War hero Stephen gets his dearest wish ... meeting another DEMS gunner

A Borders war hero, who served as a DEMS gunner on Merchant Navy ships during the Second World War, has finally caught up with one of his comrades.
Harry Day, Stephen Smith and Alan Day at the reunion.Harry Day, Stephen Smith and Alan Day at the reunion.
Harry Day, Stephen Smith and Alan Day at the reunion.

The Southern ran a story on Stephen Taylor Smith and his wartime exploits last year after he helped raise the Merchant Navy’s Red Ensign at Scottish Borders Council’s headquarters.

Then, he talked of his pride of being asked to do so, but would have gladly given up the honour to see another of his DEMS comrades perform the task, as he had lost touch with all of them.

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Now, the 96-year-old has found not one, but two ex-DEMS personnel, and met up with them last week in Kirby Lonsdale.

He met Alan Derwent Day, a 93-year-old DEMS radar operator, and 94-year-old DEMS gunner Harry Day (no relation), who hails from Liverpool, after Alan had read Stephen’s story on our website.

Former Selkirk postie Stephen’s son Gordon took his dad down to the Lake District for the meeting last week.

He said: “Dad had already met up with Alan in Carlisle last November, but it was a really emotional moment to see all three men shake hands.

“It was incredible, a day I never thought I would see happen.

“We also found out that there are two medals which dad is entitled to, but has yet to receive, so it would be great if we can apply for these.

“We were invited again for the Merchant Navy event at the council again this year – which took place on Tuesday – but as dad has a chest infection and the trip south took a lot out of him, we had to respecfully decline.”

During the Second World War, the Merchant Navy provided an important service to the country, ensuring vital supplies made it through.

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The DEMS (defensively equipped merchant ships) personnel aided them in that task by holding firm against heavy bombing raids, manning the guns against enemy aircraft and U-boats and helping to keep Britain’s fleet moving.

Last year, Stephen told us: “I had always wanted to go to sea, ever since I was a young lad, so I did. And being a part of the DEMS is something I am very proud of, and I was proud to be asked to help raise the flag at Newtown.

“But genuinely, one of my most dear wishes is to find others who served in the DEMS.”