Sunday, September 9, 2012


According to official government figures issued in 1946 the British Merchant Navy suffered 30,248 known fatalities during the war with another 4,654 reported as missing. This enormous combined total of 34,902 deaths (some authorities place the figure even higher than that) was a far higher proportion of its total strength than that of any of the Allied armed services except possibly the Russian Army. A further
4,707 British seamen were wounded, and 5,720 became prisoners of war. The first of the deaths came within hours of war being declared on 3 September 1939 when the liner Athenia  was sunk with the loss of 128 passengers and crew. Despite these huge losses and the call-up of merchant seamen, especially officers, into the Royal Navy Reserve during the war, the Merchant Navy did not suffer many manpower shortages except during the early days of the naval call-up and during particularly bad periods. If it can be said that from 1942 onwards American had a surfeit of ships but a dearth of seamen to man them, then it can be said that with the British it was the other way round.

To read this lengthy article click HERE