Bedford, Francis John M.B.E., B.A. (1909-1969)

Transcription of obituary published in the Minutes of Conference

FRANCIS JOHN BEDFORD, M.B.E., B.A.: born at Wrockwardine Wood, Shropshire, on 11 November 1909. Trained at Hartley College, he graduated at Manchester. In 1931 he entered the ministry and in 1933 went as a missionary to what was then Northern Rhodesia. There he served first as Vice-Principal and then as Principal of the Methodist Training College at Kafue. In 1938 he was seconded to the United Missions in the copper belt and became Educational Secretary and leader of the United Missions Team at Mufulira. In all these capacities he was able to influence the generation of Africans which has now come to leadership in the new nations, including Kenneth Kaunda, President of Zambia. 

In 1948 he became Secretary of the East African Agency of the British and Foreign Bible Society. Under his guidance this work developed and eventually stretched from equatorial Africa to Kenya, and included Zanzibar, Madagascar, Mauritius and the Seychelles. He had the reward of seeing the Union Swahili Bible introduced into E. Africa which has since proved to be one of the great evangelizing forces of the area. It was under his direction that the new Bible House in Nairobi was established in 1958. In 1961 he returned to London to become Deputy General Secretary of the Bible Society, but in 1962 he returned to his first love by becoming Executive Secretary for Africa. He later combined this with the role of United Bible Societies Regional Consultant for Africa. He made regular tours which took him to every part of the continent, from the Mediterranean to the Limpopo. He superintended the Africanization of the Bible Society’s work with Africans themselves taking over the reins in their respective countries. 

All this work was further enhanced by his active interest in the Scout movement. He instituted the Wolf Cub movement in N. Rhodesia and became Assistant Colony Commissioner. In Kenya he became Arkela Leader from September 1950, for five years, Assistant Chief Commissioner (Training) from August 1952, and Deputy Chief Commissioner from February 1953 to September 1960. For distinguished services to Scouting, especially for keeping the movement going during the Mau Mau rebellion, he was awarded the M.B.E. Among Scouting honours, he received in 1957 the Silver Wolf, the highest British Scouting award. This service continued to his death when he was County Commissioner for the new Scout County of Greater London (South-East). 

He was a ‘Mr. Greatheart’ for whom the world was his parish. Of generous stature and iron constitution he was courageous and resourceful in all his undertakings and motivated throughout by a great love of and trust in people. He saw boundless possibilities in giving to youth a vision and continued to offer this to the end from the pulpit, in his scouting and in the day-to-day business of the Bible Society. Warm and brotherly to all, he had an uncanny understanding of the African mind born of deep fidelity to the essential spirit of the Christian gospel. He died ‘on active service’, preparing for yet another strenuous African tour, on 1 December 1969, in the sixty-first year of his age and the thirty-ninth of his ministry.


Francis was born on 11 November 1909 at Wrockwardine Wood, Shropshire, to parents John Henry, a PM minister, and Lucy Augusta Callear.

Francis died on 1 December 1969 in the Bromley Registration District, Greater London.


  • Hartley
  • 1931 N Rhodesia
  • 1947 Mission Secretary
  • 1949 per Kenya BFBS
  • 1961 per BFBS


Methodist Minutes 1970/180

W Leary, Directory of Primitive Methodist Ministers and their Circuits, 1990

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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