Merchant Navy plaque to be added to Whiteabbey War Memorial

A plaque to pay tribute to all those who have served in the Merchant Navy is to be erected at Whiteabbey War Memorial in Newtownabbey.

Thursday, 1st April 2021, 4:18 pm

The memorial plaque is to be placed on the existing monument at Shore Road.

The tribute will also recognise the contribution of the Merchant Navy, known as the Fourth Service, during both World Wars.

Commenting on social media, Ulster Unionist Councillor Robert Foster said: “Delighted to propose the inclusion of a memorial plaque to the Merchant Navy at Whiteabbey Cenotaph.

Whiteabbey War Memorial. Pic courtesy Google Streetview

“The sacrifice of so many Merchant Navy personnel over both wars deserves to be recognised.”

During the First World War, the Merchant Navy supplied services to the Royal Navy, transporting troops and supplies, raw materials to overseas munitions factories and munitions from those factories, maintaining ordinary import and export trade, supplying food to the UK to supplement the resources of the Royal Navy.

Almost 50,000 Merchant Navy lives were lost during both World Wars along with 8,000 ships. During World War II, more than a quarter of lives were lost in UK waters.

The Merchant Navy was awarded the Freedom of the Borough honour by Newtownabbey Borough Council in April 2012.

Representatives took part in a civic legacy celebration in March 2015 which paid tribute to those individuals and organisations awarded the council’s highest honour – the Freedom of the Borough – over the years.

The UK relies on Merchant Navy seafarers for 95 per cent of imports, including half of all food.

Merchant Navy Day has been commemorated since September 3, 2000, the anniversary of the sinking of the SS Athenia, the first British merchant vessel lost during World War II.

The Red Ensign, the Merchant Navy’s official flag, is raised at the Port of Larne.

Port of Larne Harbour Master Stuart Wilson said at the event last September:  “Merchant Navy Day is a day to honour the brave men and women who kept our island nation afloat during both World Wars.

“This year, it is also an opportunity to mark the contribution that the Merchant Navy has made in keeping our economy and essential services functioning throughout the recent pandemic.

“Both in the past and present, the Merchant Navy, despite adverse conditions, has continued to provide the vital links upon which so much that we, as island nations, rely.”

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter

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Click here to read: Tributes paid to the fallen with poignant acts of remembrance in Newtownabbey

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