I have to acknowledge that the government did a good thing in formally recognising (today) September 3 as Merchant Navy Day. I’m presuming there were discussions during Labour’s tenure in office, but it was the NACTs who got the remembrance day over the line.
I’ve been to a few Merchant Navy commemorations, and seen the huge memorial in Sydney Harbour. Merchant Seamen played a critical role during wartime, transporting troops, food, military equipment and vital cargo around the world, under the constant threat of enemy raids. But their remembrance days have been quiet affairs, compared to Anzac Day.
These seamen put their lives on the line and faced enormous risk. Their work was so essential to the war effort that the Merchant Navy became known as the fourth service, alongside the army, navy and airforce.
At least 130 New Zealand merchant seaman lost their lives during the Second World War and around 140 were taken prisoner. Internationally, around 80,000 merchant seamen lost their lives in the Battle of the Atlantic, which lasted 2074 from 3 September 1939 to 7 May 1945, when Germany finally capitulated.
These are untold stories that must be told to our children and grandchildren. Even if it means I have to say something nice about the NACTs, these sailors need to be remembered.