Guarlford History Group

John Bedington (1922 - 2007)

Service in RN (DEMS)

John was the son of George Francis Bedington and Clara Williams, both from local families, who married in 1915. They lived in a thatched cottage at Hall Green where 'The Paddocks' now stands. The photograph below shows John on the left and his sister Phyl on the common about 1927.

John's father George enlisted with the Worcester Regiment and fought in the Great War, which he survived.

John Bedington left about 1927

As a young man John worked in a shop in Malvern and it was thought by his family he had been a merchant seaman during WWII. However, records he left showed there was more to the story.

John had in fact joined the Royal Navy, and been deployed as a gunner on Defensively Equipped Merchant Ships which were known as DEMS. Many merchant ships were equipped with a heavy gun, for engaging submarines on the surface, and machine guns for engaging enemy aircraft at close range.

DEMS were issued with civilian papers as deckhands so that merchant ships were not categorised as warships and could enter neutral ports.

DEMS badgeJohn was initially a Deckhand on the Cargo Ship Trevince. The Trevince was built in 1907 by John Readhead and Sons, South Shields, County Durham, and owned by the Edward Hain and Son Steamship Company, a Cornish business moved to Cardiff. Forty merchant ships were requisitioned from Hain's during WWII of which twenty eight were lost.

The Trevince (7,280 tons) was equipped with a 4 inch gun, four machine guns and Admiralty Net Defence. The nets could be lowered from booms and were intended to prevent torpedoes obtaining a direct hit on the ships hull.

The Trevince was in Convoy KM 059 which left Liverpool on 1st August 1944 carrying general stores for Port Said in the Persian Gulf.

An inoculation card for Typhus confirms John was in Port Said on 19th December 1944.

John Bedington RN

The Trevince was in convoy HX339 which left New York on 18th February 1945 and arrived Liverpool 3rd March 1945. However a memo dated 17th February 1945 confirming a good conduct award was sent to the ship SS Salween so John was probably then serving in the Far East.

The SS Salween (7,603 tons) was built in 1937 for the UK Burma run. In 1941 it was converted to a troopship capable of carrying up to 1,400 troops. It took part in the evacuation of Greece in 1941 and after served in East African waters.

Victory in Europe was declared in April 1945 but the war against Japan continued in the Far East.

On 15th June 1945 John is recorded as completing a DEMS gunnery refresher course in Calcutta. 

At that time there was a build up of British troops and ammunition in readiness for an amphibious assault against the Japanese in Malaya. However dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki led to the Japanese surrender in August 1945 and SS Salween carried troops and munitions back from Jakarta to Calcutta in December 1945.

It was from Calcutta John sent a roll of satin to his sister Phyl which she used to make her wedding dress. John was demobilised in 1946.


Record of DEMS refresher training John Bedington in tropical kit