Date Published: 08 September 2021
A flag-raising ceremony to commemorate all those who work at sea, both past and present, was held outside Oakham Castle last Friday to mark Merchant Navy Day 2021.
Rutland County Council joined organisations and individuals all around the country by flying the British Merchant Navy’s Red Ensign on 3 September.
Merchant Navy Day is celebrated throughout the UK on this date each year – the day that marked the start of the Second World in 1939 and which saw the first British maritime casualty of the conflict. This annual event, run by the Seafarers’ Charity, honours the men and women who kept Britain afloat by bringing supplies during both World Wars, as well as modern-day merchant seafarers whose voyages account for more than 90 per cent of the UK’s imports.
Invited guests included Lord Lieutenant of Rutland Dr Sarah Furness, High Sheriff of Rutland David Wood, Alicia Kearns, MP for Rutland and Melton, and Commodore Robert Bellfield CBE, ADC, RN, Commander of the Naval Regional Command Eastern England. They were joined by service veterans, as well as members of the public who were once again able to attend the flag-raising ceremony with suitable social distancing guidance in place.
Among the representatives of Rutland County Council were Council Chairman Cllr. Jeff Dale, Council Leader Cllr. Oliver Hemsley, and Rutland’s Armed Forces Champion Cllr. Ian Razzell.
The Red Ensign was raised by Captain Bob Strick, who lives locally and served in the Merchant Navy for 20 years.
“The Merchant Navy is often regarded as the ‘forgotten and invisible’ navy community, so this special day of recognition ensures these brave and hard-working people are remembered and celebrated. We were especially pleased to welcome back our guests and Rutland residents to see the Merchant Navy flag being hoisted aloft once again at the Castle. That was not possible in 2020, as has been the case with many annual events since the start of the COVID pandemic, including our VE Day and Armed Forces Day commemorations held earlier this year. This Merchant Navy Day occasion allowed us all to take a moment to honour the sterling efforts of the people who work and have worked at sea, keeping the UK’s imports and exports flowing. We are a trading nation and owe them a great debt.” Councillor Razzell, former Army officer
The Red Ensign has been recognised worldwide since 1854 as the flag of the British Merchant Navy and is flown on ‘UK-flagged’ vessels of all sizes. It has also been flown ashore at locations across the country each 3 September since Merchant Navy Day was first recognised in 2000.