Northampton will fly the flag for Merchant Navy

The Red Ensign

The Red Ensign

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The Red Ensign, the Merchant Navy’s official flag, will be raised outside the Guildhall in Northampton to celebrate Merchant Navy Day next Thursday, September 3.

The flag-raising ceremony at 10am, one of many which will be held across the country at the same time, will be performed by the Mayor of Northampton, Cllr Penelope Flavell.

Northampton Borough Council is supporting the event after it was approached by Seafarers UK, a charity that helps people in the maritime community.

It has written to more than 4,000 local authorities and invited them to take part in Merchant Navy Day by flying the Red Ensign on public buildings and landmark flagstaffs.

During the ceremony, a short message from the Earl of Wessex, the charity’s president, will be read out.

Held since 2000, Merchant Navy Day honours the men and women who kept Britain supplied during the First and Second World Wars.

It also celebrates the nation’s dependence on modern-day merchant seafarers who are responsible for transporting 95 per cent of the UK’s imports, including half the food we eat.

Spokesman Eric Brown, who is a Freeman of Northampton, said: “If you see the Red Ensign flying outside the Guildhall, you will know it is to respect the merchant seafarers who gave their lives for us.

“The three armed forces receive many tributes of their heroic deeds during the two world wars but little is written about the Merchant Navy’s part in the conflicts.

“Troops needed to be transported, they required armaments and fuel, they were evacuated from the beaches in Dunkirk and later taken back to Normandy.

“To keep the nation fed many ships were needed to bring urgent supplies from North America. The North Atlantic convoys suffered high losses of ships and seafarers.

“They also carried supplies for the Russians on the Arctic convoys under severe weather conditions and enemy attack. In all, over 3,000 ships and over 30,000 seafarers were lost.

“In peacetime the Merchant Navy carries in excess of 90 per cent of our imports and exports, and it can still be perilous - bad weather conditions and even pirates are hazards that have to be overcome.”

For more information, visit www.seafarers-uk.org.