Council to honour heroes of the sea

04 September 2017


Nottinghamshire County Council will be raising the Red Ensign flag to mark Merchant Navy Day today (4 September 2017).

September 3, 1939 marked the outbreak of the Second World War and also marked the first major British maritime casualty, the merchant vessel SS Athenia, which was torpedoed and 128 passengers and crew were lost.

Following this tragedy, September 3 has become ‘Merchant Navy Day’ to brave men and women who served in the navy during both world wars, as well as those who have in the past, and those who continue to face perils such as violent storms and mountainous seas.

Organisers say the event has extra significance, particularly in this year which is the 100th year since the start of the Convoy System which helped to save this country from defeat in both World War One and Two, and also 75 years since the Pedestal Convoy which saved Malta and Montgomery, in the North African conflict.

Our reliance on the Merchant Navy has increased in recent years with around 95 per cent of all trade carried by ship, and with a ship movement in our ports every four minutes.

On Monday, 4 September civic leaders from the County Council and Rushcliffe Borough Council will join the Merchant Navy Association to mark Merchant Navy Day  raise the Red Ensign flag at County Hall, in Loughborough Road, at lunchtime.

Councillor John Handley, Chairman of Nottinghamshire County Council Chairman  will give a speech, along with the Deputy Lieutenant Commander Peter Moore who will read a message of support from the Earl of Wessex. Commander Moore is also Chairman of the Nottinghamshire Committee of Seafarers UK.

Attendees are also set to include Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Sea Cadets, Nottingham Royal Navy Association and members of the Merchant Navy Association.

Councillor John Handley, Nottinghamshire County Council Chairman said: “This is the third year that councils in England have been asked to fly the recognised flag of the Merchant Navy, the Red Ensign, or the Red Duster as it is also known.

“The event will give us time in our busy lives to reflect and to acknowledge our debt to the Merchant Navy. The flying of the Red Ensign sends out a clear message that will be appreciated by past and present merchant sea farers and gives us all an opportunity to say ‘thankyou’.”

Bill McConville, aged 81 from Kirkby-in-Ashfield, is being given the honour of raising the Red Ensign once again this year having also carried out the duty last year.

The son of a Royal Navy Sub-Mariner, Bill joined the Merchant Navy in the 1950s as a 17 year-old and served as a cook on passenger, troop and cargo ships around the world for 13 years.

He was aboard one of the first ships to arrive in Nagasaki, Japan in the 1950s to deliver supplies to help in the rebuilding of the area after it was reduced to rubble by an Atomic bomb, dropped by the US Airforce in 1945. Troop missions included moving approximately 1,500 Australian troops to Malaysia and returning members of the Foreign Legion from Saigon back home to France.

Mr McConville remembers his time in the Merchant Navy with great affection and is an active member of the Mansfield and Ashfield Branch of the Merchant Navy Association.

For further information about Merchant Navy Day, visit


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