Monday, September 3, 2018

New Video Marks the Stoicism of Those at Sea in the First World War for Merchant Navy Day

Maritime Charity Honours the Servicemen Who Saved Britain
Shipping News Feature
UK – To mark this year's Merchant Navy Day (September 3rd) the maritime charity, the Shipwrecked Mariners' Society, which has supported fishermen, mariners and their dependants since 1839, has released a video exploring the spirited determination and indomitable courage of the Mercantile Marine and Fishing Fleets during World War One.

In this, the final centenary year of the First World War, the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society is focusing on a story seldom told. The video, viewable HERE, highlights those men whose steadfastness, stoicism and indomitable courage ensured that Britain was able to fight on and win during WWI, and in particular, that its people did not starve.

In 1914 Great Britain relied heavily on imported food stuffs and to fight and survive, and in addition it needed to bring in military hardware, munitions, timber for trenches, horses and men to fight. By the beginning of May 1917, Britain had lost over a thousand merchant ships and 6,000 lives. It had only six weeks’ supply of food left and was facing the prospect of starvation as well as losses of goods and raw materials that could not be sustained.

Despite dire circumstance, the Allied nations were able to mobilise the world’s resources and ship those resources across thousands of sea miles to points of production and consumption in their home countries. This was at the cost of the lives of over 17,000 British Merchant Seamen and Fishermen, whose efforts were recognised by King George V when he said that the Mercantile Marine should henceforth be known as the Merchant Navy, the Fourth Service, and why Our Monarch is ‘Master of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets’.

During the terrible conflict the Society assisted some 51,000 sailors including Merchant Navy and Fishermen, by providing clothing, food, accommodation and rail warrants for their return home. It also provided financial assistance to the widows, orphans and aged parents for whom the loss of the only breadwinner was devastating.

Now in its 179th year, the charity continues to support seafarers in need and last year provided assistance in over 2,000 cases of financial hardship at a cost of £1.4 million, and Chief Executive of the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society, Captain Justin Osmond, commented:

“Assessing the reasons for the Allied victory in the First World War, it is widely agreed that civilian food supply was the ultimate deciding factor. That the calorie intake at the end of the war was almost at pre-war levels despite the loss of merchant ships from enemy action, and the competition for carrying capacity from the imports of weapons, munitions and men to enable us to fight was due to the stoicism and heroism of our Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets.

“This is something not a lot of people know about these days and we are hopeful our film will go some way to raising awareness of the sacrifice of our merchant seamen and fishermen, without which the outcome of the war could have been very different.”