Mer­chant sea­men’s names will live on

Campbeltown Courier - - NEWS - Mark Davey and John Man­ning edi­tor@camp­bel­town­

AT 12pm last Sun­day a for­mer Kin­tyre sailor re­mem­bered all the mer­chant sea­men lost in bat­tle.

John Man­ning, 85, from Drum­lem­ble was alone as he placed a wreath, on Mer­chant Navy me­mo­rial day, the same date as Bri­tain en­tered the Sec­ond World War in 1939, at Camp­bel­town ceno­taph, while gaz­ing out to sea across the loch.

It was not un­til as re­cently as 1999 that the gov­ern­ment of­fi­cially cre­ated a spe­cial me­mo­rial day. The par­lia­men­tary un­der sec­re­tary of state Keith Hill MP, wrote to the Mer­chant Navy As­so­ci­a­tion set­ting aside Septem­ber 3.

Mr Man­ning said: ‘The Mer­chant Navy has served the na­tion in times of peace and war. The Red En­sign has flown in ev­ery cor­ner of the globe on ex­plo­ration, com­merce and in sup­port of the armed forces.

‘The Mer­chant Navy me­mo­rial at Tower Hill, Lon­don, records the names of 46,000 sea­far­ers who died in both world wars and have no known grave other than the sea.

‘The to­tal sac­ri­fice dur­ing the 20th cen­tury is known to be 56,000 men, women and chil­dren as in the ear­lier years of the cen­tury some served from the age of 15.

‘With such de­voted and un­stint­ing ser­vice to the na­tion it will not come as any sur­prise to find that many sea­far­ers felt over­looked and for­got­ten when lau­rels and ac­co­lades were be­ing be­stowed.

‘Peo­ple are fully aware of the much-de­served pa­tron­age and sup­port given to the armed ser­vices across many years.

‘Many peo­ple, and not just sea­far­ers, wished the Mer­chant Navy to be sim­i­larly ac­knowl­edged and were wait­ing for a lead and an op­por­tu­nity.

‘It seemed that recog­ni­tion for the Mer­chant Navy was long over­due.’

The mer­chant marine ser­vice was given the ti­tle Mer­chant Navy by King Ge­orge V at the end of World War One as recog­ni­tion of the role that they had played in the lo­gis­ti­cal supply of food, mu­ni­tions and man­power in the: ‘War to end all wars.’

The King Ge­orge’s Fund for sailors was es­tab­lished at the same time. It is avail­able to all sea­far­ers re­gard­less of the flag they have sailed un­der and is the sole source of funds for mer­chant sea­men, they be­ing ex­cluded from, for ex­am­ple, the Royal Bri­tish Le­gion for Scot­land’s funds be­cause Mer­chant Navy per­son­nel were not: ‘Un­der com­mand.’


Mr Man­ning added: ‘It has been sug­gested that those ‘un­der com­mand’ take cog­ni­sance of the fact that with­out the Mer­chant Navy to bring in the petroleum, prob­a­bly few Hur­ri­canes or Spit­fires would have been able to leave the ground.

‘Nor many a tank or lorry engine turn over and run, or any war­ship put to sea be­cause of empty bunkers.

‘With­out cargo ships and lin­ers Bri­tain would have been de­fi­cient of the thou­sands and thou­sands of tons of mu­ni­tions and other war ma­te­ri­als needed for defence.

‘There would not have been the aid from al­lies of food or per­son­nel join­ing the con­flict from many parts of the world.

‘Once a Mer­chant Navy ship was tor­pe­doed the crew’s pay im­me­di­ately ceased and they would be classed VNC - voy­age not com­pleted. In ad­di­tion the ser­vice’s pris­on­ers of war re­ceived no pay and their fam­i­lies were sub­jected to means tested dole.

‘Septem­ber 3 also com­mem­o­rates the first mar­itime ca­su­alty of the Sec­ond World War.’

The hor­ror of war be­gan im­me­di­ately when, as Mr Man­ning con­tin­ues: ‘SS Athe­nia, an un­armed mer­chant cargo/liner, was sunk by an en­emy U-boat – sub­ma­rine – off Ire­land with the loss of 19 male and female crew and 93 pas­sen­gers.

‘It has there­fore, a very spe­cial sig­nif­i­cance for mer­chant sea­men, hence a re­mem­brance of two min­utes at 12pm, eight bells.’


John Man­ning looks out to sea be­fore lay­ing the wreath at Camp­bel­town ceno­taph.


The wreath’s text with a per­sonal line from John Man­ning.

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