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The Fisgard Association

Rear Admiral John Burgess CB LVo CENG (Rodney 1945) (1929-2019)

Tiffy Admiral John Burgess died suddenly at his home in Cawsand on 30th April 2019. His funeral was held at Maker Church (The Church of St Mary & St Julian), on 29th May 2019.

John Burgess was born in Newcastle on 13th July 1929. He passed the Common Entrance Exam from Coventry Grammar School coming top out of 600. His Headmaster expected him to progress through the academic ranks but he said ‘no’, he wanted to be an engineer and so went to the technical college instead; quite determined even at that tender age. He then joined the RN as an ERA/App on 17th January 1945 at HMS Caledonia.

He earned his tickets in the Battle Class Destroyer Aisne and told the story of how as a young ‘Tiff, and a member of the boarding party, he rowed the ship’s whaler over to a merchantman of some description in the Eastern Med and was assailed by a tin of peaches which did him some cranial harm. His only war wound! He was earmarked as having potential and went off to the Admiralty Interview Board (AIB). On being called forward for his interview he entered a room to find the Board President with his back to him and looking out of the window. “Is that you Burgess? You’re through”. So far so good. On completion of his studies at RNEC Manadon he was selected for the Dagger course (a Masters post degree course for those ‘most likely’). He then went off to serve in the Aircraft Carrier Implacable before becoming DMEO and later MEO of the carrier Victorious.

Nuclear engineering appealed and he went off to work with Rolls Royce before crossing the pond to the USA in 1972 to serve in Washington. He returned to UK to become MEO of the Royal Yacht Britannia in 1973 and on completion of his Royal service he received the Sovereign’s award of the LVO before joining DG Ships at Bath. In 1977 with the rank of Captain he became the Naval Assistant to the Controller. Then back to the West Country to take over as CO of Defiance, CSO(E) and CFM. His next appointment in 1982 was as the CO of Sultan during which time he was sent for by the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir John Fieldhouse….. he was shown to his office and on entering the room found 1SL with his back to him and looking out of the window. “Is that you Burgess? You’re Up”. Flag Rank, so far so very good! His reward on being promoted Rear Admiral in January 1984 was to proceed to Scotland as MD Rosyth and prepare the base for privatisation, to be completed within 5 years. This with all the attendant difficulties (including some 50 plus trade unions to negotiate with), he achieved within time and was gazetted for his award of the CB in December 1986. In 1987 he left the RN and joined Rolls Royce and Associates and continued his nuclear engineering career until retirement.

During most of his service career the safe harbour he returned to was Cawsand. He and his wife Liz owned a number of different houses there over the years and his elder daughter was born there. He met his wife Liz in 1951 (she served with the Ack-Ack Command during WW2), and they married in 1952. She sadly died in 2015 and thereafter John visited her grave at Maker every day. Sara spoke of her memory as a three year old sitting on the bar of The Rising Sun in Cawsand, Dad enjoying a pint of beer whilst Mum cooked the family meal. Cawsand was their village, which the whole family has always supported. John was a long serving parish councillor and staunch supporter of the sailing club. He regularly frequented the local coffee mornings and never ‘wore’ his Admiral’s hat. Indeed, he had attended the coffee morning gathering the day of his untimely death.

An inspiration to every Artificer.