Merchant Navy Association
Merchant Navy Association
9 Saxon Way
Mon-Fri 0900-1200; 1400-1700
The Merchant Navy Association represents the interests of past and present British merchant seafarers. As part of this, it commemorates those who served in the two World Wars and other conflicts at services held by its branches throughout the UK around the time of Merchant Navy Day on 3rd September each year. Services are held too in Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
The principal service takes place annually at the national Merchant Navy Memorial in Trinity Square Gardens on Tower Hill in London EC3 on the Sunday immediately following Merchant Navy Day. In the care of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the three memorials there bear the 35,395 names of those from the First and Second World Wars together with the Falklands Campaign for whom there is no known grave but the sea.
Details of Merchant Navy Day on 3rd September each year and the Service at the national Merchant Navy Memorial in London on the following Sunday are given in the ‘Events’ section of this entry.
Services also take place on 3rd September annually at each Merchant Navy Association branch across the UK:-
Aberystwyth; Axe Vale; Belfast; Bolton; Boston & South Lincs; Bristol; Caithness; Dormanstown & Redcar; Dumfries; East Lothian; Exeter;
Harrogate; Immingham; Ipswich; Kent; London & Greater London; Medway; Midlands; Newport; Pill & North Somerset; Plymouth & SW MSA; Ribble Valley; Salford; Scarborough; Solent; Tamworth; Taunton; Tilbury; Torbay;
Tyne & Wear; Walton on the Naze; Western Isles; West Norfolk; Weymouth, Portland and District; Wirral; Wolverhampton.
The Merchant Navy Association is a registered charity, number 1135661.
Association or society
Trinity Square Gardens open at 8 am and close 1/2 hour before dusk each day.
Merchant Navy Day
- 3 September 2015
- 3 September 2016
- 3 September 2017
- 3 September 2018
Merchant Navy Day was established in 2000 by HM Government and is on 3rd September each year, the anniversary of the start of the Second World War. While the Red Ensign, the flag of the British Merchant Navy, flies permanently over the national Merchant Navy Memorial in Trinity Square Gardens on Tower Hill in London EC3, it is flown in tribute that day on public and maritime buildings across the UK. In London, that includes the Department for Transport headquarters in Horseferry Road SW1; on HMS Belfast and from Tower Bridge. The latter is an honour shared with only the Union Flag and the White Ensign of the Royal Navy; in fact, two Red Ensigns are flown from the Bridge.
The Second World War began on 3rd September 1939 when Britain declared war on Germany following its invasion of Poland. Around 8½ hours later, the first British merchant ship, the liner SS Athenia, was torpedoed by a submarine west of Ireland. The last was sunk on 7th May 1945, 1¼ hours before VE-Day, it being the SS Avondale Park, a cargo ship, torpedoed off the Firth of Forth.
That first attack began the Battle of the Atlantic which became the longest continuous campaign of the Second World War. Prime Minister Winston Churchill described it as ‘… the dominating factor all through the War. Never for one moment could we forget that everything happening elsewhere, on land, at sea or in the air depended ultimately on its outcome.’
Keeping Britain fed, fuelled and fighting relied on merchant ships, escorted by those of the Royal and Allied Navies, bringing supplies from across the North and South Atlantic. In the convoys, the Merchant Navy’s civilian seamen were in the front-line alongside their naval counterparts in facing enemy submarines, mines, surface ships and aircraft while always at the mercy of sea and weather. Unescorted, the odds against merchant ships were even greater and thus so were the losses. By the end of the Second World War, with some 4,700 British-flagged ships sunk, more than 29,000 merchant seamen had died.
In the First World War, the task of what was known then as the Mercantile Marine was no different. By 1913, Britain imported 80% of its wheat, 50% of its meat and nearly 50% of its pig iron ore. In 1914, 43% of the world’s merchant ships, some 20 million tons gross, was owned and operated by Britain and the Dominions. Keeping Britain in business, those ships brought in food and raw materials, exporting its industry’s output to the world. In the War, the Imperial German Navy saw cutting the trade routes as the means to victory. For this, the submarine, the U-boat, became Germany’s principal weapon and it was not countered until the full introduction of the convoy system in May 1917, grouping merchant ships under the protection of naval escorts for passage across the North and South Atlantic in particular. Nonetheless, 6,924 Allied ships, almost 13 million tons gross, had been sunk with the loss of more than 14,000 merchant seafarers by the end of the War in 1918.
Such was the service and sacrifice of the Mercantile Marine during the First World War that HM King George V decreed in 1928 that it should be known as the Merchant Navy. In the same year, the King instituted the title of ‘Master of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets’, one now held by HM The Queen.
- Any age
Merchant Navy Day Service
- 6 September 2015 12:30-2:30pm
- 4 September 2016 12:30-2:30pm
- 3 September 2017 12:30-2:30pm
- 2 September 2018 12:30-2:30pm
The UK's principal Merchant Navy Day Service is held annually at the national Merchant Navy Memorial in Trinity Square Gardens on Tower Hill in London EC3 on the Sunday immediately following Merchant Navy Day, 3rd September each year. A multi-faith service, it is organised by the Merchant Navy Association. In the care of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the three memorials there bear the 35,395 names of those merchant seamen from the First and Second World Wars together with the Falklands Campaign for whom there is no known grave but the sea.
The Service includes the reading of a first-hand account, different on each occasion, of an action involving a ship and its crew named on the Memorial. In the five years to 2018, the readings will come from the First World War period as part of its centenary commemorations.
Together with veteran and serving members of the Merchant Navy, their relatives and friends, the Service is attended by representatives of the shipping industry, Commonwealth High Commissions, Embassies, Royal Navy, Trinity House, maritime organisations, seafarers’ charities and more as well as the standard bearers of branches of the Merchant Navy Association; Royal Naval Association; Royal British Legion; Royal National Lifeboat Institution and Sea Cadets.
Wreaths are laid at each memorial, followed by the planting in the Memorial’s lawn of miniature Red Ensigns, the flag of the Merchant Navy, in individual acts of remembrance or support for those who serve today. This is done on request to the Sailors’ Society which adds a personal message to the reverse of each flag. To apply, e-mail ABrogan@sailors-society.org or telephone 023 8051 5950. While offering this without charge, donations are appreciated by the Sailors’ Society; registered charity number 237778; http://www.sailors-society.org/
The attendance of members of the public at the Service is welcomed.
- Any age
Merchant Navy Memorial
Trinity Square Gardens
Bus: 15 Trafalgar Square - Blackwall
42 Liverpool Street - Denmark Hill
78 Shoreditch - Nunhead
RV1 Covent Garden - Tower Gateway
Underground: Circle or District line to Tower Hill
DLR: Tower Gateway
National Rail: Fenchurch Street; Liverpool Street
London River Services: Tower Pier
Trinity Square Gardens open at 8am and close 30 mins before dusk each day.