|28 Aug 2020|
|Passing of friends|
Antony Gordon passed away at home in Rondebosch, Cape Town on Friday 17 July 2020 at the age of 92 after several years of gradually declining health including short term memory loss. He was able, however, to retain his ability to converse normally, walk (with a walker), enjoy family and friends and also enjoy things such as television and the garden up to his last 24 hours when he declined rapidly.
Antony and his identical twin brother, Ian (1945F) (who died in 2017) were born in Cape Town on 5 September 1927 and grew up on their apple farm, Drumearn, in Elgin (where Perigrine is today) coming to Bishops Prep in 1937. As twins, Antony and Ian were a handful for the wartime teachers and Founders staff but were apparently useful for climbing & trimming trees as all the young men were off at the war. Their time at Bishops was interrupted by a year at the local school in Grabouw when the apple crop failed (good for their Afrikaans), as well as one term at St Andrews in Grahamstown (to improve their tonsils). He particularly enjoyed the classes of Mr Solly Satchel who liked to "broaden" the boys’ minds with other knowledge and not just teach the syllabus. Antony also made some very good life-long friends at Bishops.
After school, in 1946, both boys joined the British army, and after being commissioned at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 1948, they both joined their father's old regiment, the Royal Scots Fusiliers (RSF). (Later to become the Royal Highland Fusiliers (RHF)). His first posting after Sandhurst and further training in Edinburgh were to the Ruhr in Germany where he was shocked at the extent of the bomb damage. In 1950 they both spent their long leave back on the remainder of their farm in Elgin, camping in their old “boys’ hut”. He was then posted to Ayr, Scotland to run the training of national servicemen. In 1953, his brother took over the position, and after changing just two letters on his office door, many did not notice the change of officer in charge. They had many stories of the confusion the twin officers caused. Antony was then posted to Malaya and involved in jungle warfare and counter-terrorism.
He met his wife-to-be, Pat, in 1960 after being posted back to Ayr. After further postings to Malta, including leading an expedition deep into the Sahara in Libya, and to Aden (now Yemen), he eventually married Pat in her home village of Straiton, Ayrshire in February 1964, after which they were based in Glasgow, with Tony as training major to a territorial battalion of the RHF. After the birth of Douglas (1983G) in 1966, they moved to Plymouth, as Antony had been appointed as the Carrier Borne Ground Liaison Officer to the Royal Navy’s aircraft carrier, HMS Eagle. Antony recalled: “My four years with the Royal Navy (Fleet Air Arm) were without any doubt, the most interesting in my whole 24 years service as it included a very interesting job and much travel with work in different conditions”. His two years with HMS Eagle included operations in multiple middle and far east locations including very welcome en-route stop-offs in Cape Town and Durban. After Edward (1986G) was born in Plymouth in 1968, Antony and the family were then posted to Lossiemouth Naval Air Station, near Inverness in the northeast of Scotland. His job during this time was to train naval aircrews in ground attack - ie from an Army perspective. This was a very happy posting where the family felt fully integrated into navy life.
In 1970 after doing some army retirement courses, Antony left the British Army and returned to Cape Town with his immigrant family, just in time for Douglas to start at Bishops. He worked first at City Tramways (now Golden Arrow Busses). In 1975 he joined Attwells Bakery in Salt River and was there for many years. This was followed by two years at the 1820 Settlers Association before he retired finally in 1990.
Antony had always been interested in military history matters and in retirement developed a passion for it. His areas of particular interest were military history of the Cape (the battles of Blaauwberg and Muizenberg, the sinking of The Birkenhead, and the Cape coastal defences) and particularly the Boer War. This interest came from his father having fought in the Boer War and having his diaries of almost the entire war. He did extensive research on this and also visited many of the places his father had mentioned. From 1989 –1997 he was on the British War Graves Committee of the then National Monuments Council, which was responsible for recording and maintaining graves from the Boer War and earlier. Having joined the Cape Town branch of the South African Military History Society in 1983, he later served on its committee for many years and granted honorary life membership. Overall he gave many talks and presentations about what he had discovered to many different organisations and also organised excursions. He gave considerable help with information when he could to the different organisations involved with different sites and this was always greatly appreciated.
During his retirement, he and Pat travelled extensively in South Africa mostly for military history matters or research, as well as overseas trips to the UK and Europe.
Antony was a loving husband, father and grandfather, and was much loved in return. He is very much missed by his wife, Pat, sons Douglas (1983G), Edward (1986G), and their families, including Alexander Gordon (2016G).
A milestone birthday tribute from Dr Paul Murray, Bishops Archivist and Historian in Residence. More...