AS recently as the 1960s Britain’s Merchant Navy was the largest in the world. It was said that 350,000 British seaman and officers served under the Red Ensign.
The Ellerman shipping company alone boasted that it could put a ship into any port in the world within 24-hours. Formed in 1892 with £800,000 one of the world’s greatest maritime fleets collapsed in 2004.
Proportionately, British seamen suffered higher losses during WWII than did RAF Bomber Command. When in 1941 the Red Army was beaten back to the gates of Moscow, Leningrad and Stalingrad, Churchill and U.S. President Roosevelt appropriated Britain’s merchant navy and rushed aid to the Bolsheviks.
Rescuing Bolshevism sank 101 British merchant ships and cost the lives of 3,000 British seamen. In total, 30,248 British sailors lost their lives during WWII.
Up until 1966 70,000 cadets attended the 3-month training courses at the school for seamanship in Sharpness. There was a similar school on Gravesend. Today, just 250 ratings are being trained, mostly for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary, an arm of the Royal Navy.
Wherever British seamen voyaged they would find several British flagged ships at anchor or moored at wharfs. Our Jack Tars were to be found all over Africa, the Middle and Far East, Americas, and what was known as the Dominions. At the four points of the compass, everywhere between the Poles, Britain ruled the waves.
Britain’s merchant fleets have disappeared as have 327,000 British seamen. Many crews originate in places abroad and mostly waiting-on staff working coastal ferries. Flags of convenience vessels pay their non-British crews as little as $3.47 per hour.
Former MP, Ian Henderson (59) says of Hull, “We are now down to just one British-flagged ship with 60 seafarers. It doesn’t help when our government sits back and watches the demise of our Merchant Navy and encourages shipping companies to exploit cheap labor.”
It is laughable that Britain celebrates the launching of the £3 billion HMS Queen Elizabeth, an aircraft carrier without aircraft, whilst dependent on foreign seamen working non-British ships. No less than 95% of Britain’s trade is transported by sea, compared with 48% in the rest of the European Union. Britain is likely the least self-sufficient country on earth.
It will be difficult if not impossible to find a crew for a single UK-bound vessel if offshore, waiting for their ships, lurk a couple of Russian frigates and submarines. Without imports Britain is totally incapacitated within the week. But none dare call it treason.