Merchant Navy Day service to take place in South Shields honouring South Tyneside's seafarers past and present

Seafarers past and present will be honoured at an annual service paying tribute to the Merchant Navy.

South Tyneside has a long and proud maritime history, with many thousands of Merchant Navy seafarers coming from the borough over the years – and countless more from elsewhere welcomed when their ships visited the Tyne.

Their efforts and the danger they face was perhaps most recognised during the First and Second World Wars, when more than 3,000 merchant seafarers left South Tyneside never to return.

A Merchant Navy Day Service takes place each year in their honour, and organisers are making final preparations for this year’s event on Saturday, September 3.

The 2021 Merchant Navy Day service

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The service, which will be held at the the Merchant Navy Memorial at Mill Dam on Saturday, has been held every year since 2000 and will include a wreath laying ceremony.

Organisers say Merchant Navy Day gives South Tyneside residents, active and retired seafarers, and those involved in the maritime industries, the opportunity to remember the borough’s maritime roots and also pay tribute to the sacrifice of merchant seafarers during the two world wars.

Honorary Mission Chaplain Rev. Pat Bealing will lead the Service, assisted by Jackie Dunn, while the Mayor and Mayoress, Councillor Pat Hay and Mrs Jean Copp, will be in attendance and the Mayor will lay a wreath on behalf of the people of South Tyneside.

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The 2021 Merchant Navy Day service

Fay Cunningham, Honorary Secretary to the Mission to Seafarers, said: “As we can still see to this day, especially during the recent pandemic, our country still depends heavily upon merchant seafarers to transport essential goods to our island nation. They have truly been part of our essential key workers and are our unsung heroes.”

The service will begin at 2pm on Saturday in the Mission to Seafarers chapel, followed by the wreath-laying at the Merchant Navy memorial, with refreshments also available.

Elsewhere, The Seafarers’ Charity is asking people to fly the Red Ensign to honour and remember the sacrifices of the ‘often forgotten and invisible, but very hard-working’, Merchant Navy seafarers.

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The campaign was started in 2015 to address what the charity called ‘sea blindness’ and acknowledge the UK’s ongoing dependence on merchant seafarers who are responsible for more than 90% of the UK’s imports.