South African Military History Society


Fellow member Major Antony Gordon presented us with a colourful guided tour through his two years in HMS EAGLE at anchor and at sea, and his two years ashore in north Scotland at the Royal Naval Air Station Lossiemouth. He considers these tour years the most interesting in his 24 years Army service.

The 50 000 ton Aircraft Carrier with a crew of 2 800 and two and four inch armoured plating, was laid down in 1942, and it thus profited from the hard battle experiences gained early on during WW II. Particularly the armoured flight deck was superior to the wooden ones of US carriers. But at that stage US designers had not envisaged the advent of Kamikaze pilots crashing their flying bombs onto flight decks with disastrous results.

When joining EAGLE as an Army Officer, Tony was struck by the friendly and helpful tolerance of the RN to "Our Pongos". There followed a long learning process including a new slanguage, and he had to find his way around the massive ship. It was 10 decks from their office on 7 deck to the operations room on 03 deck in the Island.
Tony was CBGLO (Carrier Borne Ground Liaison Officer), and his and his team's duties were indeed manifold. They ranged from photography, intelligence gathering and evaluation, to training pilots to assist, and also briefing and debriefing them, to strike planning, updating maps, spotting during rocket and practice bombings, and also many "unofficial duties". For this they had a radio-fitted diesel Land-Rover as well as a stock of 250 000 maps, weighing about 20 tons.

In 1967 EAGLE's main task was to cover the British withdrawal from the confused fighting in ADEN. They first did "Working Up" around the UK, and sailed via the Cape to the Far East. The traditional Cape welcome was recognized as the best "Run(m) Ashore" anywhere. Afterwards to Gan island near Ceylon, followed by more flying, and then Singapore for servicing and - more flying. Then back to Aden for REAL operational flying and Army/Navy work. This culminated in the very tricky withdrawal in Nov 1967.

Having been relieved by HMS HERMES, they spent Christmas in Singapore, sailed to Gan, Fremantle (Perth), and on to the Sunda Straights, Hong Kong and the Phillipines to use the excellent US ranges.

But Aden reared its ugly head (there was danger to 550 Europeans from 11 nations), and so once again via Singapore to the North Indian Ocean to Point Patience. But they were not needed, were recalled to the UK and, after another wonderful reception at Cape Town and a stop at Gibraltar for "rabbits", the "Tour" ended with a very big NATO exercise in the far north of Norway with an armada of Russian ships.
After all that, the aircraft flew home and EAGLE was "Paid off" in her home port of Plymouth.

Tony emphasized that he thoroughly enjoyed his four years with the Royal Navy, especially the Fleet Air Arm. He concluded his presentation, which he supported with many maps, with slides of Carrier activities, and some cartoons from the ship's daily paper "Eagle Express", poking fun at all and sundry from seamen to Admirals. It was a refreshingly humorous presentation with many details and insights, not only into carrier life and operations but also into foreign politics as seen through the eyes of men doing duty in far-away waters.


13 February 2002
Extensively illustrated Lecture by Robin Smith
13 March 2003
Botha's advance with the U.D.F. Burger Commandos and the Tvl Horse Artillery up the Swakop River
Illustrated Talk by Rodney Warwick
10 April 2003
2) THE WW 2 GERMAN ARMED MERCHANT CRUISER ATLANTIS and its historic 622 days, 102,000 miles raiding voyage in 1939/1940.
Talk by Captain Robert Taylor RD RNR with Maps and pictures.
Extensively illustrated Lecture by Robin Smith
8 May 2003
Operations in the Mediterranean 1941, Greece and Crete (62nd Anniversary of the Battle)
Illustrated Lecture by Johan van den Berg

remain at R45.- for single and R50.- for family members. Full Members have to pay R155.- and R170.- respectively. The small increase has become necessary due to higher printing costs of the Journal.
Renewal Forms are included. When paying by cheque please make out to: S.A. Military History Society

The January Newsletter was erroneously marked No.294 instead of No.295: The Scribe apologizes for his mistake.

A concert will be given by the S.A.Navy Band on 23rd February at Admiralty House, Simon's Town. Gates open at 15h00, start at 16h00 and finish at about 18h00. Tickets can be obtained from the Naval Public Relations Office, Mrs.Knight, at 021 787 3860. Cost R 50.00 each. Please bring cushions or deck chairs.

Meetings are normally held on the 2nd Thursday of each month at 20h00 in the Recreation Hall of the SA LEGION ROSEDALE COMPLEX Lower Nursery Road, Rosebank, off Alma Road, opposite Rosebank Railway Station, below the line.

All visitors are welcome. Tea and biscuits will be served.

Jochen (John) Mahncke (Vice-Chairman/Scribe) (021) 797 5167

South African Military History Society /