Alan Gordon joined the Royal Engineers in 1962 and trained as a topographical surveyor.
Over the following thirty years, he enjoyed postings to Singapore, Cyprus, Berlin, to a
NATO Headquarters in The Netherlands and also to several Military Survey establishments
at Feltham, RAF Wyton, Hermitage and Barton Stacey. During his career Alan worked on
maps of Borneo, the Aden Protectorate, Cyprus, Norway, East Germany and digital data
of Poland and the Soviet Union. Highlights of his service were being the first military
surveyor posted to the British Commanders’-in-Chief Mission to the Soviet Forces in
Germany, BRIXMIS, where he developed and implemented a programme that revised 208
map sheets covering East Germany in three years. During his career he rose through the
ranks to be commissioned, and as a major, was the operations officer for 42 Survey Engineer
Group during the first Gulf War.
Alan took early retirement in 1993. He pursued a second career as a consultant whose
clients included Military Survey, the Ordnance Survey, Railtrack, several leading defence
contractors and an Irish geospatial database company.
He continued his association with the Royal Engineers and Military Survey. Alan was
instrumental in the forming of the Military Survey Branch of the Royal Engineers Association
and became editor of the Defence Surveyors’ Association Journal, The Ranger, a position he
held for eleven years.
Shortly before leaving the service Alan developed an interest in the history of Military
Survey, particularly researching and recording former surveyors’ memories and collecting
materials, notably photographs, that might otherwise have been lost. The collection of over
7,000 photographs now forms an online archive. Alan’s knowledge and enthusiasm for the
history were acknowledged when he was invited with his two business partners to design
and project manage the year-long celebrations to mark the 250th anniversary of Military
Survey. As part of that project he produced jointly with Dr Yolande Hodson a significant
exhibition illustrating the history of Military Survey.
Alan’s published work includes ‘An illustrated History of 250 Years of Military Survey’
written jointly with Dr Yolande Hodson, the appendix ‘The Map Makers’ for Beyond the
Frontline by Tony Geraghty. His articles on a variety of Military Survey history-related
subjects have appeared in the Cartographic Journal, Surveying World, Geomatics World,
The American Surveyor and The Ranger. He was the Military Survey advisor for the Military
Survey content of Follow The Sapper and produced the first draft of the Military Survey
element of Volume XII of the official History of the Royal Engineers. Digital publications
include choosing the subject matter and writing the text for an interactive computer-based
‘History of Military Survey’ for the Royal Engineers Museum and for a DVD entitled
‘Snapshots from 250 Years of Military Survey’. He has given highly regarded presentations
at relevant seminars at the Universities of Greenwich, Oxford and Portsmouth and to the
Defence Surveyors’ Association’s ‘Maps and Surveys’ seminars on four occasions.