Because today is Merchant Navy Day, we're helping you to find your Naval ancestor.
The UK Merchant Navy’s official flag will be flown on the 3rd of September on public buildings and landmark flagstaffs across Great Britain, with towns, cities, parishes and local authorities also taking part to pay tribute to the men of the Merchant Navy. Members of the public are asked to show their support for the seafarers by proudly flying the Red Ensign, as publicly as you can, for all to see.
King George V bestowed the title of "Merchant Navy" on the British merchant shipping fleets following their service in the First World War. During this conflict around 7,759,090 tons and around 14,661 merchant seafarers were killed.
When the UK entered the Second World War in September 1939 George VI issued this message:
In these anxious days I would like to express to all Officers and Men and in The British Merchant Navy and The British Fishing Fleets my confidence in their unfailing determination to play their vital part in defence. To each one I would say: Yours is a task no less essential to my people's experience than that allotted to the Navy, Army and Air Force. Upon you the Nation depends for much of its foodstuffs and raw materials and for the transport of its troops overseas. You have a long and glorious history, and I am proud to bear the title "Master of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets". I know that you will carry out your duties with resolution and with fortitude, and that high chivalrous traditions of your calling are safe in your hands. God keep you and prosper you in your great task.
In the Second World War German U-boats sank approximately 2,828 ships, which cost the lives of 32,000 merchant seafarers who were killed aboard convoy vessels in the war, but along with the Royal Navy, the convoys successfully imported enough supplies to allow an Allied victory.
The 3rd September was adopted as Merchant Navy Day in 2000. This date in 1939 marked the outbreak of the Second World War when the merchant ship SS Athenia was torpedoed and sunk, with the loss of 128 passengers and crew.
For Merchant Navy Day this year, the Red Ensign will be flown ashore at more than 600+ locations across the UK, in response to a campaign by the maritime welfare charity Seafarers UK to raise public awareness of our island nation’s ongoing dependence on those who work at sea.
Flag-hoisting ceremonies are being planned by many local authorities and councils – see the ‘Roll of Honour’ at www.merchantnavyfund.org/ The Red Ensign will also be flying on many historic buildings, especially in Scotland where Merchant Navy Day is on the Scottish Government’s official list of flag-flying days.
So let's hoist the flag to all those who braved the waves and the enemy during both world wars.