John Sedgwick Gregson GC (AM non-exchanger)

b. 04/01/1924 Bombay, India. d. 25/12/2016 Tauranga, New Zealand.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 12/08/1942 Malta.

John Sedgwick Gregson (1924-2016) was born on 4th January 1924 in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, the son of Thomas Sedgwick and Dorothy Gregson (nee Redfern). His parents were originally from Hull, where his father was an architect. After they married the couple left for Bombay where Thomas had an architectural practice. When John was less than two years old, he and his elder sister Elizabetth were sent back to England to live with his grandmother.

John S Gregson GC

John went on to be educated at Pangbourne Nautical College and then joined the Merchant Navy in 1940. He began an apprenticeship with the Blue Funnel Line. Before the events that led to the award of the Albert Medal for John, he had already been torpedoed, had to abandon ship, and spend four days on the Atlantic in a lifeboat.

He then quickly returned to sea aboard SS Deucalian which was in the Mediterranean off the coast of Malta, when on 12th August 1942 it was attacked by aircraft and torpedoed. The ship was set on fire by a large explosion. he flames spread rapidly and orders were given to abandon ship. One of the ship’s gunners was, however, pinned under a raft. Gregson immediately went to his assistance and, with help, freed him. The gunner had severe injuries and it was impossible to get him into a boat or onto a raft, so he was dropped overboard, Gregson dived into the sea after him and in the darkness towed his helpless shipmate to a ship 600 yards away, which picked them up.

Once back in England, he sailed on SS Rhesus, obtaining his Mate’s Certificate in July 1943. It had been announced a few months before that his actions in Malta had led to the award of the Albert Medal for Lifesaving at Sea. He attended his investiture at Buckingham Palace later that year. He then returned to the Merchant Navy sailing on ships belonging to the Brocklebank Line and then, until 1949, with Common Brothers. In November that year, he obtained his Master’s Foreign Going Certificate and joined the Orient Line. He then emigrated to New Zealand in 1953 and married Mary Joan Reading in August 1954 and they had two sons.

After a spell working on a sheep station and also as a house painter, he returned to the sea. He joined the Union Steam Ship then the Shell Company. He sailed around the New Zealand coast for nine years obtaining Pilotage Exemption Certificates for nine New Zealand ports before becoming a Pilot with Tauranga Harbour Board at the Port of Tauranga and Mount Manganui, becoming Senior Pilot in March 1975. After 16 years he was back on the open sea with the Union Steam Ship Company again, sailing on coastal tankers for another 10 years. He retired in May 1987 and he and Mary lived in retirement in Tauranga.

John chose to decline the offer to exchange his Albert Medal for a George Cross in 1971, though did proudly represent holders of the AM at the biannual VCGCA reunions. John passed away on Christmas Day 2016, aged 91, and his funeral was held at Mount Harbour Chapel, Mount Manganui on 4th January 2017 (what would have been his 92nd birthday). His medal group including his AM, 1939-45 Star, Atlantic Star, Africa Star, Burma Star, War Medal 1939-45, 1977 QEII Silver Jubilee Medal, 1990 New Zealand Commemorative Medal, 2002 QEII Golden Jubilee Medal and Lloyd’s War Medal for Bravery are proudly held by the Gregson family.