Merchant sacrifices remembered in Atlantic commemorations in Liverpool

Princess Anne will honour the merchant sailors who lost their lives in Britain’s longest and most bitter 20th-Century naval struggle this weekend. The Princess Royal, accompanied by her husband Vice Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, Commissioner of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, will lay a wreath at the Liverpool Naval Memorial to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic.

The monument, maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission like the imposing naval memorials in Portsmouth, Plymouth and Chatham, was erected in memory of merchant sailors who died serving with Royal Navy vessels during the six-year struggle for naval supremacy.

In all, around 30,000 merchant sailors – roughly one in six who served – were casualties of the battle.

They and the Senior Service personnel who served alongside them, shepherding Atlantic convoys will be remembered in a weekend of national commemorations in Liverpool, the climax of this month’s Battle of the Atlantic anniversary events.

From Friday around two dozen Royal Navy and international warships will be mustering on the Mersey for four days of events, with the highlight being a service of thanksgiving at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral on Sunday, followed by a parade from Rodney Street which will feature platoons from the Merchant Navy, RFA, the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force.

Ahead of the cathedral service, the Princess Royal, Vice Admiral Laurence and senior Royal Navy officers, will pay tribute to all those who gave their lives in what Winston Churchill called the “longest, largest and most complex” naval battle in history.

At the outbreak of World War 2, the Royal Navy recognised that it would not be able to man all the auxiliary vessels that would serve with it and enlisted thousands of officers and men of the Merchant Navy to serve with the Royal Navy under special terms. Liverpool was the manning port for registration and administration.

The CWGC’s area director for the UK, Chris McLean, said: “The Liverpool Naval Memorial is at the centre of a series of commemorations during the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic.

“Fourteen hundred officers and men of the Merchant Navy died on active service aboard 120 naval ships and are commemorated by the Commission in Liverpool.’’

The royal party will arrive at the memorial at Pier Head for the ten-minute wreath laying ceremony at 10am.

The Liverpool Naval Memorial, which was erected in memory of merchant sailors who died serving with Royal Navy vessels during the six-year struggle for naval supremacy, is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission