Merchant Navy Day
For over ten years now, an annual “Merchant Navy Day” has been celebrated on 3 September - the anniversary of the outbreak of World War Two. Around the UK and further afield there will be a number of events and memorial services being held to mark the day.
The story of the Merchant Navy’s contribution to the World Wars of the twentieth century - the “fourth service” as Winston Churchill called it - has often failed to achieve the recognition and prominence it deserves. Its active role in the War effort - perhaps most notably in the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940 - and in keeping vital trade and supply routes open, was a magnificent testimonial to those who served in the Merchant Navy during these terrible times. Over 40,000 members of the British Merchant Navy perished during the two World Wars; the Second World War had just began when, on the evening of 3 September 1939, Anchor-Donaldson’s ss Athenia was torpedoed off the coast of Ireland.
How appropriate then that we stop to remember on 3 September the immense contribution of the Merchant Navy during the wartime era. Last year, in conjunction with Merchant Navy Day, the UK National Archives at Kew released the records of one million Merchant Navy seamen who served between 1918 and 1941, thereby allowing relatives and family historians the opportunity to find out just a little more about the distinguished service of their ancestors. In November 2010 I was privileged to be present in Leith (Scotland) when HRH The Princess Royal unveiled a fine memorial to commemorate the sacrifice of Scottish merchant sailors through the ages. Perhaps these are signs of a growing awareness and respect for the Merchant Navy’s role in the history of the UK and indeed, in the history of many other nations around the world.
Sea Breezes warmly supports the commemorative events on 3 September marking some of the most distinguished and bravest moments in our maritime heritage.
HAMISH ROSS, EDITOR