The Merchant Navy

This forum is for posting meaningful and serious ideas and questions. Can be about interests, observations or serious matters of the world. If it doesn't fit that category, don't post here! Serious posts only.

The Merchant Navy

Postby ApacheFlame on Wed Jan 08, 2014 4:12 am

I wasn't sure where to put this topic. Although it revolves around a TV documentary I thought Thinkers' would be the best place for it.

This was partly inspired by a recent documentary I watched (youtube link at the end) and partly because I couldn't sleep and the documentary made me think a fair bit about the role of the Merchant Navy. I've always had the utmost respect for our military forces and for many years wanted to join the RAF, mostly because I wanted to 'do my bit' for Queen and country. That will hasn't changed, but sadly my medical status has, but that is not the point of this post.

The merchant navy are basically the 'eddie stobarts' of the sea. Yes, that diminishes their role massively, but they were responsible for the convoys that shipped goods and wargear across the world during the second world war, keeping the country fed and the armies supplied. My paternal grandfather was a merchant seaman. A stoker I think, although he rarely spoke about his time in the service, aside from his momento 'uniform', which was a pin badge saying MN, the only thing that showed contribution to the war. The one story he told was when he was sailing along the eastern seaboard of the USA. They refused to have blackouts like we had in the UK which meant the convoy was lit up like a Christmas tree. UBoats were taking out ships along the convoy at such an alarming rate that my grandad calculated at this rate they would not make it back to the UK in one piece. I am not sure what happened, a reprieve from the German military, Royal Navy intervention or blind luck, but he survived the war and sadly passed away in July 2006 after leading a full and active life.

So what's my point? Well my point is that we so rarely give thanks to all those that gave their lives who were not part of the 3 main services. Merchant vessels were not crewed by military trained men. Nor did they have the capability of defending themselves. They were quite literally sitting ducks, if not for the Royal navy who escorted the convoys, but even this was not perfect.

Spoilers from this point on, if you wanted to watch the documentary. The program focuses on one convoy, PQ17. It was a colossal military fuck up. I do not use this term lightly and the swearing is entirely justified when you consider that the admiralty ordered the Royal Navy vessels to leave the convoy. They left the entire convoy virtually defenseless. This amounted to the death sentence for over 150 men.

Unfortunately, the possibly mis-attributed quote from Joseph Stalin is all too true: The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic. The only way I can really ground this in my own head is by thinking how damn lucky I am to be here. Ignoring the fact my grandad was lucky to get through the war as it was, if he had been assigned to the arctic convoys I almost certainly would not be here. Nihilism aside, my grandad was a hero and so was anyone that decided to sail under the conditions that he did. I now regret not knowing this while he was alive so I could have shown my appreciation more.

Next time you spare a thought for those that were lost in the war, think about the others that lost their lives, but because they were not wearing the Kings uniform they are often overlooked. Of course the merchant navy were not the only unsung heroes of the war, the Bevin boys also spring to mind who kept the coal coming from the collieries.

The documentary is given by Jeremy Clarkson, but well worth an hour of your time. Originally aired on the BBC, but uploaded to youtube.



The Programmers Mantra: Declare Variables, not War.

Image
Image
User avatar
ApacheFlame
Exec. Admin (Retired)
Moderator
UKCS iSeries Attendee
 
Player: Apache
STEAM_0:1:27288431
 
Posts: 5300
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2009 1:12 am
Location: over at the Frankenstein place



Image

Re: The Merchant Navy

Postby cowboyfromhell on Wed Jan 08, 2014 9:30 am

I watched it on Iplayer a couple of days ago - initially sceptical what with the presenter for some serious subject matter, but it was a seriously well done programme.

Well worth a watch.
Senior Forum Moderator, CS:GO Admin, ex-TF2 & CSS Admin
Add me to Steam Friends if you need a hand. :)
Use the UKCS Uploader for your pictures, it's free for members!

ALL GLORY TO THE HYPNOTOAD!
Xerxes wrote:Worst. Senior. Mod. Eva.
User avatar
cowboyfromhell
Senior Moderator
UKCS Admin
 
Player: Cowboy
STEAM_0:1:10068175
 
Posts: 6505
Joined: Sat Mar 10, 2007 10:13 pm
Location: Suffolk



Image

Re: The Merchant Navy

Postby SkeletalBOB on Wed Jan 08, 2014 9:36 am

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b03n3297/hd/PQ_17_An_Arctic_Convoy_Disaster/ Cheers for the heads up! Being a stickler for HD this is the link I just watched on iplayer, great programme.

as a weird related bonus here is a picture of my Great Great Grandfather who was an Admiral in the Merchant Navy with none other than Rudyard Kipling.

Image
ImageImage
User avatar
SkeletalBOB
Senior Admin
 
Player: SkeletalBOB on craptop
STEAM_0:0:41790546
 
Posts: 454
Joined: Mon Jan 16, 2012 3:20 pm



Image

Re: The Merchant Navy

Postby ApacheFlame on Wed Jan 08, 2014 11:44 am

Thanks for the link Bob. Knowing that spells on iplayer are short luved I assumed it had timed out already :)
The Programmers Mantra: Declare Variables, not War.

Image
Image
User avatar
ApacheFlame
Exec. Admin (Retired)
Moderator
UKCS iSeries Attendee
 
Player: Apache
STEAM_0:1:27288431
 
Posts: 5300
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2009 1:12 am
Location: over at the Frankenstein place



Image

Re: The Merchant Navy

Postby SkeletalBOB on Wed Jan 08, 2014 8:09 pm

Been on the research trip all night now, my apologies the above picture is of my Great Great Grandfather who was infact a Captain, my Great Great Uncle was also a Captain in the Merchant Navy, luckily his ship the Kaipaki was never involved in the Arctic convoys but I have just found out he was involved in Dunkirk!
ImageImage
User avatar
SkeletalBOB
Senior Admin
 
Player: SkeletalBOB on craptop
STEAM_0:0:41790546
 
Posts: 454
Joined: Mon Jan 16, 2012 3:20 pm



Image

Re: The Merchant Navy

Postby Silkie on Wed Jan 08, 2014 8:36 pm

I used to work alongside a guy who had served for quite a few years in the merchant navy (by an odd coincidence we shared the same surname) as the two sole residents of an IT site support companies workshops. One of the nicest and calmest people I've ever met was Dave who couldn't be startled by anything even the occasional bang from CRT monitors.

People sometimes forget the logistical side of warfare and how important it is so a documentary like this is a nice touch and where WW2 is concerned Clarkson is actually prone to being pretty respectful. Not surprising when you find out about his father-in-law though.
"I prefer the company of animals more than the company of humans.
Certainly, a wild animal is cruel.
But to be merciless is the privilege of civilised humans."
User avatar
Silkie
Experienced Member
 
Player: Silkie
STEAM_0:0:523712
 
Posts: 1963
Joined: Mon Oct 31, 2011 10:19 pm
Location: Somewhere Strange



Image


Return to Thinkers Topics

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: CommonCrawl [Bot] and 0 guests