The Merchant Navy Memorial

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Merchant mariners are a forgotten service of war-time, yet key to survival, for, without them vital supplies could not have been transported.  Over 30,000 British merchant mariners lost their lives in World War II, and some 17,000 in the Great War.

The first Merchant Navy Day was held in 2000, on 3rd September. This was the anniversary of the torpedoing of the SS Athenia, mistaken by U-30 for an armoured cruiser, some eight hours after war had been declared against Germany in 1939.

On Merchant Navy Day 2005 Donald Hunter, retired Merchant Navy man who had served during the Second World War, proposed a Merchant Navy memorial in Dover. Three years and nearly £50,000 of fund-raising later, the new memorial, situated on Dover seafront, was unveiled.

The Band of the Brigade of Ghurkas and the standard bearers began the ceremony

standard bearers

David Ridley

The ceremony was conducted by Reverend David Ridley. "I warmly welcome you all to this deeply significant day and ceremony...... We have come together to give thanks and praise to Almighty God, the origin of all that is good, and whose love, revealed in Jesus Christ, sustains the world.

David Ridley, standard bearers, and veiled emmorial"On this Merchant Navy Day, we remember before God all those, in the Merchant Navy, who have given their lives in time of war in the cause of freedom and justice. We pray for hose who continue to grieve, and for the healing of memories.

"As a sign of our remembrance and thanksgiving we shall today unveil this Memorial Statute as a lasting tribute to those who have given their lives in the service of the merchant Navy and their country ..."

The Lord's prayer followed the welcome and bidding. "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. The kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven  ...".

congregation singingFollowing the first hymn:

"I vow to thee my country, all earthly things above,
entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love:..."

....the reading was taken from psalm 107.23-32:

"Those who go down to the sea in ships
who ply their trade in great waters,
These have seen the works of the Lord
and his wonders in the deep."

David PottertonReverend David Potterton, Principal Chaplain of the British and International Seafarers' Society, read the lesson from John 15.12-17.

"Jesus said to his disciples, "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down congregation listeningone's life for one's friends ...."

Reverend David Ridley gave the address, "The words in the lesson are powerful. No one has greater love than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. This is a reference to the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross ... and also now to the sacrifice of those who give their lives for others ... There are different views on armed conflict, but there is no limit to the courage and bravery of those who put their lives at risk...."

The Memorial not only commemorated those who lost their lives, and those who survived, but it represented hope and optimism for the future.  "May we remember all who have gone before us to make this world better ...may we  work for the good and well-being of others and for the Glory of God."  

congregation singing


"Oh God our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home."

"Beneath the shadow of thy throne
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is thine arm alone,
And our defence is sure."

Let us pray:

congregation praying"Let us give thanks for all who have given their lives for their nation, especially the Merchant Navy whom we remember today. We pray that the David Ridley leading prayersoffering of their lives may not have been in vain ... let us dedicate ourselves to the cause of justice and of peace ...

"Let us pray for all who continue to mourn their dead ...have compassion on those for whom we pray ...

"Let us pray for peace and for those who work for peace. Turn the heads and hearts of all to Yourself, and to peace founded on righteousness, established through the whole world. Amen."

No service for mariners would be complete without the traditional hymn:

"Eternal Father, strong to save,
whose arm hath bound the restless wave
who bid'st the mighty ocean deep
its own appointed limits keep.
Oh hear us when we cry to thee
For those in peril on the sea.

sea and western arm of harbour O Trinity of love and power
Our brethren's shield in danger's hour
from rock and tempest, fire and foe,
protect them whereso'er they go
and ever let there rise to thee
glad hymns of praise from land and sea."

congregation and standard bearers

covered memorial

Vivian MallockThe memorial was sculpted by Vivien Mallock (left). Invited to unveil the memorial was Winston Spencer Churchill, grandson of Sir Winston Churchill. . 

"I feel deeply honoured to be invited to unveil this splendid memorial in the famous fortress-city and harbour of Dover – one of the Cinque Ports of which my Grandfather was so proud to be Lord Warden .... it is a worthy addition to the trophies of this town, which has traditionally stood in the path of any would be invader of Winston Spencer Churchillthese isles ...

"It falls to me to pay tribute to the gallantry and sacrifice of the men of our Merchant Navy, who played an indispensable part in our nation’s very survival in World War II, and in our ultimate Victory ...

"They provided our lifeline of food and war-material and, as the hour of Victory approached, they played a key role in Operation Neptune, in support of the D-Day invasion of Normandy and of the Allied armies engaged in the liberation of Europe. This memorial honours their sacrifice .... one in three of our merchant seamen did not survive the war."

unveiling he memorialMr Churchill continued with the words of his grandfather, spoken on 27th April 1941, "We are a seafaring race and we understand the call of the sea. We account you in these hard days worthy successors in a tradition of steadfast courage and high adventure, and we feel confident that that proud tradition of our island will be upheld today wherever the ensign of a British merchantman is flown."

Speaking of the "dedication and courage" of the Merchant Navy "in braving the elements" Mr Churchill concluded, "Let us ever honour the memory of these heroic seafarers. It now gives me the greatest pleasure to unveil this memorial."

umbrellas in the congregationPerhaps, at that moment, those elements paid their own tribute to the merchant mariners. For as the rain came on, it was a gust of wind that unveiled the memorial, to reveal a proud merchantman on his watch, gazing with tireless eyes upon a cold grey sea.

Reverend David Ridley dedicated the memorial,

"To the Glory of God we offer this statue in memory of those in the Merchant Navy who died in the service of our country.Donald Hunter Help us know their courage ...Let us remember fore God and commened to his sure keeping those who have died for their country in war ....and all who lived and died in the service of humankind."

Donald Hunter read the exhortation:

"They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the yearBryan Walkers condemn. At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them"

The Last Post heralded the two-minutes silence. Before the laying of the wreaths, Vivien Foster, President of the Merchant Norwegian wreathNavy Association, read the Kohima Epitaph.

"When you go home tell them of us, and say
For your tomorrow we gave our today."

wreath-laying wreath-laying wreath-laying

"God save our gracious Queen.
Long live our noble Queen.
God save the Queen.
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us:
God save the Queen."

memorial with wreaths round it

"Thy choicest gifts in store
on her be pleased to pour,
long may she reign.
May she defend our laws,
And ever give us cause
To sing with heart and voice,
God save the Queen."

Reverend David Ridley pronounced the blessing. "Go forth into the world in peace: be of good courage; hold fast that which is good: render to no one evil for evil; strengthen the faint-hearted; support the weak; help the afflicted; honour everyone.

"Love and serve the Lord, rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen."


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