Spennymoor Town Council – Merchant Navy Day On Thursday 3rd September 2020, Merchant Navy Day, Spennymoor Town Council was proud to invite Mr Riddle and Mr Peter Butler – Merchant […]
On Thursday 3rd September 2020, Merchant Navy Day, Spennymoor Town Council was proud to invite Mr Riddle and Mr Peter Butler – Merchant Navy veterans, to a ceremony to raise the Red Ensign at the Town Hall. This was to commemorate, honour and thank those who served, lost their lives, and continue to serve in the Merchant Navy.
In wartime, Britain depended on civilian cargo ships to import food and raw materials, as well as to transport soldiers overseas, and keep them supplied. The title ‘Merchant Navy’ was granted by King George V after the First World War to recognise the contribution made by merchant sailors.
Britain’s merchant fleet was the largest in the world during both world wars. In 1939, a third of the world’s merchant ships were British, and there were some 200,000 sailors. Many merchant seamen came from parts of the British Empire, such as India, Hong Kong and west African countries. Women also sometimes served at sea in the Merchant Navy.
During both world wars, Germany operated a policy of unrestricted submarine warfare of sinking merchant vessels on sight. By the end of the First World War, more than 3,000 British flagged merchant and fishing vessels had been sunk and nearly 15,000 merchant seamen had died. During the Second World War, 4,700 British-flagged ships were sunk and more than 29,000 merchant seamen died.
Since the Second World War, the British Merchant Navy has become steadily smaller, but has continued to help in wartime, notably during the Falklands War.
The Deputy Mayor, Cllr Mrs Liz Maddison, said the Merchant Navy, and those who have and do serve can often be forgotten. However, their contribution to keeping Britain going, especially during conflict should never be forgotten. I am proud to have been part of this ceremony today to recognise the sacrifices made and the continuing contribution of those who serve.