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