Merchant Navy Day falls on September 3 each year, the anniversary of the sinking of the first British merchant vessel in 1939 during World War II.
Australian service personnel and civilians have served on merchant vessels in times of war and conflict for more than a century, transporting service personnel, supplies and equipment across dangerous seas and oceans.
Merchant vessels were often defenceless and their work was perilous with the constant threat of attack from enemy submarines, surface raiders, aircraft and mines.
Earlier this year, Australia commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Atlantic, possibly the most well-known battle involving merchant mariners.
The battle lasted almost the entire duration of the Second World War and was fought over thousands of miles across the war’s most dangerous shipping lanes.
More than 3,000 British and Allied ships were sunk and some 30,000 Allied and merchant mariners died during the Battle of Atlantic.
These were extraordinarily brave sailors, doing a job that had to be done under some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable.
While the exact figure will never be known, the Australian War Memorial lists the names of more than 800 merchant mariners who have died in all wars on its Commemorative Roll.
On Merchant Navy Day, I encourage all Australians to pause and reflect on the contribution of our merchant mariners, almost all of whom were civilians, and to reflect on their service and sacrifice.
Thank you for your service.
Lest we forget.
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