Gallery: Merchant Navy Association memorial unveiled on Ipswich Waterfront to the ‘unsung heroes’ of the sea

The unveiling and dedication of the Merchant Navy Association Seafarers' Memorial at Orwell Quay in Ipswich on Saturday
The parade of standards The unveiling and dedication of the Merchant Navy Association Seafarers' Memorial at Orwell Quay in Ipswich on Saturday The parade of standards

Sunday, April 13, 2014
6:26 PM

Thousands of seafarers who lost their lives in times of war were honoured at a poignant ceremony to dedicate a new memorial on Ipswich Waterfront.

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Lord Tollemache, Lord Lieutenant of Suffolk, unveiled the three-ton granite memorial, put in place on Orwell Quay after a year-long £13,000 fundraising campaign by the Ipswich branch of the Merchant Navy Association (MNA).

People gathered close to the University Campus Suffolk buildings as standard bearers of forces associations paraded along the quayside led by the Harwich Pipe Band at the start of the open-air service, attended by VIP guests, including mayor of Ipswich Hamil Clarke.

Acting bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, the Rt Rev Dr David Thomson carried out the act of dedication before a one minute’s silence in memory of seafarers who have died in conflicts and the laying of wreaths.

Among those laying wreaths was Melton resident Sandra Smith, originally from Barbados and whose grandfather was killed when the SS Traveller, on which he was serving, was torpedoed and lost with all 51 crew killed on January 16, 1942.

It is the first time Ipswich, with its rich merchant navy history stretching back more than 1,000 years, has had a memorial dedicated to the merchant seamen who lost their lives at sea in war time, often taking part in dangerous missions to bring food and other necessary cargo home to Britain.

During World War Two alone, nearly twice as many merchant seafarers lost their lives at sea as Royal Navy seamen.

Capt Geoffrey Hartgrove, chairman of the Ipswich branch of the MNA, said merchant seamen were the “unsung heroes” of the sea

Many generations of sailors had lived in the town and sailed to destinations all over the world.

In peacetime, merchant seafarers go about their business almost un-noticed, yet over 90% of everything consumed in the UK arrives by ship.

He said in wartime there was never a lack of seafarers ready to man the vessels – mostly unarmed – that brought food, oil and other essentials, enduring man-made perils like enemy submarines, bombers and mines.

Capt Hartgrove said: “In WWII alone, it’s estimated that about 35,000 merchant sailors lost their lives.”

Seafarers had been short-changed in the public perception but had a magnificent story and the merchant navy was still as vital today.

Thanking all the organisations, businesses and individuals who supported the fundraising, Capt Hartgrove said: “It is not only the heroism and sacrifice but also hope because our merchant navy can offer a career for those who want something out of the ordinary.”

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