"In these anxious days I would like to express to all Officers and Men and in the British Merchant Navy and the British Fishing Fleets my confidence in their unfailing determination to play their vital part in defense. To each one I would say: Yours is a task no less essential to my people's experience than that allotted to the Navy, Army and Air Force. Upon you the Nation depends for much of its foodstuffs and raw materials and for the transport of its troops overseas. You have a long and glorious history, and I am proud to bear the title 'Master of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets.' I know that you will carry out your duties with resolution and with fortitude, and that high chivalrous traditions of your calling are safe in your hands. God keep you and prosper you in your great task."
|World War II poster highlighting the dangers faced by the British|
Merchant Navy; image courtesy of Wikipedia
And they had a great and perilous task. The United Kingdom suffered the loss of 11.7 million tons of shipping, which was 54 percent of the Merchant Navy fleet's total capacity at the outbreak of World War II. 32,000 merchant seafarers were killed aboard convoy vessels in the war, but along with the Royal Navy, the convoys successfully imported enough supplies to allow an Allied victory.