Dec­o­rated Achilles vet­eran dies

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By MICHAEL FIELD

An old sailor who be­came a tele­vi­sion star recit­ing God De­fend New Zealand in one of the navy’s more suc­cess­ful re­cruit­ing com­mer­cials has died, the Royal New Zealand Navy says.

Vince ‘‘Cy­clone’’ McGlone, a gun­ner aboard one of three Royal Navy ships to pur­sue the Ger­man pocket bat­tle­ship Graf Spee to its doom in De­cem­ber 1939, died on March 12 at age 97. One of the last sur­vivors in the Bat­tle of the River Plate from ei­ther side, he be­came bet­ter known last year for his gruff but strong recit­ing of the national an­them.

HMS Achilles was part of the Royal Navy’s New Zealand Divi­sion and, af­ter the bat­tle, was a found­ing ves­sel of the Royal New Zealand Navy.

‘‘I ex­tend the navy’s deep­est re­grets and con­do­lences to Vince’s fam­ily,’’ chief of navy Rear Ad­mi­ral Jack Steer says.

‘‘Vince was a great char­ac­ter who loved to visit Devon­port Naval Base and yarn with to­day’s gen­er­a­tion of sailors.’’

Mr McGlone cel­e­brated his 97th birth­day last year in a gal­ley named af­ter him at the base, shar­ing colour­ful sto­ries from his 14-year ca­reer in the navy.

He was raised one of three chil­dren in Kings­land and en­listed as a boy sailor just shy of his 16th birth­day.

Mr McGlone was pro­moted to or­di­nary sea­man two years later and posted to the HMS Diomede as a gun­ner.

He was made an able sea­man soon af­ter and boarded HMS Achilles, the cruiser on which he would ex­pe­ri­ence the glory and bru­tal­ity of war.

Achilles was pa­trolling South Amer­i­can wa­ters when it opened fire on the Graf Spee, a bat­tle­ship far su­pe­rior in its fight­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties, about 6.20am on De­cem­ber 13, 1939.

In the 82 min­utes that fol­lowed Mr McGlone said he and his fel­low gun­ners fired in ex­cess of 220 broad­sides at the enemy ship, forc­ing her to re­treat into the neu­tral port of Mon­te­v­ideo.

Her cap­tain scut­tled the ship four days later, choos­ing to pre­serve the lives of his 1000 sailors rather than re-en­gage in bat­tle.

Mr McGlone’s mem­o­ries were marred by the ca­su­al­ties. Achilles lost four crew mem­bers and many more were in­jured. He said he was just four feet away when a con­trol tower was hit, killing his ship­mates.

‘‘The Spee should’ve blown us out of the wa­ter. We were laid down to go 32 knots and in the bat­tle we got up to 35. They weren’t ex­pect­ing that speed and so we put them off their aim.’’

He said the Spee burnt for three days af­ter the bat­tle as they cel­e­brated the tri­umph aboard the Achilles.

‘‘Un­for­tu­nately there was no open bar on the ship.’’

Mr McGlone wore six medals – the At­lantic Star, the Pa­cific Star, the Bri­tish War Medal, New Zealand War Medal, New Zealand Oc­cu­pa­tional Medal and Ja­panese Oc­cu­pa­tion Medal.

He lived alone in Tor­bay since his wife Pa­tri­cia died five years ago. He has six chil­dren and 12 grand­chil­dren.

Photo: MARIA OOSTERBAAN

Navy trea­sure: The el­dest navy vet­eran Vince ‘‘Cy­clone’’ McGlone cel­e­brat­ing his 97th birth­day last year with chief of navy Rear Ad­mi­ral Jack Steer.

In ser­vice: The el­dest navy vet­eran Vince ‘‘Cy­clone’’ McGlone dur­ing his ser­vice years.

Go to auck­land­c­i­ty­har­bour news.co.nz and click Lat­est Edi­tion to view the God De­fend New Zealand navy re­cruit­ing com­mer­cial.

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