Roy Glencross, chairman of the Boston & South Lincs Branch of the Merchant Navy Association, says 43,000 merchant seamen were killed during World War 2 – more than the other services put together.
Vice-chairman Doug Hern adds: “The first people, the last people and the youngest person ever killed were merchant seamen.”
The seamen carried out vital work in transporting equipment to help the advance into Europe.
Yet the seamen in what was a civilian service endured harsh terms of employment.
For instance, if their ship was sunk or torpedoed, from the moment of the sinking their pay was stopped.
If they survived the sinking, the men were entitled to two weeks’ ‘survivor’s leave’. However, if it took two weeks to get home from whatever part of the world they happened to be in, they were deemed to have already had the leave.
They had no uniform and so on shore leave during the war, they were subject to harassment from civilians who thought they weren’t doing their bit for the war effort. Finally, a lapel badge was issued to show their occupation.