On Merchant Navy Day, 3 September, the Red Ensign will be flown ashore to raise awareness of our dependence as an island nation on our past, present and future Merchant Navy seafarers.
The Red Ensign has since 1854 been the official flag of the British Merchant Navy, flown on ‘UK-flagged’ vessels of all sizes, from workboats and superyachts to container ships, fuel tankers and cruise liners. 3 September in 1939 marked the outbreak of the Second World War when the merchant ship SS Athenia was torpedoed and sunk, with the loss of 128 passengers and crew.
3 September was adopted as Merchant Navy Day in 2000. For Merchant Navy Day this year, the Red Ensign will be flown ashore at more than 600 locations across the UK, in response to a campaign by the maritime welfare charity Seafarers UK to raise public awareness of our island nation’s ongoing dependence on the men and women who work at sea.
Flag-hoisting ceremonies are being planned by many local authorities and councils – see the ‘Roll of Honour’ at www.merchantnavyday.uk The Red Ensign will also be flying on many historic buildings, especially in Scotland where Merchant Navy Day is on the Scottish Government’s official list of flag-flying days.
Seafarers UK is calling on the UK Government to add Merchant Navy Day to the official list of dates for flag-flying on UK government buildings – see https://www.gov.uk/guidance/designated-days-for-union-flag-flying Some local government bodies, including the Greater London Authority, cite the lack of a central government ‘directive’ as the reason they do not recognise the UK’s ongoing dependence on Merchant Navy seafarers by flying the Red Ensign.
Commodore Barry Bryant, Director General of Seafarers UK, explained: ‘High-profile ex-seafarers including Lord John Prescott and Admiral Lord West have previously called for Merchant Navy Day to be officially recognised throughout the UK. Indeed, many Merchant Navy veterans believe that to be the case. We are calling on Her Majesty’s Government now to add 3 September to the official list of flag flying dates, so the Red Ensign can be proudly flown on all local government buildings in future.’