South Shields Mission to Seafarers is one of many organisations, with a connection to the Merchant Navy that proudly celebrates the UK’s annual MERCHANT NAVY DAY.
Every 3rd September since 2000, people have gathered to show their gratitude to the men and women who have given their lives at sea during two world wars, many other conflicts and many other fateful events and disasters.
The occasion also honours personnel currently serving on ships at sea, ensuring that our island nation survives and thrives because of their courage.
A well-supported and enthusiastic service took place on 3rd September 2022 in the mission church and included the hymn Eternal Father, Strong to Save and the Seafarers Psalm, The Lord is my pilot, I shall not drift.
After the service, the photo shows the wreath laying ceremony that took place at the South Shields Merchant Navy Memorial at Mill Dam, just across the road from the Mission to Seafarers Building.
The building with the white door on the RHS is the old Customs House and Board of Trade Offices. Sixty years ago the offices were in use and the doors were painted brown and rather drab. On 2nd June 1961, 18 year-old Marine Engineer Cadet John Lightfoot went through them to receive his BRITISH SEAMANS CARD and SEAMANS DISCHARGE BOOK so that he could join his first ship. It was to be the 18,000 dwt Shell Tanker, SS Hinnites and sailed from the Tyne in the September. When john returned home 10 months later his ship had circumnavigated the world and visited 28 different countries, including the Suez and Panama canals.
Around 95% of all UK import and export tonnage is transported by sea. It is a staggering statistic that very few people not associated with the Merchant Navy are aware of. Cynics will say it is probably because they are not interested or don’t care. Maybe that’s true. Do they need to know? As the older generation dies and memories of the world wars fade, it is becoming ever more difficult to enthuse the new generations to continue to respect and honour those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Some of the maritime organisations are referring to it as Sea Blindness.
On the More Than Shipping.com website, when commenting on Sea Blindness, Tugce Cambel said, ‘If you ask the general public what they know about shipping, and how much trade is carried by sea, you will probably get a blank face. Perhaps they think of shipping as an old-fashioned industry, however, fundamentally we still depend on shipping. Take a look around you. Every single object was most likely shipped. Shipping brings us 90 percent of world trade. For such an enormous industry – there are 100,000 working vessels on the sea – it’s become pretty much invisible.’
John Lightfoot, Solar Solve Chairman