‘Britain is a maritime nation – always has been, always will be’ FDC councillor and former master mariner Fred Yeulett commemorating Merchant Navy Day .

Ensign flag flies over the Fenland Hall

Ensign flag flies over the Fenland Hall - Credit: Archant

The Red Ensign was raised at Fenland Hall today (Thursday) to honour all the seafarers of the Merchant Navy, past and present.

Ensign flag over Fenland Hall

Ensign flag over Fenland Hall - Credit: Archant

Fenland District Council was one of hundreds of local authorities and other organisations marking Merchant Navy Day by flying the flag, also affectionately known as the Red Duster.

About 20 people, including past members of the service, gathered at the council’s offices in March for a short ceremony hosted by FDC chairman Councillor Carol Cox.

Councillor Fred Yeulett, a master mariner who served in the Merchant Navy, told them: “Britain is a maritime nation – always has been, always will be. We depend on trade for our prosperity.

“For many years the Merchant Navy flying the Red Duster carried by far the greatest proportion of goods and people by sea to and fro across the world and it is still engaged in this business.

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“We are gathered here today to remember the sacrifices made by merchant seamen and women in conflict and to support the Merchant Navy as it goes forward.”

He recalled the losses suffered by the service in two world wars. “These were huge, with 32,000 merchant seafarers killed – a higher casualty rate than any other service. Despite these losses, seamen still went about their business.”

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The flag was blessed and prayers led by the Reverend Clifford Stocking, priest-in-charge of St Wendreda’s Church and St John’s Church in March.

Cllr Cox read a message from the Earl of Wessex, calling on people to “remember the sacrifices, salute the courage and support the future of the often unsung personnel of our Merchant Navy”.

It added: “Too often they are the forgotten or invisible service. 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.”

Afterwards refreshments were provided in the council chamber.

Since 2000 Merchant Navy Day has been commemorated on September 3. It was on that date in 1939, the first day of the Second World War, that the SS Athenia was the first merchant ship to be torpedoed and sunk, with the loss of 128 lives.

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