Comedy duo discovered in archives

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handwritten list of names including R Cannon and W Ball

The Maritime Archive and Library staff are often asked about DEMS gunners.  They were men who operated the guns on Defensively Equipped Merchant Ships during the First and Second World Wars.  Sometimes they were army personnel,  but sometimes they were merchant seafarers who had undertaken gunnery training. 

DEMS gunners are not specifically listed on crew lists, because they are listed under their main job title.  However, because they were paid an allowance for their gunnery responsibilities they can be spotted in the wages books.

Assistant curator Graham Hodson has been researching DEMS gunners using the wage books within our shipping company archives. In the wage account dated 12 September 1944 he spotted the aptly named Cannon and Ball being paid a gunner's premium on board the Harrison Line vessel Wanderer.  We're not suggesting they are the later comedy duo, although some jokes were probably made at their expense!

You can find out more about DEMS in Information sheet 71 on the website.