On Tuesday 3rd September 2019 The Red Ensign was hoisted at Old County Hall in Aylesbury to celebrate national Merchant Navy Day.
The flag was raised by Brian Roberts, the Chairman of Buckinghamshire County Council, accompanied by veteran seaman Norman Brookes, who joined the Merchant Navy in January 1944 at the age of 16.
Norman, now aged 91, served on the Highland Brigade (RMS), a convoy ship that travelled with frigates and destroyers while transporting troops and cargo to many different parts of the world during World War II. On VJ Day Norman’s ship was in New York.
Brian said: ‘It was an honour to have Norman with us to help raise the Red Ensign. Flying this flag is our tribute to his sea-going successors – the men and women of our Merchant Navy whose seafaring skills bring us 90% of our imports and that includes half the food we eat.‘
Merchant Navy Day was chosen to fall on September 3rd because on this day in 1939, 80 years ago, the SS Athenia was the first merchant ship to be torpedoed in WWII with the loss of 128 passengers and crew.
Brian said the country’s prosperity had depended on the Merchant Navy since international trade began : ‘During the two world wars we realised that as an island nation, without the courageous service of these seafarers, we would soon have been starved of food and other essentials. We owe them a great debt of gratitude.‘
A prayer for the Merchant Navy was said by the Rector of Aylesbury, the Rev Doug Zimmerman, after which the Chairman read a message from Prince Edward, President of Seafarers UK.
Shoppers and passers by also joined the civic party including Julia Upton, High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire, to witness the brief ceremony marking the sacrifice and saluting the courage of mercantile seafarers past and present.
*Source of article : Press release from Buckinghamshire County Council.