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Fly the Red Ensign for Merchant Navy Day

Wychavon District Council will be raising the Red Ensign flag on Friday 1 September, to mark Merchant Navy Day.

Merchant Navy Day falls on Sunday 3 September this year, and the day provides an opportunity to remember all of the Merchant Navy sailors from Great Britain’s proud naval past, and also to show support for today’s British seafarers, on whom the UK depends today.

The flag raising commemoration will take place at 10am at the Civic Centre in Pershore, on Friday 1 September.

At the flag raising the Chairman of Wychavon District Council, Councillor Liz Eyre, will give a short reading of thanks from HRH The Earl of Wessex and then raise the Red Ensign, which is the recognised flag of the British Merchant Navy.

Since the year 2000, the 3 September has been the UK’s officially designated Merchant Navy Day. The date was chosen because on that day in 1939, the first day of the Second World War, SS Athenia became the first ship to be torpedoed and sunk with the dreadful loss of 128 passengers and crew.

Chairman of Wychavon, Councillor Liz Eyre, said: “As an island nation we have always depended on merchant seafarers to defend our shores and import vital food and fuel. We’re pleased to be supporting the ‘Fly the Red Ensign for Merchant Navy Day’ in honour of the brave merchant seafarers who have made the ultimate sacrifice throughout our history, but particularly during the two World Wars.”

In the First and Second World Wars, the merchant fleets suffered heavy losses from German U-boat attacks. Nearly eight million tons were lost to U-boats in the First World War, and 14,661 merchant seafarers were killed.

In the Second World War, German U-boats sank 2,828 Allied ships, amounting to nearly 14.7 million tons. The United Kingdom alone suffered the loss of 11.7 million tons and 32,000 merchant seafarers were killed – a higher casualty ratio than any branch of the Armed Forces.

The Red Ensign, or ‘Red Duster’ as it is affectionately known, has been the recognised flag of the British Merchant Navy since 1854.

It has become inextricably linked with the worldwide trade links that made the United Kingdom’s fortune, and today 95% of the UK’s trade still comes by sea.

The nationwide event is being supported by many other organisations and businesses throughout the UK and as well as showing support for the Merchant Navy, flying the Red Ensign will also help to highlight the work of Seafarers UK, the charity that supports the maritime community.

To find out more information about Seafarers UK and flying the Red Ensign go to www.seafarers-uk.org.

The message from HRH The Earl of Wessex will read:

On this Merchant Navy Day, I very much hope you will support this campaign by Seafarers UK to remember the sacrifices, salute the courage and support the future of the often unsung personnel of our Merchant Navy. Too often they are the forgotten or invisible service, but by raising the Red Ensign you will ensure that at least on this day they are remembered. Your act will mean so much to their families and to the retired, but most especially to those at sea.