Navy veteran Gordon James

Navy veteran rests his sea legs

Mal Lancaster 13 June 2019

Ninety-year-old Navy veteran Gordon James is easing into retirement, having fundraised for veteran welfare for the past 15 years.

Born in Gympie in 1928, Gordon James had an early affinity with sailing. At the age of three, he took to the water in a small boat using a hessian bag as a sail.

At 11, his passion for the sea grew into a lifelong adventure that led him to run away from home. He stowed away on a train to Brisbane to join the Royal Australian Navy (RAN). His unsuccessful attempt resulted in a police escort back home to Gympie.

Not deterred by his first unsuccessful attempt, he tried again at 13 – applying to join the Navy as a midshipman. His application was rejected.


Dreams finally realised at 21 

His dreams were finally fulfilled at 21, when he was accepted into the Navy administration branch as a writer. One year later, in 1950, he received his Commission from King George 6th. He served for 25 years and was awarded The Queen’s Commendation.

He served on HMAS Sydney, HMAS Australia, and was involved in the nuclear tests at Monte Bello Island, where he sustained radiation burns to his legs.

After discharging from the Navy in 1975, his same passion to serve the community was transferred to the RSL. He became an active member of several RSL Sub Branches and helped fundraise for fellow veterans.


Thousands of hours donated to help veterans

Over the past 15 years, Gordon has volunteered thousands of hours selling ANZAC and Remembrance Day badges at Mt Ommaney shopping centre to raise money for veteran welfare at Centenary Suburbs  RSL Sub Branch. Everyone walking through the shopping centre stops to talk to the Navy veteran because of his tremendous smile and ability to have a good yarn.

Age has wearied Gordon and, at 90, his physical ability to help other veterans has come to an end. He is enjoying his time living with his daughter, son-in-law and brother at the RSL Retirement Village at Pinjarra Hills.

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