Here's a blog from Julie Corbett, a volunteer who attended the Merchant Navy Day on 3 September 2023.
Within the refurbished maritime Museum will be new displays devoted to Hull’s connections to the Merchant Navy, You can read more about an oral history project with local sea cadets here.
Until I saw the Merchant Navy commemoration day this year, I had assumed that the Merchant Navy was as old as the Royal Navy. I knew the uniforms were different and the training after the conversation with Captain John Tindall which you can read here.
The morning of Sunday 3 September was warm, bright, and pleasant. I had already watched the tidal surge barrier being raised and was looking forward to a day attending Hull’s Freedom Festival.
It was no surprise to hear the drone of a bagpipe begin. Street performance is a fantastic feature of the festival. I thought I was just walking towards a rehearsal near Humber Street.
As I walked towards Humber Dock I noticed Michael Wood, a town crier, in all his green regalia followed by the Lord Mayor and a small crowd of people.
I recognised that the uniforms were naval and that one of the flags was a red ensign. The flag bearers were piped to a position on Minerva Pier. When the pipes stopped a speech began and then it became clear that this was a service to commemorate the Merchant Navy. Two things stood out from the speech to me, firstly that the British Merchant Navy was recognised in its present only after World War 1 and that more than 90% of the U.K.’s imports and exports reach us via the sea.
The title of ‘Merchant Navy’, was bestowed on Britain’s fleet of commercial and trading vessels by King George V. This was in recognition of all the sacrifice and work during World War 1 of all those seafarers keeping essential support for the country and forces moving on the oceans.
One of the maritime volunteer, Ian Martin, has written about his merchant navy training here. It sounds quite an experience for the young man. I doubt I would have fared so well with the regime.
The two memorials at the end of Minerva Pier are dedicated to personal of both Royal Navy and Merchant Navy respectively.
I was pleased to have witnessed the ceremony and learnt a little bit more about the Merchant Navy and look forward to visiting the displays within the Maritime Museum when it reopens in 2025.