Life Stories

Black History Month Spotlight – the longest serving female Royal Navy Reserve

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Little did 19-year-old Hackney girl Evadne Gordon know, when she joined the Royal Naval Reserves on 31st March 1977, that 40 years later she would still be serving.

Chief Petty Officer Gordon, 59, was both the first person from her family to be born in the UK, after her parents moved from Jamaica in the 1950s, and the first to join the Armed Forces.

Now Evadne is celebrating becoming the longest serving female member of the Royal Naval Reserves, and she has no intentions of hanging up her uniform just yet.

Back when she first joined as a Wren after responding to a newspaper advert and attending a selection interview, Star Wars had only just been released, James Callaghan was Prime Minister, Abba topped the charts with Knowing Me Knowing You, and female Naval Reserves were not allowed to carry weapons or serve aboard a ship.

Of course, a lot has changed in the four decades since, with Reserves now fully integrated into the Armed Forces and for the first time since they were able to join the Armed Forces, women are able to serve on the front line and do all the jobs that their male colleagues can.

‘The changes have been really positive,’ Gordon explains. ‘Women are now treated equally.

‘I wasn’t allowed to serve at sea or carry arms when I joined, but now there are no limits to what we are able to do. There has been a lot of progress, and it’s great to see.’ 

Evadne’s long career has included parading during the Lord Mayor of London’s show, stints training hundreds of officers and personnel in Hong Kong, Gibraltar, Dubai, and Portugal in addition to the UK, and she was also responsible for sending and receiving transmissions from Royal Navy ships around the world.

Evadne Gordon meets royalty, 1980s

In 2012, she was part of the welcoming party for the Queen during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations for the Royal barge’s arrival at HMS President, where she still serves in the Operations (HQ) Branch, and in the early eighties even met The Queen Mother.

In addition to her military work, Evadne, now a grandmother, also holds down two civilian jobs – one at the Queen Mary University in an administrative role and the other at the Jamma Umoja residential family assessment centre in Bromley. She’s even been able to use the many skills she’s picked up as Reserve including a military tracking system she introduced in her civilian role to track staff training.

Profile photo of Nicole Vassell

Nicole is Pride's Entertainment and Features Editor; favourite topics include Beyoncé, where to get dinner, and musical theatre.

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