The sacrifice made by about 50,000 British and Allied merchant seamen during World War II, (a higher ratio, per capita, than that of any of the armed forces) was virtually unacknowledged for nearly 50 years, despite King George V recognising British merchant seamen as the “Fourth Service” after the navy, army and airforce.
Through the efforts of many people and organisations in the year 2000, the 3 September was gazetted as “International Merchant Navy Day” by Australia and many other countries around the world, amongst the first being Russia.
The Allied Merchant Seamen’s Association of WA was one of the organisations which lobbied for recognition of the WWII seamen’s sacrifice and the rights of survivors.
It is a little-known fact that the major target for German U-boats during WWII was the unarmed merchant ships, with their armed escorts of Royal Naval ships generally being virtually ignored and, immediately a merchant vessel was sunk, the merchant seamen’s pay stopped until they joined their next ship (about three months later); in addition, at the end of WWII they were not entitled to the pensions awarded to the “armed services”.
Between 1984-1995 Allied Merchant Seamen’s Association members raised funds to build the Merchant Seamen’s Memorial which sits next to the War Memorial on Monument Hill, Fremantle.
Members continue to maintain the memorial and hold a memorial service every year at 11am on 3 September to which members, families, friends and interested people are welcome to attend.
For more information about the association contact the secretary on 0410 628 820.