Military Wiki
James 'Flam' Johnson
File:James Johnson (SA Navy).jpg
Nickname Flam
Born (1918-02-10)10 February 1918
Died 2 October 1990(1990-10-02) (aged 72)
Place of birth Benoni[1]
Service/branch South African Navy
Years of service 1946-1977
Rank Vice Admiral
Commands held South African Navy
SAS President Pretorius
Battles/wars World War II

Vice-Admiral James 'Johnny' Johnson SSA SM DSC, South African Navy (Retired) is 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

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 1942-43. During this time he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for Gallantry. He also served as Commanding Officer of HMS Verbena[4] and HMS Rosebay[1]


HMS Verbena

SA Navy Career

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[1] and the Navy Gymnasium.[5] He commanded the Rothesay class frigate SAS President Pretorious when she was delivered from Britain in 1964, in the rank of Captain.

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

Distinguised Service Cross

The citation in the London Gazette reads:

For outstanding courage, enterprise and devotion to duty in action with enemy submarines while serving in H.M.S. Jed[7]
Lieutenant James Johnson, R.N.R. (Brekpan (sic), Transvaal).


Military offices
Preceded by
Hugo Biermann
Chief of the South African Navy
Succeeded by
J Charl Walters

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