which was heavily engaged, most of the men having been killed or wounded. The enemy, who were hidden by trees, opened fire on the party at a range of about twenty yards, killing two and wounding five, including Lieutenant Sandilands. Sergeant Farmer at once went to the officer, who was perfectly helpless, and carried him under a very heavy and close fire to a place of comparative safety, after which he returned to the firing line and was eventually taken prisoner.

Lieutenant Sandilands made a full recovery and eventually rose to the rank of Major General. The two men became friends for life and Sandilands was best man when Donald Farmer married Helen Bonnar in 1903. Farmer continued to serve in the army, and in 1909 decided to spend the remainder of his service as a Colour Sergeant in the newly formed Territorial Force. He was posted to the 10th (Scottish) Battalion, the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment and on 31 July 1909 the Farmer family arrived in Liverpool. Their first home was 3Duddingston Avenue L18, near to Penny Lane. Shortly after this their first son, Donald Dickson Farmer Jnr. was born in 1910. He retired from the army in May 1914 and found a job in Jacobs biscuit factory in Aintree. However, his time on civvy street was to be very brief.

Soon after starting his new job  he was persuaded by his former commanding officer to join the Liverpool Scottish as a territorial on special overage enlistment. Within weeks of his doing so the First World War started and Donald Farmer would fight his third campaign for his country on the Western Front. On 16th June 1916 he took part in the Battle of Hooge (officially known as the first action at Bellewarde Lake) and would later recall the actions of the regiment’s medical officer, Noel Chavasse. He was then commissioned Lieutenant and for the rest of the war undertook duties away from the front line. By the time he was demobilised in 1919 he had risen to the rank of temporary Lieutenant Colonel.

For some years Donald Farmer struggled to find work which would keep his family but he eventually secured a post with the Scottish brewers Youngers who were looking to expand in the Liverpool area. He would always attend Victoria Cross reunions, often with his friend, Liverpool-born Gabriel George Coury V.C. At the Centenary Review of holders held in Hyde Park in 1956 he was the oldest living holder of the decoration.

Apparently his son not only bore the same name as his father but had a striking physical resemblance to him. He also inherited his father’s courageous spirit and was awarded the Military Cross for his bravery serving as a Lieutenant with the Highland Light Infantry on the west bank of the Rhine in 1945.

After leaving Duddingston Avenue the Farmer family moved to 56 Albert Edward Road L7. After his retirement they lived at 6 Waverley Road L17 and then at 165 Greenhill Road L18. Donald Farmer died aged 79 on 23rd December 1956. The funeral service, with full military honours, was held at Anfield Crematorium.

3 Duddingston Avenue L18

The farmer family home when they first came to Liverpool in 1909

56 Albert Edward Road L7

The Farmer home until c. the mid 1940s

6A Waverley Road L17

The Farmer's home after retirement

165 Greenhill Road L18

Donald Farmer's final home in LIverpool


By far the best account of Donald Farmer's life and military career is to be found in James Murphy's excellent book Liverpool V.C.'s [Pen & Sword 2008]. The Wikipedia entry is very basic but there is a better account of his life on the vconline website.