Remembering Merchant Navy day 3 September from a zoo keeper’s perspective

mercahnt navy the common task punch3 September is Merchant Navy Day.

The Punch cartoon “The Common Task” chosen above  from my collection symbolises the past and future challenge of food security. Here the Dig for Victory Gardener is as important as the Merchant Navy, whose lives in convoys were at risk to bring food and other precious resources to our island and worldwide  during both World Wars.

This “Common Task” was a common theme in many gardening publications during both world wars.

"Let your shopping help our shipping" was one propaganda message about saving food - grow your own is another, promoted by a typical piece of advertising from a wartime gardening magazine (from the World War Zoo gardening collection / archive at Newquay Zoo).

“Let your shopping help our shipping” was one propaganda message about saving food – grow your own is another, promoted by a typical piece of advertising from a wartime gardening magazine (from the World War Zoo gardening collection / archive at Newquay Zoo).

Since 2000, Merchant Navy Day on 3 September has honoured the brave men and women of the UK amongst many nations who kept our island nation afloat during both World Wars. It also celebrates our dependence on modern day merchant seafarers who are responsible for 95% of the UK’s imports, including half the food we eat.

london zoo infographic ww1

“A year’s food for London Zoo” infographic from an unknown magazine by W.B. Robinson 1920s/ 30s (Image Source: Mark Norris, private collection)

In wartime this involved not only human food but many of the foods that zoo animals would need, if they could not be home-grown. This is a past and future challenge we have been researching through our World War Zoo Gardens project at Newquay Zoo.

This year Seafarers UK is campaigning for the Red Ensign, the UK Merchant Navy’s official flag, to be flown on 3 September on public buildings and landmark flagstaffs. More than 400 Local Authorities have been asked to get involved.

I saw the Red Ensign flying outside the Truro Harbour Commissioner’s office on my travels this morning.

Like many coastal communities, many Cornish ports and harbours lost many sailors and fishermen in both world wars, with the knock-on effect on families, communities and incomes for generations.

The names of many of those lost at sea are remembered on the huge Tower Hill memorial in London which I visited last year whilst doing a talk at Kew Gardens.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

WW2 section Tower HIll memorial representing the 24,000 missing Merchant Navy sailors and fishermen (Image: mark Norris)

Statues on the  WW2 section Tower HIll memorial represent the 24,000 missing Merchant Navy sailors and fishermen “who have no grave but the sea” named on its panels. There is more about the memorial on the CWGC website.

You can see pictures of this memorial, its statues and the impact on just one Cornish creekside village that I have also been researching through the names on its war memorial:

https://devoranwarmemorial.wordpress.com/2014/11/03/lost-devoran-sailors-on-the-merchant-navy-memorial-tower-hill/

Remembering the many brave men and women and their families of the Merchant Navy today, 3 September, past and present.

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3 Responses to “Remembering Merchant Navy day 3 September from a zoo keeper’s perspective”

  1. GP Cox Says:

    These men gave their all for the Allies and should be remembered. My small piece on this day is so dwarfed by this tribute. Excellent job!

    Like

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