James Johnson (South African Navy officer)

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James 'Flam' Johnson
James Johnson (SA Navy).jpg
Nickname(s) Flam
Born (1918-02-10)10 February 1918
Died 2 October 1990(1990-10-02) (aged 72)
Service/branch South African Navy
Years of service 1946 – 1977
Rank Vice Admiral
Commands held
Battles/wars World War II

Vice-Admiral James 'Johnny' Johnson SSA SM DSC (10 February 1918 – 2 October 1990) was a former Chief of the South African Navy (1 April 1972 to 30 September 1977).[2] He was nicknamed "Flam" after his wartime red beard - "Vlambaard" in Afrikaans.[1]

Early career[edit]

He trained at the General Botha Training college from 1933 to 1934 and joined the P&O Line after leaving General Botha.[3]

He was commissioned in 1938 and joined HMS York in 1939. After his ship was sunk in Suda Bay, Crete, he joined HMS Jed,[1] which took part in the Battle of the Atlantic from 1942 to 1943. During this time he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for Gallantry. He also served as Commanding Officer of HMS Verbena (K85)[4] and HMS Rosebay (K286)[1]

SA Navy career[edit]

After the war he transferred to the South African Navy in 1946 as a Lieutenant Commander. He held various commands, including SAS Bloemfontein, SAS Transvaal, SAS Good Hope (F432)[1] and the Navy Gymnasium.[5] He commanded the Rothesay class frigate SAS President Pretorius when she was delivered from Britain in 1964, in the rank of Captain. He was promoted to Commodore in 1966.

1969 he was promoted to Flag Rank and appointed Chief of Naval Staff.

He was appointed Chief of the South African Navy in 1972[6] and was the last chief to occupy Admiralty House before Naval Headquarters moved to Pretoria.

Awards and decorations[edit]

Distinguished Service Cross[edit]

The citation in the London Gazette reads:


Military offices
Preceded by
Hugo Biermann
Chief of the South African Navy
1972 – 1977
Succeeded by
J Charl Walters
Preceded by
M.R. Terry-Lloyd
Chief of Naval Staff
1969 – 1972
Succeeded by


  1. ^ a b c d e Uys, Ian (1992). South African Military Who's Who 1452–1992. Fortress Publishers. p. 115. ISBN 0-9583173-3-X. 
  2. ^ South African Defence Force Information website
  3. ^ Old Salts History J0695
  4. ^ HMS Verbena (K 85) of the Royal Navy - British Corvette of the Flower class - Allied Warships of WWII - uboat.net
  5. ^ Nöthling, C.J.; Meyers, E.M. (1982). "Leaders through the years (1912–1982)". Scientaria Militaria. 12 (2): 9e. 
  6. ^ Engelbrecht, Leon. "Fact file: Chiefs of the South African Navy". DefenceWeb. DefenceWeb. 
  7. ^ London Gazette Issue 36400