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National Merchant Navy Day Commemoration 3 September 2016

Media release: 31 August 2016

The national commemoration to honour those who served in the Merchant Navy during wartime is being held this Saturday 3 September in the Hall of Memories, Pukeahu National War Memorial Park, Heather Baggott Group Manager Delivery, Ministry for Culture and Heritage said today.

Image from the 2016 Merchant Navy Day commemoration at Pukeahu.

“Members of the public are welcome to attend the commemoration beginning at 11.00am with a karanga called by June Jackson, Taranaki whānai, followed by the flag parade led by the Red Ensign of the New Zealand Merchant Navy,” Ms Baggott said.

“This is a significant commemoration to honour the several thousand New Zealand seafarers who served both in the First and Second World Wars, mostly sailing under the British red ensign.

“Some 70 are known to have lost their lives during the First World War and at least 140 during the Second World War, with a similar number taken prisoner.

These civilian volunteers sailed the ships delivering troops, military equipment and vital cargoes of food, fuel and raw materials. Many ships were torpedoed or bombed and survivors sometimes spent days or weeks in lifeboats before being rescued.

“No other group of New Zealand civilians faced such risks during wartime,” Ms Baggott said.

With this work essential to the Allies' war effort the Merchant Navy was effectively regarded as the ‘fourth service’ alongside the army, navy and air force. And as civilians employed by private shipping companies most did not wear uniforms. Some were as young as 14 years old and others were in their 60s and 70s.

Some of the Flag bearers at the 2016 commemoration.

Merchant Navy was a symbolic title adopted in Britain in the 1920s recognising the contribution of merchant mariners during the First World War.  And the date, 3 September, marks the sinking of the first British merchant ship in 1939, just hours after the Second World War began.

This year’s commemoration will be attended by representatives from the Merchant Navy Association, the NZ Shipping Federation, NZ Company of Master Mariners, NZ Merchant Service Guild and the Russian Convoy Club.

More information about the New Zealand’s war contribution to the Merchant Navy is at:


For further information: Christine Seymour

Phone: 027 8079400 email: [email protected]


Updated on 5th September 2016