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Saturday, July 24, 2021

Weekend memorial service will honour our seafarers

A Newcastle Merchant Navy Memorial will take place at The Mission to Seafarers in Wickham on Saturday.

The event is expected to attract much interest due to the strong connection to wartime vessels by many Newcastle Merchant Navy families and industry participants.

Integral Maritime managing director Jeanine Drummond says the annual event offered the community an opportunity to honour our country’s seafarers.

“The Merchant Navy Memorial commemorates the contribution made by the Australian Merchant Navy during both World Wars,” Ms Drummond said.

“[the event] is encouragement of the next generation to take up predecessors’ passion and commitment to ensure that future merchant navy recognition is as secure in the future, as in the past and the present. 

“We remain highly committed to continuing to work in what we believe is the best interests of our cherished Merchant Navy Veterans and the wider Australian Merchant navy community.”

The Australian Merchant Navy Seamen’s Memorial at the Australian War Memorial lists the names of 182 merchant seamen who lost their lives in World War I. 

During World War II, 29 Australian merchant ships and 386 merchant seamen were lost in Australian waters.

Saturday’s event is expected to attract Federal and State Government representatives, Newcastle City Council delegates, Newcastle Maritime Industry, union and professional organisation representatives as well as the families of wartime merchant navy sailors.

This year’s service, Ms Drummond said, will honour the US Army Small Ships Section in which many Australian merchant seafarers served under American direction.

“They were of varying ages and experiences from ages 5 to 70 years,” she explained.

“They served on a ‘rag tag’ assortment of small shallow draft Australian and New Zealand vessels in WW2 between 1942 and 1945, mainly in the New Guinea campaign.

“The seamen slept in the forecastle in miserable conditions, which would have been typical of accommodation as experienced on many of this fleet of small ships.

“The men that manned these ships worked in difficult and unpleasant mosquito-ridden coastal areas, experiencing tropical diseases such as malaria and dengue fever like other Australian Forces.

“This was in addition to avoiding being bombed or strafed as targets by Japanese aircraft.”

The Newcastle Merchant Navy Memorial will be staged on Saturday 5 June at 11am at The Mission to Seafarers Newcastle, 96 Hannell Street, Wickham.

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