RCN Proud: How Jim Gordon became “Lucky”

CPO1 (Ret’d) Jim Gordon is seen alongside his son Mike in 1997 on his final day in the Navy. SUBMITTED

RCN Proud: How Jim Gordon became “Lucky”

By Vincent Joyce,
Pictou County Military Museum

Jim Gordon

James Leroy “Lucky” Gordon was born on September 25th, 1944, in London, England. He and his mother, May, emigrated to Canada aboard the RMS Rangitata in 1945. 

Landing at Pier 21 in Halifax,  Jim and his mother were transported to Truro, where he grew up and went to school. He was a member of the Boy Scouts of Canada and, once old enough, joined the Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps. Jim attended Sea Cadet summer training courses in Nova Scotia at HMCS Acadia in Sydney and HMCS Cornwallis in Deep Brook. At the age of 17, he joined the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) and was selected for the trade of Sonarman.

Mr. Gordon completed basic training at HMCS Cornwallis; Sonar Trade Group 1 and Trade Group 2 training at the Fleet School, HMCS Stadacona; Basic Submarine Training Course and Submarine Escape Tank Training at HMS Dolphin in Gosport, England; Sonar Trade Group 3 Course at Canadian Forces Fleet School, CFB Halifax; Senior Leadership Course at CFB Borden; Solid State Principals and Computer Techniques at Nova Scotia Technical University; and various equipment update, ship and submarine operational procedures refresher and leadership training throughout his career in Canada, England, and the United States.

Jim’s RCN highlights included serving on his first ship, HMCS Columbia, during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. This allowed for his sonar-operating skills to be employed while searching for Soviet submarines attempting to land ballistic missiles in Cuba. He was also a member of HMCS Ojibwa for the submarine’s commissioning at Chatham England in 1965. Being appointed to the rank of Chief Petty Officer First Class, and to the positions of Base Chief at CFB Halifax, and then Atlantic Fleet Formation Chief Petty Officer, also stand out as proud moments, he said.

Jim served in ships and submarines during the Cold War, in the waters of the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, as well as the Caribbean, Mediterranean, Baltic, Black, and North Seas. He visited and operated out of too many ports to list, across three continents.

The latter half of his career included a number of Coxswain appointments, first with submarines HMCS Okanagan (1982) and HMCS Ojibwa (1984) at the rank of Chief Petty Officer 2nd Class. After his promotion to Chief Petty Officer 1st Class in 1984, he served as Coxswain of First Canadian Submarine Squadron (1985), HMCS Iroquois (1987), and Canadian Submarine Training Group (1988). He served as Base Chief for CFB Halifax in 1991 and Atlantic Fleet Formation Chief in 1994.

Jim was also appointed to the rank of Member of the Order of Military Merit in 1989. He retired in July 1997 after 35 years of service.

A very interesting fact about Jim concerns his nickname “Lucky. While he was serving in England in 1965, the Royal Navy Sailors, knowing that Canadians were well paid, drew a young, naive Able Seaman Gordon into their late night poker school. It was held in the laundry drying room, lined with clotheslines and illuminated by just naked white light bulbs.

A much younger CPO1 (Ret’d) Gordon was photographed at home while on leave from basic training. SUBMITTED

Poker was seriously illegal in the Royal Navy. The game that the brits introduced Gordon to, Pontoon, was one that he had never heard of, but one they were eager to teach him. With amused looks and rubbing of hands, the Brits dealt and explained the game that Jim immediately recognized as Blackjack, a game he happened to be very good at. 

As the money changed hands and piled up in front of AB Gordon, the Brits began referring to him as “that Lucky (blanking) Gordon.” At the same time, the English tabloid news was relentlessly covering the Christine Keeler affair, which involved a young model’s scandalous relationships with a Soviet diplomat, a British government minister, and a Jamaican musician and alleged criminal named Aloysius “Lucky” Gordon. The name topped the headlines day after day at the time, and the nickname has stuck for more than 60 years now.

After retirement, Jim oversaw the construction, development and operation of the Falls Lake Recreational Facility, in Vaughan, NS. He retired completely in 2000 when his wife of 35 years, Eve, became gravely ill, passing away in 2003.

Jim married Eve in 1965 – she accompanied him to England while he was on temporary duty for Submarine training. They have two children, Kimberley Ann (Kim), born in 1966, and Michael (Mike) born in 1969, grandchildren Paige, Amie, Marshall and Jack, and great grandchildren Jaxon, Finn, and Archer.

Jim met his second wife, Leslie, in 2003 and married her in 2006. They have happily occupied their time boating and travelling, living in Halifax and, eventually, settling in their winter get-away home in Bonita Springs, Florida.

Mike followed his dad into the Navy in 1992 as a Nav Comm and has very recently retired to pursue another career in communications. Mike’s two sons, Marshall Gordon and Jack Gordon, both joined the RCN as well. Quite a family legacy, don’t you think?

Jim insists that his entire family have all been a significant part of and have contributed to his Naval career.

Ready Aye Ready.

RCN Proud profiles focus on former or current Royal Canadian Navy personnel. If you would like your story told or have a suggestion for a future profile, please contact Vincent Joyce at