West Lindsey District Council observed Merchant Navy Day by flying the Red Ensign yesterday (Tuesday).
While many people know September 3, 1939 marked the outbreak of the Second World War, few are aware it also marks the first major British maritime casualty. The merchant vessel SS Athenia was torpedoed just a few hours after hostilities were declared, with the loss of 128 passengers and crew.
September 3 is now enshrined as ‘Merchant Navy Day’ to honour the brave men and women who kept our island nation afloat during both World Wars, and even during peacetime faced – and continue to face – the more routine perils of violent storms and mountainous seas.
Guests and members of the public gathered at the Guildhall for the ceremony, which was introduced by Chairman of the Council, Coun Steve England.
The Chairman read out a message from HRH The Earl of Wessex, the President of the charity Seafarers UK, before two poems were read out.
The Rev Paul Ievens led gatherers in prayer, before the flag was raised by the Council Chairman.
Coun England said: “By flying the Red Ensign, we are respecting the bravery and sacrifice of the personnel of our Merchant Navy.
“As an ‘Island Nation’ we depend on our seafarers to defend our shores, trade with other countries and import essential fuel and food.
“The job of the seafarer is therefore vital, but also demanding and hazardous.
“It has been an honour to fly the flag of the Merchant Navy to mark this important day.”