Flying the flag for Merchant Navy Day
Shropshire Council is to fly the Red Ensign, the UK Merchant Navy’s official flag, to mark Merchant Navy Day 2017 (Sunday 3 September 2017) – a day which aims to raise public awareness of the UK’s dependence as an island nation on past, present and future Merchant Navy seafarers.
The flag, which will be raised as part of a small flag-hoisting ceremony at 9.30am on Friday 1 September 2017, will fly outside the council’s Shirehall headquarters in Shrewsbury until Monday 4 September 2017.
Since 2000, Merchant Navy Day has honoured the brave men and women who kept the ‘Island Nation’ afloat during both World Wars, and celebrated its dependence on modern day merchant seafarers who are responsible for 95% of the UK’s imports.
Shropshire Council is just one of the many councils and Government organisations across the country which will be flying the flag to remember the sacrifices, salute the courage and support the future of the often, unsung personnel of the Merchant Navy.
Karen Calder, Shropshire Council’s Armed Forces Covenant Chair, said:
“We are proud to be flying the Red Ensign in support of Merchant Navy Day.
“Our country relies heavily on the Merchant Navy for things that many of us take for granted, including food and fuel.
“As well as supporting current personnel, it is also a day to show respect to those who lost their lives serving in the Merchant Navy during World War I and II.
“I hope that when people see the flag flying they will take a moment to remember our brave and selfless seafarers.”
Attending the ceremony, former second Officer in the Merchant Navy, Clive Gwilt remembers his experiences:
“I joined the Merchant Navy in 1976 as a navigation Cadet and was made redundant in 1990 after reaching the position of second Officer.
“In 1981 both Iran and Iraq attacked oil tankers and merchant ships, including neutral nations, in an effort to deprive the opponent of trade. Attacks on ships in the Persian Gulf sharply increased and this phase of the Gulf war was dubbed “The Tanker War”. By 1986 Lloyds of London estimated that 546 vessels had been damaged with 430 civilian mariners killed.
“In February 1981 I joined the British Avon ship at Abu Dhabi as third Officer. It was a medium sized clean oil tanker of 25,619 tonnes. We loaded a full cargo of Napthalene (jet fuel) and proceeded around the Persian Gulf to assist the forces.
“We were given the option to go ashore before entering the War Zone and stay in a hotel and wait for the ship to return. I decided I wanted ‘to do my bit’ and stayed on board with the Captain and a skeleton crew. We proceeded with minimal lighting and radio silence and discharged the cargo as quickly as possible over two days. We could hear bombs, aeroplanes and the horizon was all lit up. It was quite frightening as we had no Royal Navy support and one spark would cause the whole ship to have gone up. We did have lifeboats ready and the atmosphere was very tense. We actually did the trip on two occasions.
“Unfortunately the Merchant Navy does not issue medals like the armed forces but I did receive a merchant navy veteran badge in 2007 in recognition of my Gulf War efforts.
“I had many highlights during my time with the Merchant Navy and have been all over the world at no cost to myself.
“I look forward to seeing the flag raised outside Shirehall and remembering those who served and are currently serving.”
For further information about the day, click here.
For further information about the Armed Forces Covenant, people can visit http://new.shropshire.gov.uk/support-for-armed-forces-personnel-veterans-and-families