I. The Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets at War THE conduct of any war is dependent upon the availability of supplies: not only of the materials of warfare but of the everyday needs of the civil population. The Navy has the task of ensuring that the supply routes are kept open and of protecting the merchant convoys but it is the task of the merchant ships to carry the supplies and to carry men of the armed forces to the various theatres of war. Despite the protection afforded to them by the naval and air forces and by such defensive armament as they themselves carry in time of war they offer avery vulnerable target to enemy surface craft submarines and aircraft. The men who man these ships even in peacetime engage infrequent battle with the elements in wartime every voyage involves a vastly greater threat of danger which they are but ill equipped to resist. It is only to be expected that the roll of honour of those who gave their lives should be along one and that it should be made glorious by many tales of heroism endurance and devotion to duty. The war-time figures of tonnages conveyed in merchant ships are not available but some idea of the part played by the Merchant Navy in the economy of Great Britain alone is given by the fact that in the year before the 1939-1945 War cargoes weighing more than 67000000 tons were brought into United Kingdom ports by British ships in the form of food and drink raw materials for industry oil fuel and manufactured goods. This vast inflow is balanced by a flow of exports to the Commonwealth and Empire and to foreign countries. To carry these goods the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth and Empire had in 1939 more than 17500000 gross tons of shipping, reckoning only vessels of 1600 gross tons and over and not including lake and river craft and such vessels as tugs and trawlers. This great fleet was the target for the Axis powers in their attempt to destroy the trade and the life of Britain. The merchant ships were attacked by submarines surface vessels and aircraft their routes to British ports were sown with mines and even in harbour they were not safe against air-raids. The first to be sunk the Athenia was torpedoed within twelve hours of the declaration of war and even after the end of hostilities mines continued to claim some victims. In the second quarter of 1942, losses amounted to 7 percent of the tonnage available. By 1943 however improved
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Please Login to View This Document Memorial Register 22, The Tower Hill Memorial Introduction to the Register, names of those of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets who fell during WW2
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