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National Merchant Navy Day Commemoration 3 September 2018

FRIDAY, AUGUST 31, 2018


The national commemoration to honour those who served in the Merchant Navy during wartime is being held this coming Monday 3 September in the Hall of Memories, Pukeahu National War Memorial Park, says Ministry for Culture and Heritage Group Manager Delivery Tamsin Evans.

“Members of the public are welcome to attend the commemoration beginning at 11am with a karanga led by Taranaki Whānui, followed by the flag parade led by the Red Ensign of the New Zealand Merchant Navy,” Ms Evans says.

“This is a significant commemoration to honour the several thousand New Zealand seafarers who served both in the First and Second World Wars, mostly sailing under the British red ensign.

“Some 70 are known to have lost their lives during the First World War and at least 140 during the Second World War, with a similar number taken prisoner.

“These civilian volunteers sailed the ships delivering troops, military equipment and vital cargoes of food, fuel and raw materials. Many ships were torpedoed or bombed and survivors sometimes spent days or weeks in lifeboats before being rescued.

“No other group of New Zealand civilians faced such risks during wartime,” Ms Evans says.
With this work essential to the Allies' war effort the Merchant Navy was effectively regarded as the ‘fourth service’ alongside the army, navy and air force. And as civilians employed by private shipping companies most did not wear uniforms. Some were as young as 14 years old and others were in their 60s and 70s.

Merchant Navy was a symbolic title adopted in Britain in the 1920s recognising the contribution of merchant mariners during the First World War. The date, 3 September, marks the sinking of the first British merchant ship in 1939, just hours after the Second World War began.

This year’s commemoration includes attendance by the Minister of Defence and Veterans Ron Mark, High Commissioner of Samoa Leasi Papali'i Tommy Scanlan, and representatives from the New Zealand Navy, New Zealand Defence Force, Merchant Navy Association, NZ Shipping Federation, NZ Company of Master Mariners, NZ Merchant Service Guild and the Russian Convoy Club.

People wishing to attend the commemoration are advised to be there by 10.45am.

ENDS

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