Today I joined veterans, Councillors and other dignitaries at the blessing and raising of the Red Ensign at Newport Civic Centre. As always, it was a huge pleasure to join together to remember those who served in the Merchant Navy.
The sacrifices were significant. At the outbreak of the first world war, 43% of the world’s merchant ships—some 20 million tonnes gross—was owned and operated by Britain. Those ships brought food and raw materials, and exported industries’ output to the world, including gold and steel from south Wales. Germany regarded the cutting-off of Britain’s trade routes as a vital means to victory, with the submarine becoming its principal weapon. The policy of unrestricted warfare meant that merchant navy ships were at constant risk of attack. The threat was not fully countered until the introduction of the convoy system in May 1917. None the less, German U-boats sank 6,924 allied ships—almost 13 million tonnes gross, with the loss of more than 14,600 merchant seafarers by the end of the war in 1918.
Today, as on November 11th, I pay tribute to all those who have served and made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.