In Memoriam

In August 2000 TCA dedicated a memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum, comprising a Sessile Oak sapling, representing the Wooden Walls of Nelson’s Navy and the link to our own wooden hulls, a garden seat and a brick plinth recording the names of each ship in the TON Class, together with the names of all those lost in the FITTLETON disaster of 1976.

HMS PRESIDENT, London Division RNR, from whom most of the ship’s company had been drawn for that fateful voyage, provided a Guard and Bugler and a solemn service was conducted by TCA Chaplain Rev John Oliver OBE, in the presence of TCA President Vice Admiral Sir John Cox, Chairman John Soanes and many members of the Association, including former CPO David (George) Creasy, who had been FITTLETON’s Cox’n on that day.

In 2006 a plaque was added to the plinth to commemorate Sir John Cox KCB, Founder President of TCA, who had recently Crossed the Bar. Members of Sir John’s family were in attendance, together with many TCA members.

Vice Admiral Sir John Cox KCB

Sadly John crossed the bar on 3rd October 2006. Born in Peking, son of a diplomat, John Cox first went to sea as a boy in a small rowboat to warn a British warship of the seizure of British Embassy property by pirates. This resulted in him receiving two reprimands for putting to sea without telling anyone where he was going — one from the Commander-in-Chief, China Station; the other from his mother.

His father was interned by the Japanese in 1941 but John and his mother escaped to South Africa where he was brought up in straightened circumstances

As a Lieutenant  he commanded the minesweeper Dilston in Malta, where he was mentioned in despatches for reducing smuggling off Cyprus in 1952. He later commanded the minesweeper Stubbington, and, as Staff Officer to London Division, Royal Navy Reserve, their tender HMS Thames. His other commands included the frigate Naiad and the guided missile destroyer Norfolk.

He was appointed Director of Naval Operations and Trade at the Ministry of Defence from July 1974 to April 1976. He subsequently became Commander of the Standing Naval Force, Atlantic, consisting of frigates and destroyers from NATO member countries. He later became Flag Officer Naval Air Command from May 1982 to September 1983.

As a Naval Attaché, appointed to West Germany, his technique of approaching Soviet Navy Officers "sailor-to-sailor" enabled him to gain intelligence while playing tennis.

Flag Officer Third Flotilla and Commander Anti-Submarine Warfare Group Two, responsible for the aircraft carriers and amphibious ships. He was superseded by Sandy Woodward for the Falklands War, since he was about to retire, but for his actions in preparing the fleet, he was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath in the 1982 Birthday Honours.

After retiring from the RN Sir John turned his attention to working with the disabled, including the Spastics Society, which he helped turn into Scope and led to the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995. He was also on the parole board for HM Prison Wormwood Scrubs along with his wife Anne.

He was elected President of TCA in 1989 and was very influential behind the scenes in gaining recognition for the Association by the Royal Navy and encouraging the appointment of our Patron.

Captain Jeremy Stewart RN

Sadly Jeremy crossed the bar on 21st January 2019. Jeremy Stewart joined Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth in January 1948 at the age of 13. He went to sea as a Midshipman in the Light Fleet Carriers GLORY and OCEAN in the final years of the Korean War. Following Sub Lieutenants’ courses, he spent three years in the Mediterranean in the late 1950’s, first in the destroyer/minelayer CHAPLET and then as First Lieutenant of FENTON mainly occupied on Cyprus patrols but with plenty of minesweeping exercises.

From l to r: British Political Resident Northern Gulf, Commander Chris Isacke MS9, The Emir of Kuwait, Lt Cdr Jeremy Stewart CO Flockton. Alongside Mina al Ahmadi January 1965.

Jeremy qualified as a TAS specialist in 1959/60. At that time the TAS branch included mine countermeasures and for a while Jeremy taught in the Minewarfare section at VERNON.

From 1961-1964 he stood by, then served in DEVONSHIRE, the first DLG and then took command of FLOCKTON in 9th MSSS in the Gulf, mainly patrolling the Oman coast to deter illegal immigrants, but also providing MCM support for the Amphibious Warfare Squadron.

Following the Staff Course at Greenwich in 1966, he returned to sea for two commissions in Leanders; first in DIDO and then as XO of DANAE. He was promoted Commander in 1971 and after two years on the Directing Staff at the RAF Staff College, Bracknell and 18 months as XO of PHOENIX, the NBCD School, he returned to sea as XO of NORFOLK, the last of the DLGs.

In late 1977 he was appointed as Operations Officer on the staff of Flag Officer Scotland and Northern Ireland where, among other duties, he was responsible for operational control of MCMVs in northern waters.

After nine months on the staff of CINCNAVHOME, responsible for Naval Control of Shipping, and the Seaward Defence of UK Ports, he was promoted Captain in 1980 and returned to Scotland as Captain Mine Countermeasures at Rosyth in 1981 for two years, during which time he co-ordinated preparations of the minesweeping components of the Falklands Campaign.

Captain Jeremy Stewart retired from the Royal Navy in 1983.

Jeremy became Chairman of the TON Class Association at its inaugural meeting on 28th August 1987. He guided the rapidly growing Association through it infant and teenage years with skill, diplomacy and dexterity.

In 1987 he drafted the TCA Constitution, augmented in 1994 by the Rules, which still largely govern our affairs, with occasional updates to cater for electronic communications and some streamlining of practices.

In September 1995 he handed over Chairmanship of TCA to John Soanes and concentrated on development of the TCA Historical Group which has amassed a vast amount of detail and photographs about TON vessels and has become a resource on which a number of our later projects have depended. In this task he was assisted by Bob Dean, Gordon Palframan, Peter Kaufman, Eddie Savage and Ray West.

Jeremy’s friendships with senior Naval Officers opened doors for TCA and has enabled us to attract some impressive guest speakers for our Reunions.

He was the driving force behind the TON Class Seminar held in the Princess Royal Gallery at the National Museum of the Royal Navy in March 2003 which attracted significant publicity in maritime circles and set a helpful precedent for subsequent events.

In 2007 to mark the 20th Anniversary of TCA Jeremy and Peter Kaufman produced TCA’s first monograph; a treatise on the minesweeping aspects of Operation Musketeer, the Suez campaign of 1956 - the first time that the MCM aspects of this operation had been published in detail. This work paved the way for other TCA publications, including the companion books “Last of the Wooden Walls, history of the TON Class and “Jacks of All Trades”, operational histories of each TON vessel. This matched pair of books were produced to mark to 25th Anniversary of TCA in 2012 and the trilogy of the history of the class was completed by “Life in the TONs” published in 2017 for the 30th Anniversary. Jeremy made significant inputs to all three volumes and had encouraged Stan Hudson to undertake the ground work for “Life in the TONs” from 2004 onwards.

In March 2015 Jeremy retired from active involvement in the management of TCA affairs and took the role of TCA Historian. He concentrated on liaison with the RN Historical Branch and consolidation of his copious records of TON class vessels to a series of CDs which were transferred to the RN Historical Branch in September 2018.

John Soanes - An Appreciation

A founder member of TCA, John served the Association, initially as Vice Chairman then, from April 1995 - April 2018, as Chairman He was Coxswain of PENSTON 1964-66, nominally in Hong Kong, but mainly on patrols off Borneo during Confrontation. John subsequently had a second career in Essex Constabulary. He Crossed the Bar on 30th December 2020 after a long illness, bravely endured. John’s funeral was held on 20th January at Torquay Crematorium. TCA was represented by Commander Rory Jackson and Derek Potter. Torbay RNA Branch, of which John was also Chairman, paraded their standard and a Guard of Honour.

John joined the RN in 1953. He specialised in Underwater Weapons, becoming a Petty Officer UW1. He served in HM Ships IMPLACABLE, CYGNET, SAVAGE, URSA, ROTHSAY and PENSTON. In addition to courses at VERNON, John was Ships Company and had two periods as an instructor at GANGES. 

On leaving the RN in 1967, John joined Essex Constabulary, serving for more than twice as long as the 14 years he spent in the RN, in Harlow, Saffron Walden, Southend on Sea and Chelmsford. A CID officer, John became Acting Detective Superintendent and Head of Special Branch. These duties brought him in contact with many VIPs visiting the County.

John and wife Ann both come from Beccles in Suffolk and were at school together. They married in 1955 and have two daughters and two adult grandchildren.

Current Chairman Peter Harrison commented:

I recall first meeting John at the 1996 Reunion at the Trecarn Hotel in Torquay. Over the following years I grew to know John well. In 2005 I took over as the Vice-Chairman when Chris Green stood down. In 2007 I took over as the Reunion Secretary. John was my mentor for both roles and I valued the guidance from him. He seemed to know most of the members. He was methodical and conscientious and respected by the members. John was always ready to assist me but never interfered.

At the 2017 Reunion in Derby, John approached me, saying he wished to stand down as the Chairman of the TCA and implied that I was the obvious person to take over as the Chairman. There was no direct persuasion, just gentle hints !

I will miss John. He had been the Chairman for over 20 years and was a guiding light for the TCA throughout that period. He became a respected colleague and a great friend. I am delighted that Anne wishes to remain part of the family of the TCA.

John’s tenure as TCA Chairman was distinguished by his unfailing courtesy and diplomacy. He presided over the considerable expansion of our membership, progression into publications and adoption of e-mail to speed up our admin. John had a remarkable range of contacts of all ranks throughout the Navy and beyond, which he gently used to advance awareness of TCA.

TCA Patron [HRH The Prince of Wales], President [Rear Admiral John Lippiett] and Chairman John at a Reception in Clarence House in 2013.


We have lost a good friend and one of nature’s gentlemen. John will be long remembered with affection