Born in Chingford (Essex) in 1925, Gordon
Mumford lived in a farmhouse in Epping Forest. He attended St.
Mary’s Primary School and St. Egbert’s College in Chingford.
He was fourteen when WW II started in September 1939. His
education came to an abrupt end because schools in the London area
were evacuated to the country, and his education came to an abrupt
end. Gordon was an air cadet, and the RAF arranged for the cadets
to serve on various airfields. His unit was taken to North Weald
every day to load machine guns. The threat of attack by enemy
aircraft in early 1940 put a stop to that.
His father found him a “safe” job as an apprentice at a small arms
factory in Enfield. Gordon quit within three months, when he found
a position as an office boy in nearby London.
He was too young to join the armed forces, but
he knew that the Merchant Navy took apprentices as young as
fifteen. During his lunch break, he visited the shipping offices,
looking for an opening as an apprentice cadet or deck officer.
When he got papers from Andrew Weir & Company, his mother refused
to sign. She did agree, however to to let
him train as a marine radio officer. In September 1941, he entered
the Holloway Radio College in London to study for the Special
Radio Operator Certificate.
Wartime Merchant Navy
Shortly after he
qualified, his father died unexpectedly in August, and his
employer helped Gordon get a position with Siemens. Within a few
weeks he was at sea as a junior Radio Officer. During
the war, he served in the major war theatres. His first ship, the
Soborg was a collier, and sailed Iceland to bunker ships
for the Murmansk convoys. His next ship,Scottish Heather,
was an toiler. On December 27, the ship was torpedoed whilst
refueling an escort ship the North Atlantic, and the crew took to
the lifeboats. He served eighteen months on the Empire Harmony,
a heavy duty lift ship that unloaded war materiel in the
bombed-out docks in the Mediterranean and North Africa. He was
transferred to the Empire Path in November 1944. On the
return voyage, the ship was sunk in the Scheldt Estuary by a mine
on Christmas Eve.
At nineteen he was promoted to Chief
Radio Officer on the MV Luling, another
tanker, taking troops to the beachhead landings in the Pacific. In
the clean-up operations after the Japanese surrendered, the
Luling was a supply ship to minesweepers. The ship was handed
over to the Chinese nationalists as part of the Marshall Plan.
Repatriated to England at the end of 1946, he made two voyages on
the Adolph S. Ochs, to New Brunswick and to Argentina,
before he left the sea in September 1947.
Like many other young men returning home at the
end of the Second World War, Gordon missed the sense of excitement
and danger. Restless and unable to settle down, he joined the
Colonial Service in 1949. He was employed
as an Assistant Engineer in field radio communications for the
East Africa Posts & Telecommunications Administration,
headquartered in Kenya. Working in the remote deserts of the NFD
(Northern Frontier District), he installed and maintained radio
networks. In 1951 he transferred to a new VHF telecommunications
project, and was involved in the field survey safaris and
construction of the network. Living under canvas for months at a
time, life on safari ranged from the heat of remote deserts, to
the cold of East Africa’s highest mountains, and the rains and
heat of the game plains.
The VHF radio telecommunications project brought modern long
distance telecommunications worldwide in the 1950s. This
technology was the basis for broadband and other technologies used
today. The prototpe was first installed in Kenya.
In 1958, Gordon
migrated to Canada and studied at the University of Western
Ontario, the University of Toronto (OCE), and Mohawk College
(Hamilton, Ontario). He qualified as an electronics instructor,
and returned to Africa where he taught both students
and trained instructors. He worked on various international aid
projects (including British aid, CIDA, and UNESCO) in Kenya,
Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Indonesia. During his
time abroad, Gordon was actively involved in tennis, and served on
many committees, including tennis committees in Kenya and Nigeria.
In Kenya, he was a member of the KLTA, and organized many national
and international events, as well as school events. He was also
involved in amateur radio, on radio control points for motor
rallies and the world-renowned East African Safari, the Aquarist
Society, and electronics organizations.
When he and his family
returned to Canada in 1980, they settled in British Columbia’s
Lower Mainland. In 1981, Gordon completed an oversea contract and
joined the Pacific Region
offices of Communications Canada in Vancouver. He worked in radio
communications and served as the federal emergency planning
Gordon Mumford’s interest and experience in writing began in the
early 1960s when he was an instructor/technical writer on aid
projects in developing African countries. In addition to writing
course manuals, he produced a newsletter for the Amateur Radio
Society of Kenya. Since then, he has taken many writing courses
and workshops, including a creative writing course at UBC, and has
had articles published in newspapers and periodicals.
After his retirement in 1990, Gordon began
writing full time, and has since written several creative
non-fiction books. He has two books, The Black Pit … and
Beyond and The Sampan Girl, are based on his wartime
experiences in the Merchant Navy, and are published by General
Store Publishing House. He has also written three books based on
his African Adventures. White Man’s Drum
and Drums of Rebellion are self-published, as is
Dangerous Waters, a book of short stories about his seafaring
adventures. A third book on Africa, Destiny: In Fate’s
Footsteps has been completed, while two more books, Tales
of the NFD and Nigerian Odyssey, are in progress.
Gordon’s non-fiction writing has won awards
from the Seattle-based Pacific Northwest Writers’ Conference
(PNWC), whose Literary Contests attract some 600 entrants
annually. Currently, he is a professional member of the Canadian
Authors Association (national) and belongs to their Vancouver
Branch. He is a member of the Federation of B.C. Writers, World
Poetry, and the Burnaby Writers’ Society. Gordon also belongs to
the Vancouver Naval Veterans Association (VNVA), the Burma Star
Association, and the Radio Officers Association (ROA).
He and his wife Barbara now live in New
Westminster, near Vancouver, B.C. They have two sons. David is a
professional engineer engaged in research, while Gregory is an
Egyptologist, with “digs” in the Delta and Sinai.