John Burns’ most noteworthy contribution to the Navy was his contribution to the extensive modernisation programme of HMNZS Irirangi in 1962, which he was awarded a Naval Board Letter of Commendation for.
John Burns attended St Patrick’s College Wellington and entered the Royal New Zealand Navy when he finished as a cadet in January 1949. Burns trained at sea for year and went on to Canterbury University, where he studied weapon and electrical engineering. He was the first naval officer to study at university in New Zealand for an area of specialisation, graduating in 1952 with a Bachelor of Engineering. Burns also trained with the Royal Navy at the shore training establishment HMS Collingwood in England. It was there that he contracted tuberculosis, which he recovered from.
He gained his Masters of Engineering (with distinction) in 1960, and also studied at the University of Toronto on a Commonwealth Research Scholarship. His Master’s thesis related to guided missile control systems. After serving as a specialist officer on several RNZN ships, Burns was placed on the Retired list of officers in 1965 and moved to Auckland to work at the Naval Research Laboratory.
Burns was an officer of high personal standards and a retiring nature. He involved in community work while studying in Christchurch, helping resettle Hungarian refugees in the mid-1950s. Burns was also a man of faith. As a senior Catholic officer on the last cruise of the HMNZS Royalist in 1965, he organised for fellow Catholic officers to contribute towards a carved stand for a statue in the entrance of the naval chapel at Devonport, which he had made in Hong Kong.
His most noteworthy contribution to the Navy was his contribution to the extensive modernisation programme of HMNZS Irirangi in 1962, which he was awarded a Naval Board Letter of Commendation for.
Burns met his wife at Canterbury University. He married Marie Therese Nguyen-Ngoc-Dzung in 1964, in Saigon. A scientific promise to the Royal New Zealand Navy, a scholar and active Catholic, Lt. Cdr. John Anthony Burns died from cancer in Wellington on the 11th August 1967, aged just 37. He was survived by his wife, mother and sister Dr Patricia Burns.