Lest we forget? The Merchant Navy in the First World War

By

Dr Chris Ware

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What do we remember in this year which marks the centennial of the outbreak of the First World War, a lost generation struggling in the mud of the Western Front?

Perhaps the battle of Jutland 1916, more deadly to reputations of the commanders than the enemy; however, how many think of the comings and goings of trade, and the merchant service in general; it will be remember albeit by a few specialist historians, yet without it, the Western Front would have crumbled, not just because of the lack of men from around the Colonies and Dominions, but because arms, ammunition and food, circulated the globe by sea.

Only in 1915, and then again 1917, when Germany used the U-boats to attack merchant shipping would it come out from hiding in plain sight.  No one diminishes the toll that war on land, took, wherever in the world it might be, yet without the silent and omnipresent merchant marine many if not most of those who served in far off lands, or the Western Front, would not even have got there let alone been equipped to fight or feed and watered, they were reliant on the true expression of British sea power, the Merchant Navy.

 

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