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Gallery: Ipswich honours Merchant Navy heroes

18:32 03 September 2014

Ceremony to mark Merchant Navy Day on Ipswich Waterfront attended by Ipswich Mayor Bill Quinton and community members

Ceremony to mark Merchant Navy Day on Ipswich Waterfront attended by Ipswich Mayor Bill Quinton and community members

The sacrifices made by those serving in the Merchant Navy were marked today on Ipswich Waterfront.

The commemoration recognising the role played by the seafarers in peace and war, took place for the first time at the memorial on Orwell Quay.

Passers-by stopped and paid their respects as Captain Geoffrey Hartgrove, chairman of the Ipswich branch of the Merchant Navy Association (MNA), and Reverend Andrew Dotchin took part in a service, which coincided with other commemorative events across the nation.

Today marked the anniversary of the first maritime casualty of the Second World War, when the S.S. Athenia was torpedoed on September 3, 1939. During the ensuing Battle of the Atlantic some 30,000 allied seafarers lost their lives.

The three-tonne granite memorial on Ipswich Waterfront was put in place in April after a year-long £13,000 fundraising campaign by the Ipswich branch of the MNA.

Those in attendance yesterday read a seafarer’s version of Psalm 23, the Lord’s Prayer, and sang Abide With Me, while there was also a minute’s silence to remember the fallen seafarers.

Capt Hartgrove said: “I’m honoured to have been able to do it.

“I hope the various buildings are flying the Red Ensign today.”

Ipswich mayor Bill Quinton, who was also in attendance along with his wife and mayoress Barbara, said the service was brilliant and added: “The memorial is in it’s home.

“It’s a wonderful place to celebrate this occasions, it’s a lovely setting.

“It was lovely to see lots of people here.

“The seafarers deserve all the credit. Without them we wouldn’t be here today.

“It’s great to be part of the celebration.”

The Merchant Navy

The Merchant Navy is the name given to the UK’s commercial shipping industry.

During both world wars it became known as the “fourth service”.

A policy of unrestricted warfare meant that merchant seafarers were at risk of attack from German U-boats.

The tonnage lost in the First World War was around 7,759,090 tons, and around 14,661 merchant seafarers were killed.

In honour of the sacrifice made by merchant seafarers in the First World War, George V granted the title “Merchant Navy” to the service.

In the Second World War, German U-boats sank nearly 14.7 million tons of Allied shipping, which amounted to 2,828 ships (around two thirds of the total allied tonnage lost).

The UK alone suffered the loss of 11.7 million tons, which was 54% of the total Merchant Navy fleet at the outbreak of the Second World War. Some 32,000 merchant seafarers were killed aboard convoy vessels in the war, but along with the Royal Navy, the convoys successfully imported enough supplies to allow an Allied victory.

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