Rear Admiral Anthony Rockley Horton

Anthony ‘Tony’ Horton was born at Epping, Sydney, NSW on 9 July 1934 and grew up in West Ryde and Dee Why. He was educated at Dee Why Primary School and was a member of the local swimming club, Sea Scout troop and Surf Life Saving Club. His secondary schooling was undertaken at North Sydney Technical High School. Horton entered the RAN College (HMAS Cerberus) as a 13-year old Cadet Midshipman in 1948.

Horton graduated from the college in November 1951 with sporting colours for rugby and one months ‘time gained’ towards promotion. He and the rest of his classmates then traveled by sea to England to undertake further training joining the Royal Navy’s training cruiser HMS Devonshire in early January 1952. The cruiser undertook two training cruises; the first to the West Indies and the second to Norway during Horton’s time onboard. He was an average trainee obtaining a 3rd Class Certificate for his time onboard which ended in mid-August 1952. The executive branch trainees were then sent to the submarine depot ship HMS Maidstone, based at Portland in southern England, which exposed them to life in submarines. Anthony Horton was promoted to Midshipman on 1 September 1952.

In December 1952, Horton and his classmates joined the aircraft carrier HMAS Vengeance (on loan to the RAN until the aircraft carrier Melbourne was commissioned) for the return journey to Australia and, after her arrival in Sydney in early April 1953, Midshipman Horton was transferred to the RAN's flagship the heavy cruiser HMAS Australia for further training. On 1 January 1954 Anthony Horton was promoted to Acting Sub Lieutenant and soon after joined the destroyer HMAS Arunta then deploying to South East Asia as part of the Far East Strategic Reserve. After arriving in Hong Kong in early February he transferred to the destroyer HMAS Tobruk for the return journey to Australia.

After arrival in Australia the executive branch members of the class of 1948 were dispatched by sea to England, in late March, to undertake the Sub Lieutenants courses at the Royal Naval College (Greenwich) and the gunnery school at HMS Excellent. These intensive courses included instruction in navigation and pilotage, communications, anti-submarine warfare, air warfare, electrical, aviation, gunnery and direction. Horton’s results were mixed with a variety of 1st , 2nd and 3rd Class certificates for his studies with 1st Class results for aviation and air warfare. On 8 October 1955 he was promoted Sub Lieutenant and returned to Australia in November of that year.

Sub Lieutenant Tony Horton joined the destroyer HMAS Warramunga in December 1955 to progress his training for the award of a Bridge Watchkeeping Certificate. In Warramunga he also carried out the duties of Captain’s Secretary, Forecastle Officer, Gunnery Officer and Torpedo and Anti-Submarine Officer. In mid-April 1956 he transferred to the frigate HMAS Queenborough in which he was awarded his Bridge Watchkeeping Certificate on 19 June 1956. At the end of that month Horton was transferred to the Naval Air Station (HMAS Albatross) to commence flight training as an observer (aircraft navigator). While on No.3 Observers Course he was promoted to Lieutenant on 16 September 1956. He completed his observer training in July 1957 as Dux of the course for which he received the Albatross prize.

Lieutenant Horton then joined 817 Squadron operating the Fairey Gannet AS 1 anti-submarine aircraft. This posting was short-lived as in August 1957 he was posted to RAF Base Leeming, in Yorkshire, for three months to undertake all weather fighter training in Valetta aircraft. On return to Albatross he joined 724 Squadron in which he completed his training for all weather fighter operations in Sea Venom aircraft before joining 805 Squadron.

805 Squadron at that time was operating from Albatross and the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne. In Melbourne Horton deployed, during February-June 1959, to South East Asia for Exercise Sea Demon visiting Singapore, Manila, Hong Kong, Manus Island and Port Moresby before returning to Australia. Horton was then posted to 725 Squadron, operating Gannet ASW aircraft, and as the Squadron Staff Officer. In early January 1960, he was posted to 816 Squadron operating Gannet ASW aircraft.

816 Squadron embarked in Melbourne in February 1960 and proceeded to South East Asia for Exercise Sea Lion and to conduct port visits to Singapore, Manila, Hong Kong, Yokohama and Jakarta. On 9 May 1960, Melbourne was operating in the South China Sea when Gannet 825, in which Horton was the observer, suffered an engine failure during take off and consequently ditched into the sea ahead of the carrier. All three aircrew safely exited the aircraft, boarded their rubber dinghies and were soon rescued.

A month later saw the completion of Horton’s service as an observer. He had applied without success for pilot training in 1958, but in early 1960, was advised that such conversion would be approved subject to any decision made by the Government regarding the continuation of Fleet Air Arm operations. The Government made a decision in early 1960 to cease flying operations and accordingly Horton requested to respecialise in navigation. The Government decision to cease flying operations was later rescinded.

Horton married Sonia Russell in July 1960, the honeymoon taking place in RMS Oronsay en route to the UK, where Horton was to undertake the Long Navigation Course at HMS Dryad (Portsmouth) during August 1960-April 1961. Initially the course was a challenge for Horton, due to a lack of recent bridge watchkeeping experience but he persevered and completed the course before taking up an exchange appointment with the Royal Navy.

He spent four months as second navigator in the aircraft carrier HMS Hermes and then in August 1961 became navigator of the V Class frigate HMS Veralum (part of the 2nd Frigate Squadron based at Portland and used as trials ships for under water weapons development). Horton’s last posting on exchange was to the Loch Class frigate HMS Loch Ruthven in April 1962 which operated in the Persian Gulf. Lieutenant Horton returned to Australia in mid-1963 and served briefly as First Lieutenant, and Navigator, in the survey vessel HMAS Warrego until she paid off in early August 1963. He was then posted to the navigation school at HMAS Watson for six months. During that time he briefly took command of Motor Refrigeration Lighter 253 (later renamed HMAS Gayundah) for passage from Manus Island (HMAS Tarangau) to Sydney before returning the vessel to Brisbane.

On 21 February 1964, Tony Horton joined the destroyer HMAS Vendetta as her navigator. Vendetta deployed to South East Asia in June 1964 and conducted various exercises in Malaysian waters until returning to Australia in December. While serving in the destroyer he was promoted to Lieutenant Commander on 16 September 1964. At the end of 1964 Horton proceeded to England to undertake the Advanced Navigation (‘Dagger’) Course at HMS Dryad which he successfully completed in March 1965.

Upon his return to Australia in April 1965, Lieutenant Commander Horton was appointed as navigator in the fast troop transport HMAS Sydney. Shortly after joining the ship he was flown to Saigon, South Vietnam as part of an Australian delegation (Navy, Army, Foreign Affairs and Treasury) to negotiate with American forces the deployment of the 1st Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment to Vietnam in June of that year. Tony Horton’s main task was to assess the feasibility of Sydney being able to transit the Mekong River to Saigon to unload the troops and their equipment. This plan soon proved to be impractical and a decision was reached that Sydney would go only as far as the port of Vung Tau (at the mouth of the Mekong) and unload from there.

Sydney sailed from Australia on 27 May 1965 arriving at Vung Tau on 8 June where she completed offloading the 1st Battalion on the 11th. During his time in Sydney Tony Horton made three more voyages to Vietnam being September 1965 (equipment and reinforcements for the 1st Battalion), April 1966 (transport of troops of the 5th Battalion) and May 1966 (transport 9 Squadron RAAF helicopters and equipment). Back-loading of troops and equipment occurred on each of the return journeys to Australia. When not employed on troop transport duties Sydney was part of the Australian Training Squadron.

Tony Horton was then selected for back-to-back sea postings when he was appointed Executive Officer of the frigate HMAS Derwent from December 1966 to January 1968. Derwent deployed to South East Asia in May conducting exercises and port visits to the Philippines, Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong. On return to Australia in October the ship went into refit at Williamstown Dockyard.

Lieutenant Commander Horton then undertook the Australian Army Staff Course at Fort Queenscliff, Victoria during 1968 before being promoted Commander on 31 December 1968. On completion of the staff course Commander Horton took up the posting of Fleet Navigator embarked in Melbourne (this was a dual position being the ships senior navigator and also navigator on the Fleet Commanders staff). Horton saw service in Melbourne until January 1971, during which time the ship was involved in the collision, with the destroyer USS Frank E Evans, in the South China Sea during Exercise Sea Spirit on the night of 3 June 1969. The US Navy destroyer sank with the loss of 74 lives.

Horton had arrived on the carriers bridge only moments before the collision and was later called as a witness for the subsequent Court of Inquiry, held at Subic Bay, where he was robustly cross examined by the Senior Officer of the Board of Inquiry, Rear Admiral Jerome King, USN. Following the collision Melbourne returned to Australia for repairs which were completed in October 1969. In 1970 the carrier operated in Australian waters and again deployed to South East Asia for Exercises Sea Rover and Bersatu Padu as well as port visits to Manus Island, Manila, Sattahip, Hong Kong, Osaka and Kobe during March-July.

Commander Horton’s next posting was to Navy Office (Canberra) as the Director of Navigation and Staff Duties in early 1971. This was important but time consuming work ranging from navigation policy through to the mundane and less glamourous introduction of new sewage disposal instructions. The last six months of his service in Navy Office saw him undertake a review of Warfare Officer training in the RAN which ultimately saw the introduction of the Principal Warfare Officer into the Navy.  

In March 1973, Commander Horton was posted to HMAS Watson as Officer-in-Command of the Tactical Trainer. Horton became the project manager to oversee the building of the new facility and fitting of the new computerised submarine trainer and the Action Information Organisation trainer. In late 1975 he rejoined Melbourne, then undergoing refit at Captain Cook Dock at Garden Island, as the Executive Officer and from 18 December 1975-12 January 1976 was the carrier’s Commanding Officer.

Tony Horton was promoted to Captain on 31 December 1975 and on 18 February 1976 took up his third command - the destroyer HMAS Vampire. His time in command was particularly busy as the ship deployed to the west coast of the United States to take part in US bicentennial celebrations with port visits to San Francisco, Seattle and Long Beach followed by a visit to Hawaii on the return passage. The following year, in March, Vampire performed the duty of escort to the Royal Yacht Britannia during the visit to Australia of Queen Elizabeth II in the lead up to her Silver Jubilee celebrations. While in command of Vampire he was also commander of the 2nd Australian Destroyer Squadron consisting of Vampire and Vendetta. Captain Horton relinquished command of Vampire on 3 June 1977 and was temporally posted to Fleet Headquarters to plan exercises for Melbourne when she returned from her deployment to England as part of the Silver Jubilee celebrations. 

In late 1977 he was posted to the staff of the Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Australia (FOCEA) based in Sydney. Captain Horton took up the demanding role of Chief Staff Officer (Executive) as well as being the Senior Executive Branch Officer on the FOCEA staff. FOCEA and their staff was based in an office block in Liverpool Street, Sydney overlooking the Domain and was renamed Flag Officer Naval Support Command in 1979.

On 26 June 1979 Tony Horton took up his last sea posting when he became the Commanding Officer of the guided missile destroyer HMAS Hobart. This was to be a very busy 18 month posting with the destroyer involved in several exercises including TASMANEX 79 (August 1979), SEA EAGLE (September 1979) and KANGAROO 3 (October 1979) followed by a deployment to Hawaii in early 1980 to take part in Exercise RIMPAC 80. Following this the ship was involved in Exercise TOKEN COST in May and Exercise SEA EAGLE II in June 1980. He handed over command of Hobart to Captain Harry Adams on 1 December 1980. On 26 January 1981 Captain Horton was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) “For service to the Royal Australian Navy particularly as Commanding Officer of HMAS Hobart”.

Captain Horton remarried in 1979, to Margaret Caldwell, and in late December 1980 the family moved south to Jervis Bay for his next posting as the Commanding Officer of the RAN College (HMAS Creswell). During his tenure the last of the 16-year old junior entry cadets (who had joined in 1980) completed their training and the full integration of female officer training with their male counterparts was achieved. Additionally the first changes to the training syllabus for Midshipmen began to be investigated to cater for the opening of the Australian Defence Force Academy in 1986. Also during his time at Creswell, Captain Horton completed his Bachelor of Arts from the University of New England (Armidale, NSW). He had started the degree some years earlier and much of the work was completed by external study.  

Tony Horton was promoted Commodore in January 1983 and appointed Director General (Naval) Plans and Policy in Navy Office. His work required in-depth consultation on future operational planning and force structure development within Navy and the wider defence community; particularly the future frigate program (which became the Anzac Class frigates) and the future submarine program (which became the Collins Class submarines).

Horton was promoted Rear Admiral on 7 August 1986 and became the Chief of Naval Personnel. During his tenure he oversaw the introduction of the new officer performance reporting system which moved from the ‘closed’ system to an ‘open’ one, where officers actually saw their full report allowing them the opportunity to query the content and better understand their report and any shortcomings that were highlighted. He also sponsored the development of more opportunities for sea service for female members of the RAN, and the simplification of the re-engagement process for sailors who were completing their terms of engagement. Horton was subsequently advanced to an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) on 13 June 1988 “For service to the Royal Australian Navy, particularly as Chief of Naval Personnel”.

In January 1988 Tony Horton was appointed the Flag Officer Naval Support Command, based in Sydney. This was to prove his final appointment in the RAN. At that time Naval Support Command had a dual administrative and logistics function as it controlled and managed all of the Navy’s shore and training establishments and at the same time was responsible for millions of dollars of inventory in stores and ammunition depots located around the country, the Navy fuel budget and the repair and refit of all naval vessels. Over 10,000 Navy uniformed and civilian personnel made up the command. Naval Support Command also played a major role in supporting Australia’s Bicentenary in 1988 including the Bicentennial Naval Salute. Rear Admiral Anthony Horton, AO, RAN retired from the RAN in February 1991.

In retirement Rear Admiral Horton was active as a member of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal until 2009. He was also a Director for a number of foundations including the Bark Endeavour Limited (until the vessel was handed over to the Federal Government in 2005), the Sir David Martin Foundation and the Multiple Sclerosis Society of NSW.

In 2002 he became a board member of the shipping company ASP Ship Management/Pacific Holdings and was also a full time consultant, for 12 years, in the public health sector; mainly in the South Eastern Sydney Area Service.