View Full Version : To Kick Start this!

Doc Vernon
7th July 2008, 12:09 AM
4 ALL,
Well this is a new section,and i would like to start it off with this question,which i am not too sure of myself!
When or how was the Merchant Navy started!! Needs a bit of research i think!

happy daze john in oz
7th July 2008, 05:46 AM
Well Vernon as far as I know the origins of the M.N. go back centuries. Even before the time of Queen Liz first there were ships trading as merchants. These were distinct from men of war. There were also some that carried on as ships of 'chance'. They were neither one nor other but would raid trading ships as well as men of war if they thought there was a prize to be won. It was from those beginings that the M.N. as we knew it developed. Through the 16th and 17th century shipping improved and the early style of passenegr ships could include the "Mayflower' that took the pilgrim fathers to U.S. Some other origins lie with such people as Columbus, Vasco da Gamma, Van Diemen and the like. They ventures forth and returned with new goods. Potatoes, tobbaco, pasta spring to mind. As the new world developed so did the need for shipping with which to trade and take people. Through a natural progression the industry began to take shape as we knew it in the early 19th century with such events as slave trading ships as well as general cargo. Shiping companies go back as afr as the 1600's The East India trading company was one. The M.N. of our days began to take shape with the advent of steel sided ships and srteam replacing sail. But up until the end of sail there were still ships such as the Cutty Sark trading as merchantmen. The Boer war is I believe the first where the M.N. used ships as troop carriers. So where did it all begin, it began when man first began to use the sea as a means of trade transport.:)

Glenn Baker
7th July 2008, 07:47 AM
Hello John that was a very interesting posting you gave, I also think in the more modern era that around the time the Mutiny on the Bounty took place in 1789, there were more and more Mutinies taking place and even a strike took place within ten years of the bounty mutiny which of course was the Royal Navy I guess, when the Mutineers secret Island was rediscovered Pitcairn Island in 1817 by an American Whaling ship the changes were happening then and Freight was getting carried to Australia, and as far as i knowNew Zealand was coming into the big picture, and people were starting to think in Engineering terms of Iron Ships. I have no idea when we actually got a Red Ensign, but i would take a guess that many of those early sailors in the British navy joined Privateers as they were termed and the Merchant navy certainly got big about 1870 when Sailing ship companies were formed and even crew agreements were Drawn up, youve hit on a very very interesting subject and probably of much interest to Schools on the net too.The East India Company and many more formed our very big Merchant navy. I only used the Mutiny on the bounty period as a basis for a lot of the changes and the formulation of Freight carrying ships, its all very interesting. best wishes Glenn in Oz.

alf corbyn
7th July 2008, 10:10 AM
hi john and glenn. oops and vernon. very good general rundown of MN history lads. i think after the east india company started to arm its ships things got better for trade. then after the merchants opened up the china trade we had the clippers. fast sailing ships as opposed to the clumsy east indiamen with thier cumbersome decks and heavy cannon. and don't forget the english introduced opium to china and stole the tea seeds thus breaking the tea monopoly.cheers. alf:D

Doc Vernon
7th July 2008, 10:35 AM
Well well Lads,i take my Hat off to you never expected such an informative reply so fast and it sure is a truly good writeup of the question!
See i knew you all had it in you,just give something worth while and Bingo!
But really i thank you for this info,it sure has enlightened me and i am sure it will others too.
Keep the questions coming people,see what tremendous info one can obtain here,proving that this site is as good as ever. Thanks to Brian!!

I will have to think up another good one!!

happy daze john in oz
8th July 2008, 06:24 AM
The Red Duster was not always our flag but was at one time the flag I believe of Canada. Another interesting fact, not thought about in 1966, merchant seamen were not allowed to go on strike. Such action could be determined as mutiny. Going back further, it was Henry 8 who started the British Roayl Navy as a means of defending the country, from those beginings we got the R.N. of today. Going back even further there was sea trade around the Meddi between various countries going back to the time of the Roman empire. So in fact the M.N. in one form or another has been around in some form since man first began to trade by sea. I have seen estimates that at one time there were over 200 shiping companies registered in U.K. The U.K. was at one time the largest ship building nation, how times have changed.:)

Des Taff Jenkins
8th July 2008, 07:36 AM
Hi Crusader.
I have a book printed before the war by the Oxford University Press. called The Merchant Service Today, By Leslie Howe.
In the first page they had this to say.The birth of the great industry of which we are going to write is lost in the mists of remostest antiqity. Men and goods have been carried by water since the dawn of time.
To write the history of merchant shipping through the ages would be to write the history of civilisation itself. The merchant ship has always been in the van of progress. The might,wealth, and the extent of one empire after another have waxed and waned as it's merchant navy has grown in enterprise or been eclipsed by a more powerful rival.
One thing all have had in common: the race of hardy,adventerous, and brave men who have manned the ships and faced with stout hearts the perils of the sea.
Cheers Des :)

Geoff Anderson
8th July 2008, 10:20 AM
hi all . i can confirm that mutiny was still in articals in 1966 .we were on the HORNBY GRANGE in fremamtle.the crew attemped to walk off the ship.to be met by the cops who threatened us with mutiny if we stepped ashore.the old man had called then. we stayed on the gangway for hours.the oldman at the top waving the book at us and the cops at the bottom.we were eventually saved by the dockers and tugboat men. all the ring leaders got a double DR on our return to the uk. everybody else were black listed from the company holder bro,s and shaw savill our charterer, sorry if ive gone off track .best wishes for a great site geoff

8th July 2008, 12:23 PM
Dear All, What a splendid thread, I can only add to all the above that is has stuck me how sailing ships have Non Commissioned Masters and Mates to sort our the detail of sailing matters leaving the Commissioned Captain and his officers to deal with Port Wine and battle strategy.
Merchant ships just had Masters and Mates as today. If you look at the command structure of HMS Warrior you will see that the Under the Captain is the Commander with two stands of command of Master and Engineer – a new struggle between Oil and water is emerging in 1860.
Steve R770014 South Derbyshire

Doc Vernon
9th July 2008, 01:53 AM
To one and ALL
Many thanks to ALL who have posted such informative things concerning this Thread!
As said before its amazing!!

happy daze john in oz
9th July 2008, 07:01 AM
One other pouint of note on thuis fascinating subject. A ship could sail with out a captain/master as it was expceted that the cheif officer would also have a masters certificate. However the ship could not sail withour a registered ships cook even if it was a pssenger ship with head chef and who knows how many cooks.

Des Taff Jenkins
9th July 2008, 07:31 AM
Hi John.
Many a time I wish that hadn't been true, as the cook [that's what you call him] came staggering down the wharf and fell into his bunk ha ha.
Cheers Des :)

happy daze john in oz
10th July 2008, 07:10 AM
Recall the saying, there are three kinds of cook, cooks ,cockoos and wilful bloody murders.:)

John Aspin
10th July 2008, 08:53 PM
Can't add anything to that but it has made interesting reading.
best wishes,
John Aspin (R685343) Ormesby-Middlesbrough.

Doc Vernon
10th July 2008, 10:04 PM
;)And just how did we get onto Cooks now LADS! haah!! way off beam!

happy daze john in oz
11th July 2008, 05:04 AM
Vernon mate, some of them were more than just off beam.:eek:

alf corbyn
16th July 2008, 01:09 PM
hi all the ship couldn't sail without a carpenter either. cheers.alf:D:D

Dennis McGuckin
16th July 2008, 08:01 PM
In some movies and photo's of Nelsons day. The RN are flying the Red Duster. When did that change?
The old Canadian flag was indeed all red, but had a crest in one corner instead of the Union Jack.

Keith at Tregenna
19th August 2008, 09:45 PM

« Reply #14 on Jun 26, 2008, 9:27pm »

A “Red Ensign Day”.

Not all that would want to attend, can make Tower Hill, with age and illness and the travel etc, maybe expense also. I checked the National news on most TV channels on my return home from the Merchant Navy’s Remembrance Day Service in London last year, as most and scoured the press the next day." The Designated Day" and the Sunday service that the Merchant Navy Association, took on the Government and red tape to achieve could possibly be better remembered and ensure a better future attendance if it recieved more media coverage.

Could our National Press / Media, each not afford one reporter to cover our “Flag day”, a day of remembrance, a specific day to remember those that died to save us all. To honour and remember the brave men, that perished to keep our countries lifelines open. I know of many, that cannot make London, but would not miss a local service, Nothing wrong with that, although for many even the local remembrance is a struggle to attend and these brave people, will continue to attend for as long as possible.

But unless I missed reports, cannot read every paper or see every bulletin etc. Where was the press? The media? Where was the support from the editors and reporters? Etc? What saddened many was to see no reports on this “ DAY OF TRIBUTE"

Paul Flynn MP stated “There was one service that lost one in three of all who took part. In total there were 24,000 deaths inflicted on those serving in the Merchant Navy. Most were on the Atlantic convoys. They kept Britain fed and ensured our survival. It is impossible to overemphasise the supreme importance of their role. But it is still unrecognised by the mass of the public. Yet, today's tribute to them was largely ignored by press and public”.

The Merchant Navy Day Commemorative Services and Re-union is now held on the Sunday nearest to Merchant Navy Day, 3rd September every year. This Annual service in memory of Merchant Seafarers who died in World Wars I and II and in conflicts up to the present day. “They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning. We will remember them”

We look upon our press and news media to report such important events, to inform the public and educate those that do not know. Possibly to tell those that do not care, why they should. In the main there are a reasonable amount of reports on some aspects of the part played by merchant seamen in the defence of our nation. But! what a time to forget? The very day / time that we should all remember. Winston Churchill stated himself that the war would or could not be won, without the actions of these brave men.

I stood next to a young boy at Tower Hill, he watched the ceremony with the order of service open in front of him, tears in his eyes, he attempted to recite all responses to prayers and sing every song. All is not lost and with luck, future generations "Will Not Forget" with luck our National papers and TV news will join in next year and then thereafter in memory of the Men, Women and Children " Still Not Home From The Sea.

Please ask your local or National Paper or news media, not to forget this year, or any year.

“Lest we Forget”.

They flew the red ensign for us…

Statistics are often cold and unmeaning but of the 4,996 merchant ships lost by the Allies, 2,284 flew the Red Ensign and of the 62,933 seafarers who perished, 31,908 were serving aboard these ships.

Incredible as it may sound today, it is a fact that when a merchant ship was sunk the pay of those serving in her stopped that day – and pay was not resumed until a seafarer “signed on” another vessel. Following a sinking, seafarers were given one month’s “survivors leave” - without pay – but anytime spent in a lifeboat or in a raft was deducted from the leave period – provided the seafarer survived! On the Murmansk run, survival time in a lifeboat was measured in minutes rather than hours due to the intense cold. (British & International Sailors’ Society : www.biss.org.uk)

Let me tell you why it’s so important to remember our merchant seafarers on 3rd September …..

Merchant ships are not built for war and merchant seafarers are not trained for war but none of this prevents both ships and the men and women manning them from responding to the “call of arms” when their country is in danger. Even today, merchant seafarers are often called upon to trade on hazardous waters but the hazards associated with this – not to mention the everyday hazards of seafaring – are accepted as being “part of the job”.

Let’s go back to the Second War for stories and statistics that speak eloquently of the danger that is ‘all in a days work’ for our seafarers. The Donaldson Line passenger vessel MV ATHENIA sailed from Glasgow on 1st September 1939, bound for Montreal, with some 1,100 passengers leaving to escape an inevitable war.

At 11.15 hrs on 3rd September 1939 Britain declared war on Germany And the Master of MV ATHENIA – now 250 miles northwest of Inishtrahull, Northern Ireland – opened his sealed instructions from the Admiralty and as darkness fell, the ship introduced her “blackout regulations” regime and switched off navigation and deck lights.

On that same evening – rather less than 12 hours after war was declared – MV ATHENIA was torpedoed by the U-30 and sank with the loss of 112 LIVES – 19 of them crew members – the first Merchant Navy casualties of World WarII.

By a savage irony, the last man to die in that war was also a merchant seafarer whose ship was attacked in the North Atlantic three days after the European war had “ended” by a submarine who had not received the recall message. ( BISS : www.biss.org.uk )

In July 1941 the Rt Hon Winston Churchill spoke these words to the Country, "The Merchant Navy, with Allied comrades night and day, in weather fair or foul faces not only the ordinary perils on the sea, but the sudden assaults of war from beneath the waters or from the sky. Your first task is to bring to port the cargoes vital for us all at home or for our armies abroad and we trust your tenacity and resolve to see this stern task through."

"We are a seafaring race and we understand the call of the sea. We account you in these hard days worthy successors in a tradition of steadfast courage and high adventure, and we feel confident that that proud tradition of our Island will be upheld today whenever the ensign of a British merchantman is flown".

Next year and then after, we at Tregenna will write and remind the press in advance and hope that Every Editor and News Broadcaster Will Do “His or Her Duty” : “Lest We Forget”

Information sourced from BISS etc, in Tribute, any offending material can be removed, we may post on site, prior to receiving permission, although this is sought.


Keith at Tregenna
19th August 2008, 09:50 PM
"In these anxious days I would like to express to all Officers and Men and in The British Merchant Navy and The British Fishing Fleets my confidence in their unfailing determination to play their vital part in defense. To each one I would say: Yours is a task no less essential to my people’s experience than that allotted to the Navy, Army and Air Force. Upon you the Nation depends for much of its foodstuffs and raw materials and for the transport of its troops overseas. You have a long and glorious history, and I am proud to bear the title “Master of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets” I know that you will carry out your duties with resolution and with fortitude, and that high chivalrous traditions of your calling are safe in your hands. God keep you and prosper you in your great task."

H.M. The King’s Message. September. 1939

Keith at Tregenna
19th August 2008, 10:01 PM
The Tower Hill memorial for World War 1 was unveiled in 1928 to mark the service and sacrifice of the merchant Marine in WW1. In 1928 King George V created the title 'Master of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets' and appointed the then Prince of Wales to that office.

This is how the title 'Merchant Navy' came into being.

Thee have been / has been Merchant ships and Merchant Seamen for time evermore, but recognition ad officialdom came from the above.

In 1999, for the first time, members of the Merchant Navy were 'allowed' to take part in the national Service of Remembrance at the Cenotaph. They were not officially invited previously because they had not been, what is termed as, 'under command'. However, in that very significant year members of the MNA marched at the event and were proudly led by the MNA's National Chairman at that time. Perhaps it should be noted that had the armed services waited, as long for the Merchant Navy has done, for a signal to join them in their military gatherings in the North Atlantic, Western Approaches, Korea and the Falklands, there may very well have been no national service of remembrance to attend. Captain John Sail National Chairman Merchant Navy Association.

They Bore the Brunt
By Joe Earl

They sailed the seas to bear the brunt,
They steamed the courses laid,
Ten thousand miles their battle front,
Unbacked and undismayed.
Fine seamen these of our great race,
From your seaport or town,
They risked their lives with danger faced
Until their ship went down.
Remember them - they held the line,
Won freedom on the way,
Remember them - their life was thine -
On merchant navy day.


Red Lead Ted
19th August 2008, 10:13 PM
lets not forget that before the royal proclamation of king george the :v ,the british merchant fleet was known as the merchant service,prior to the end of the first world war,it was in recognition of the fact that the merchant service, sailed valiantly alongside the royal navy,it became the merchant navy.interesting thought good health all ted.

Frank Ferri
21st August 2008, 09:58 PM
WAS it Christopher Columbus or the Vikings or the Egytians in their papyrus boats who landed in Latin America
Frank :D....:confused::confused:

Doc Vernon
21st August 2008, 11:02 PM
The Egyptians were the first to make papyrus riverboats and other different types built for various uses. Of course you knew this!Frank! haha!

Red Lead Ted
21st August 2008, 11:47 PM
you both wrong mates ,blue funnel lpool were there before them LMAO good health ted

happy daze john in oz
23rd August 2008, 06:03 AM
Then there were the Welsh with the coracle, went round in circles and vanished up its fundemental. Sorry about that Taffy's :eek:

Geoff Anderson
23rd August 2008, 08:52 AM
ih john it must have had an assie crew ,couldnt find the tiller ha ha.

ive seen these guys working these coracles, its amazing to watch them do it .one hand for the paddle the other is used to tow a net. they go up stream , down stream, across the stream and in some very strong currents. i could have watched them all day.

best wishes geoff.

Geoff Anderson
23rd August 2008, 08:56 AM
hi all . dont they have papyrus boats in south america. lake tity ca ha ? springs to mind. [sorry about the spelling]
best wishes geoff

Des Taff Jenkins
24th August 2008, 08:23 AM
Hi John.
I had a good time in Fundemental the beer was warm the girls were cold, and e couldn't get a sub.
Cheers Des

Keith at Tregenna
10th October 2010, 12:25 AM

On 30 October 1945 the Houses of Parliament unanimously carried the following resolution expressing gratitude to the Merchant Navy on the victorious end of the war :

"That the thanks of this House be accorded to the officers and men of the Merchant Navy for the steadfastness with which they maintained our stocks of food and materials ; for their services in transporting men and munitions to all battles over all the seas, and for the gallantry with which, through a civilian service, they met and fought the constant attacks of the enemy."

The Right Honourable Alfred Barnes, Minister of War Transport said :

"The Merchant Seaman never faltered. To him we owe our preservation and our very lives."


On World Maritime Day 23rd September, we are mindful that these islands depend on shipping for their survival. 95% of our trade is carried by merchant crews. Please remember all the world's 1.2 million working seafarers, routinely risking piracy or shipwreck; and remember,too, the service and the sacrifice of those many brave members of the Merchant Fleet who have given their lives in peace and war. Mission To Seafarers

Neil Morton
10th October 2010, 01:09 AM
Seeing Keith's quote of the day has prompted me to read this interesting thread from the start and I find one question raised re" how the the "Red Duster" became our flag", remains unanswered.
Now I dont say this is "gospel truth";however I read somewhere that in the 1700's in the days of Nelson, Howe, Collingwood et al the Royal Navy comprised 3 fleets each with a responsibility for various theatres.They were the Red, the Blue, and the White.Each with its own Admiral designated Admiral of the blue,red,or white. When it was decided that the whole shebang be amalgamated under the White Ensign the Red Ensign was ceremoniously awarded to the merchant ships of that time and has continued to this day. Do not ask me for dates or what happened to the Blue flag, maybe some one out there can confirm this .
All the best lads Mort.

Keith at Tregenna
10th October 2010, 01:34 AM


This may help a bit - RE: White ensign, but helpful -



Joe Doyle
10th October 2010, 04:16 AM
Hi Vernon. All you ever want to know about the BMN is on Wikipedia. Go to contents and click on historyand bobs ur uncle Cheers Joe

Doc Vernon
10th October 2010, 05:56 AM
Hi Mort.Keith and Joe
Well must say that this is getting interesting,and thanks to all who have thus far put in some info!
I wil certainly look up the Wikpedia Link and see what i come up with!
Again thank you Lads!

Colin Hawken
10th October 2010, 10:56 AM
Mort,the RFA Ships fly the Blue Ensign. Only just come across this thread.

Ivan Cloherty
10th October 2010, 11:09 AM
In my time at sea 1950-1960's any MN ship which had a Master and five other crew members regardless of rank who were members of the RNVR was entitled to fly the Blue Ensign. We flew the Blue Ensign on "Salinas" during Suez saga in 56 and we were not an RFA ship.

During the "National Service" days a lot of crew members joined the RNVR as didn't want to join the army if the left the MN before they were 26 but could still be called to the colours until age 36 if in the RNVR

I believe some companies volunteered their cadets for the RNVR!!!!!!!!!

Rules may have changed since then though as believe RNVR no longer exists


Ivan R611450

Neil Morton
10th October 2010, 10:34 PM
Thanks for that Ivan it seems as though the book I read got the facts right.Cheers Mort.

Doc Vernon
11th October 2010, 04:16 AM
This Link from Wikpedia has a lot of info refarding the Red Duster and its origin!
Mind you there is still the question!
The precise date of its first appearance ???


Keith at Tregenna
12th October 2010, 05:15 PM
Would this help: ?

Red Duster, Another name for the Red Ensign, which has been the flag of the Merchant Navy since 1864



Proclamation for Use of the Flag (1801)

The Second Royal Proclamation that followed the 1801 Act for the Union of Great Britain and Ireland included the following:-

"And to the End that none of Our Subjects may presume, on board their Ships, to wear our Flags, Jacks, and Pendants, Which, according to ancient Usage, have been appointed as a Distinction to Our Ships, or any Flags, Jacks, or Pendants in Shape and Mixture of Colours so far resembling Ours as not to be easily distinguished therefrom, We do, with the Advice of Our Privy Council, hereby strictly charge and command all Our Subjects whatsoever, that they do not presume to wear in any of their Ships or Vessels, Our Jack, commonly called the Union Jack, nor any Pendants, nor any such Colours as are usually borne by Our Ships, without particular Warrant for their so doing from Us, or Our High Admiral of Great Britain, or the Commissioners for executing the Office of High Admiral for the Time being: And We do hereby also further Command all Our loving Subjects, that without such Warrant as aforesaid, they presume not to wear on board their Ships or Vessels any Flags, Jacks, Pendants, or Colours, made in imitation of, or resembling Ours, or any Kind of Pendant whatsoever, or any other Ensign than the Ensign, described on the Side or Margin hereof which shall be worn instead of the Ensign before this Time usually worn in Merchant Ships;"


Originally there were three Royal Navy squadrons, of the Red, White and Blue, and they took these colours from those of the Union Jack.

The division was made in the 1680s, because the Red Ensigns of England and Scotland had already been established as merchant flags a Red Ensign with the Union in the canton became the merchant flag of Great Britain upon Union in 1707. This led to confusion as to whether the ship was a merchantman or a member of the red squadron?

In 1864 it was decided to end this confusion. As a result the White Ensign was reserved to the Royal Navy, the Blue Ensign undefaced to the Royal Naval Reserve and defaced with the appropriate departmental or territorial badge to government service, and the Red Ensign to the 'merchant navy'.




Duncan McKelvie
9th January 2019, 11:11 AM
One other pouint of note on thuis fascinating subject. A ship could sail with out a captain/master as it was expceted that the cheif officer would also have a masters certificate. However the ship could not sail withour a registered ships cook even if it was a pssenger ship with head chef and who knows how many cooks.

Yes indeed. Thus on Home Trade vessels of ......not so old, the vessel could be tied up if there was no cook's ticket on board if the crew numbered over 8 - unless you had the individual agreement of each man to agree to sail without one. I know, I have done this on more than one occasion on supply boats in the 70's when the cook went off on the toot or quit without notice. The trick was to ask each man individually.

Interesting fact ref the term "Merchant Navy" [ I quote Capt Richard Woodman and his excellent series of books on the history of our profession] The Merchant Service became known as the "Merchant Navy" following a remark made after the First World War by King George 5th to the effect of "and this country owes a tremendous debt to my Merchant Navy". It is said that he was called George 5th because his wife, Mary of Merck, was the other 4/5ths! That would have been about 1920 and was around the time when post war reality set in and the conditions for the average seafarer became even worse than before the war, wages were cut, berths were hard to get and this was all against a background of near revolution in Britain. Warships were stationed in the Clyde with weaponry trained ashore and ready to shell Glasgow. Tanks were in the streets of Glasgow, Liverpool etc. Several years later the government in a desperate attempt to raise recognition and professional status created the Honourable Company of Master Mariners under the leadership of Sir Robert Burton-Chadwick, ExC. This was to form a livery company as a 'non-belligerent' association. MMSA and others existed at that time and also another one organised by the redoubtable Capt. Coombes of Navigators and General fame. It has become known as the Merchant Navy ever since and as British ships carried over half of all world trade until 194, Britain was the significant voice. Every 'Merchant Navy' in the world has to some extent or other copied our model, with varying degrees of success.
Ref a line in another post on this thread...........striking when actually at sea was not allowed under the Merchant Shipping Act and could be classed as mutiny among other things. All of the vessels who suffered through the seaman's strike in 1966 went on strike after securely and safely tying up. The strike lasted 6 (7?) weeks over the summer until Harold Wilson declared "I have smashed the Seamen". They had practically no support from any quarter and that was the start of the rot. Fast forward to the mid 70's and Sheikh Zayed Ahmed Yammani tripling the price of oil - bunkers - overnight and the job was complete. Long established family companies who had helped establish many of the banks were foreclosed on by the same institutions and ships were laid up left right and centre. The dreadful accountant surfaced and took aim at the easiest and most conspicuous target - the Marine Superintendent. He was a first casualty. quality and safety were the inevitable followers of that and British crews became an expensive luxury and then a rarity. The Marine Super made a comeback on the back of ISM and the move towards ISO systems and we are where we are now.

9th January 2019, 11:37 AM
a very interesting view of the loss of our mn in general ......one small point i would make is the statement to me in 60 by the then shields breakaway union man jim slater was ...we will stop the shipowners making all this money while we seamen get nowt .....join our breakaway movement i will get you 200 quid a week.....he later ends up the NUS president ...hell bent on causing a strike in tally with other left minded union chiefs at that time ...he stated in shields before being the president of the NUS that he was a member of the communist party and proud to represent seamen...well there might have been one or two seaman earning two hundred quid a week ...but thousands with no ships .....as the financiers of the shipping owners and the owners themselves decided better returns would be found elsewhere.....as for bunker fuel going through the roof ...the greeks and russians who had massive fleets also paid similar prices ....without the massive prices of new builds ......but what do i know only that if there was a reasonable return on vessels we would still have a vibrant MERCHANT NAVY.....if there is a profit to be made finance will be found.....cappy

Captain Kong
9th January 2019, 11:42 AM
I sailed as Cook on the BEECHFIELD, of Savages, when the cook was killed in the galley. 1952, it was my second trip to sea, Joined as Ordinary Seaman.,

John Arton
9th January 2019, 02:05 PM
It used to be that it was that the best guy to ashore with was the radio operator on deep sea vessels as if he was adrift the ship could not sail as he was the only person qualified to handle communications.
This ended with the introduction of GMDSS in 1988 wherein responsibility for radio communications were passed onto the bridge watch keeping officer's who all had to hold a g.o.c. certificate as part of their GMDSS certificate. If you look at the STCW safe Manning regulations there is a clause which says that the owner is required to provide provision for proper food and drinking water. This applies to any ship of over 500gt. which if you delve deeper into the regs. requires the carriage of a qualified ships cook.
As a further comment on the flying of the Blue Ensign, it was my belief that you only needed two RNR guys on board to enable the Blue Ensign to be flown, however I doubt that any owner would supply that ensign as part of the ships standard required flag outfit. I only sailed on one ship where we flew the Blue Ensign and that was when the captain, a avid RNR guy who always carried his own blue ensign, was overjoyed to find the new joining chief engineer was also a fellow RNR member. He proudly pulled out his own ensign and got us to fly it after. He was not very chuffed to see his ensign all dirty and tattered after a couple of days in port in high winds and with exhaust fumes from the funnel covering it.

John Arton
9th January 2019, 03:33 PM
As a follow on it would appear that in 1868 legislation was brought in requiring merchant ships to carry certified officers according to this in our local paper with the marine school being the first ever dedicated to the sole purpose of training ships officers. ( Don't know if it was both deck and engine back in those days).

Louis Naylor
9th January 2019, 06:34 PM
Cappy, I have just read your remarks about Jim Slater. I remember him well, and was one of the reasons for leaving the MN early. At the time I was working for ESSO, when we had the option of paying our dues to the union or a nominated charity. As I had no faith in the union looking after my interests, I opted to pay my two bob dues to the King George Home. When I was due to return from leave, I was summoned to the head office in Victoria St for a meeting with Slater. After a period of some 2 hours of him browbeating and bullying, he stated that if I defaulted on one payment to the charity, he would make sure that I would never work at sea again. I eventually told him that if the union was so desperate, then the union could reluctantly have my dues. As you remark, he was a committed communist and personally, I feel that it was the likes of him who caused the demise of the Merchant Navy.

9th January 2019, 07:57 PM
###how refreshing louis to get confirmation of slater and his bullying tactics .....he was a very unlikeable man .......but like others at that time ie scargill and some motor union men they were intent on causing problems for the country both left and right .....slater in shields was always like the union men calling strikes in the shipyards... the bully boys were always around him ..he was a ships fireman ...nothing wrong with that but had never been deep sea only on the north east colliers he was quite an ignorant man and how he got in that position has always been a mystery some others may know the answer to.....i believe a lot was because if you had done your long trip the last thing you wanted was going to union meetings and it is my fervent belief that his tactics were one of the reasons the shipowners were pulling out ....slater had a chance to do what the U boats couldnt do ...ie stop the country eating ...along with others ie scargill no coal put the lights out and stop industry in this country working....i believe the unions were needed many years ago ....but the wrong folk had hold of them at that time......people forget the winter of discontent ...no lights ...no burials... no factories working... three day weeks .....well my parting shot is when i ran my own factory there was no union involved...the local donkey and that was what he was came and begged me to let him speak to my people....i told them he was coming at closing time .....he stood in the reception and was almost bowled over by my folk ....who where paid well above union rates anyway ......whoops sorry if it appears a dialoge but i dont need any body to tell me i can work or not .....to many bums hide under that mantle.. at last some else showing the true colours of the president ...what a laugh ...of the seamans union.....cappy from shields

Des Taff Jenkins
10th January 2019, 12:06 AM
I believe the demise of the British Merchant Navy came about after a secret meeting at the United Nations after the second World War where Britain was told to that they had to share world trade cargoes with just about every country in the world, {The USA declined}even with those with no sea ports, I believe the pipe smoking British PM agreed and slowly the demise began. Britain had survived many Strikes, so I doubt that the seaman's strike was the reason, if that was so there would be no ports working in Britain today as the dockers had more strikes than the seamen. The coal strike was an engineered one, it was cheaper to get coal from Australia and Poland than mine it at home, Australia's open caste mining was seen as the future.

Des Taff Jenkins
10th January 2019, 12:32 AM
The shipping industry is a prime example of what an unfettered free market does to a workforce, of globalization at its reddest in tooth and claw. Flying flags of convenience, British shipping has been allowed to register in low-pay, low-regulation countries. That exodus took off in the wicked 1980s when the number of British merchant navy officers was cut by two-thirds, replaced by cheaper foreign staff. Now only a third of British-owned shipping is registered under a British flag.

Can Britain rule its own waves again after Brexit, restoring its ships to the UK flag with decent pay and safety conditions? No chance, since Britain has been the strongest lobby in Europe against reform. Of EU nations, Britain protects its own sailors least from unfair, undercutting competition, and issuing most “certificates of equivalent competency” to foreign mariners so they can work on its ship
Read more

The three politicians who now command the Brexit negotiations are all extreme free marketeers. Once outside the EU, don’t expect welfare, wages and working conditions to be high among their priorities as they attempt to strike new trade deals. Indeed, the risk is that after Brexit shipping companies based in the UK will try to drop existing EU regulations. Others may leave because they need an EU base: Stena Line warned immediately after the referendum that it might re-flag its UK vessels.

A manning directive to ensure that ships sailing between EU states are paid and regulated under EU law has failed to gain approval in Brussels for years, defeated by ship owners wanting to hire cheaper non-EU crews.

Compare this with how the US protects its industry: all ships working between US ports must be US-built and crewed. Many countries do likewise. But in Britain and the EU it’s a global free-for-all, where the cheapest contract wins. The result is a collapse in the British-registered shipping industry, now only 0.8% of the total worldwide. Why would owners pay British wages when they can hire crews elsewhere for much less?
Been going on for years.
An excerpt from a British newspaper

happy daze john in oz
10th January 2019, 05:27 AM
Not only has the UK just about lost all it's shipping Australia has also.
But little surprise there when you consider how the Australian dock worker passed the time of day and it was not doing too much hard work.
Australian ports by the mid 60's were considered by some shipping lines to be ones to avoid, once in port there was no knowing when you would get out.
The strikes were for the most rediculous of reasons and work rates were very low.

Over time the shipping companies here went by the board, cheaper rates from overseas companies in Asia was the final nail in the coffin.
The seaman's union here still exists but numbers are now so low it has had to amalgamate with another one.

The only ships we now see in Australian ports are foreign ones, though there are still a few iron ore carriers but with overseas crew.

Keith at Tregenna
10th January 2019, 05:45 AM
A few chaps I was talking to recently spoke of the possibility
of renaming to the UK Merchant Service and the MN would then
cover veterans. They mention similar to CWGC rules and service
in conflicts would remain MN. Not certain how much was in it but,
these chaps are in the know.


Colin Wood
24th January 2019, 04:36 AM
Sea trading goes back to before biblical times.
The first trading rules I am aware of are the 'Laws of Oleron'.