Born an only child in Moulton near Newmarket, John lost his father in 1942 who was killed whilst taking part in the North African campaign. This loss perhaps led to some of his self reliance.
Educated at a local Grammar School, John left his then home in Leiston, Suffolk on his sixteenth birthday to join the Royal Navy as an Artificer Apprentice. He made his way to HMS Fisgard at Torpoint in East Cornwall. Just across the River Tamar from Plymouth.
As a relief from the hours spent in the workshop and classroom, John enjoyed playing rugby. He was selected to become an Engine Room Artificer and during his fourth term at Fisgard his leadership potential led to him being made the Chief Petty Officer Apprentice of Duncan Division, comprised of around 100 apprentices.
In January 1954 John moved on to Part 2 training at HMS Caledonia on the Northern bank of the Firth of Forth at Rosyth. Here he was selected to specialise as a Boilermaker.
John’s love of old motor cars began to develop at this stage and he became one of the very few apprentices to become a car owner. This car, a 1930s Talbot, came to an unfortunate end in a collision with a road roller just outside Rosyth Dockyard. The Dockyard authorities did however pay compensation. The Talbot was replaced with a pre-war Jaguar. At the end of John’s apprenticeship in August 1956, the car journey south in torrential rain was quite eventful. The incidents included a stuck horn, a burst tyre, brake failure followed by getting on to the pavement in order to run along a wall to slow down, then having to straighten a track-rod end at the roadside. There were other car journeys of note to follow, one involving a stone bridge on Dartmoor in the early 1960s.
John’s early sea service included time in HMS Pellew, a Type 14 frigate, and then the Battle class destroyer HMS Jutland. Jutland spent a year in the Mediterranean followed by 6 months with the Home Fleet. A return to HMS Caledonia came next with John joining the training staff there. During this period he took a Fleet Board in Portsmouth with a view to becoming Upper Yardman. Success resulted in a draft to the Royal Naval College at Dartmouth in September 1961.
On leaving Dartmouth in September 1963, now a Midshipman of the Seaman Specialisation, John was appointed to the minesweeper HMS Shavington in Malta. It was whilst home on leave from Malta in April 1964 that he first met Ling, his future wife. Back on Malta he bought a white Rolls Royce 20/21 from the Hon. Mabel Strickland.
In 1965 John returned to the UK and arranged for the white Rolls Royce to be shipped home. His next appointment was as a Sub Lieutenant to HMS Tenby in the Dartmouth Training Squadron. John’s strong character and avuncular nature made him well suited for these training posts which were to make up much of his naval career and the life to follow.
At this time he was re-building an old Rolls Royce in a garage to the west of Dartmouth. He offered a lift to some friends who were to attend the Summer Ball at Dartmouth. The wives thought that it would be rather nice to arrive in a “Roller”. However, when he arrived in Stoke Fleming to pick up his passengers there was some hasty re-arranging. John had “forgotten” to mention that he had not got the roof on yet! The ladies decided that they would transfer to the Mini to protect their hairdo’s and the chaps could all go in the Roller.
In July 1966, now a Lieutenant, John was appointed to the RN Training Team, Kenya. His post was to be that of First Lt., KNS Simba. This vessel was the leader of a squadron of 3 Patrol Boats, newly built by Vospers, which were to form the basis of the fledgling Navy for a newly independent Kenya. John was tasked with organising the hospitality to follow the commissioning ceremony at HMS Vernon. He arranged that South African sherry be served; but don’t tell the High Commissioner down from London (South Africa and Kenya were not the best of friends at this time).
On the 13th of August, whilst the Squadron was making the preparations for passage, John and Ling were married in St Anne’s church, Portsmouth Dockyard. The wedding car was the Rolls Royce 20/21 from Malta. Their first home was to be in Mombasa.
During the passage to Mombasa John was to share his cabin in Simba with a fellow member of Series 16 who was aboard as a third bridge watchkeeper. John’s lack of awe for authority showed itself again on the last leg of the voyage down the East Coast of Africa. On a slightly “lumpy” part of this leg, lusty renditions of “On the Road to Mandalay” frequently came from two voices in the 1st Lt’s cabin located just below the bridge, the CO, on watch, was not enjoying things quite so much. A 1926 Rolls Sedanca-de-Ville was purchased as the family car in Kenya. This car tagged on to President Kenyatta’s motorcades on a number of occasions and was also used by John and Ling to tour the Game Parks in style. The Malta Rolls had been left in UK.
On his return from Kenya in August 1968 John left the navy and settled in Knodishall, Suffolk. He took up employment with William Brown, Timber Merchants as their Personnel and Training Officer. A major reorganisation in 1983 led to John leaving the firm. His next position was with the Suffolk Community Programme Agency, an organisation to help the long term unemployed. John’s all round ability helped this organisation to flourish and take on 400 employees. Under his guidance, a garage was established in order to maintain the scheme’s fleet of 20 vehicles. In 1987, when the scheme was wound up, he moved on to become Safety Officer for Woods Air Movement of Colchester where he remained until his retirement in June 2000.
He had earlier joined the Institute of Personnel Management, progressing to become Chairman of the Colchester and Ipswich branch. In 2000 I.P.M. became The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and John was elected to Honorary Charter Membership of the Institute in April 2001.
For many years some of his spare time was given to lecturing on Industrial Law at Ipswich College. John maintained a link with the navy through the Ipswich unit of the Sea Cadet Corps and was instrumental in the purchase of a retired lightship. This vessel was to become the Ipswich Unit headquarters. His connection with the S.C.C. progressed until he found himself a member of the Sea Cadet National Council.
The domestic accident that took John’s life was untimely and took away someone who still had much to offer society.
John is survived by Ling, who continues to live in the house that they built at Knodishall. His son Christopher has taken over restoration of the Malta Rolls that was in the garage. John’s daughter Lisa works in personnel management.