Chairman’s Red Ensign honours courageous merchant seafarers

The Red Ensign was hoisted at Old County Hall in Aylesburythis morning (Saturday September 3) to honour the country’s mercantile mariners.

With the trumpet voluntary A Life on the Ocean Wave resounding across Market Square, and a guard of honour from Aylesbury Sea Cadets, Buckinghamshire County Council Chairman Val Letheren ceremonially raised the flag to mark national Merchant Navy Day.

‘Flying the Red Ensign is our tribute to the men and women of our Merchant Navy whose seafaring skills bring us 90% of our imports – and that includes half the food we eat,’ said Val.

September 3 was chosen as Merchant Navy Day because on this day in 1939 – the first day of World War II – the SS Athenia was the first merchant ship to be torpedoed with the loss of 128 passengers and crew.

Val said the country’s prosperity had depended on the Merchant Navy since international trade began. ‘During the two world wars we realised that as an island nation, without the courageous service of these seafarers, we would soon have been starved of food and other essentials. We owe them a great debt of gratitude.’

Following a minute’s silence, the Lord Lieutenant’s Preferred Bugler, Max Farmer, sounded the voluntary, and Sir Henry Aubrey-Fletcher read a message from Prince Edward, President of Seafarers UK.

A small group of shoppers joined civic dignitaries from across the county, including Buckinghamshire’s High Sheriff Milly Soames, to witness the brief ceremony marking the sacrifice and saluting the courage of mercantile seafarers past and present.