The following is an address at the service by Captain Iain Steverson
Today we have acknowledged the service of Australian Merchant Mariners specifically during WW2 and the Families of those that were lost here today.
In every overseas wartime conflict since time immemorial it has been Merchant ships and their valiant crews that have supplied the logistics to undertake those war efforts transporting to all the various fighting forces of every nation carrying the troops, returning the wounded , foodstuffs , ordinary stores, home comforts ammunition, and in modern times aircraft , tanks & heavy military equipment .
Merchant Navy seafarers manned the ships that carried the raw materials for steel making and more importantly the oil tankers that carried the volatile oil cargoes. As an example one of our BHP Masters was torpedoed twice on oil tankers and fortunately survived
The bulk of the 13 million tons of ironstone which was delivered to the all important BHP Newcastle steel works for converting into steel for the vital Australian war effort was carried by a motley collection of Australian owned and manned ships. They were assisted by a number of chartered tramp ships of countries that had been over-run by the enemy and found themselves far from their home countries and out of contact with their incarcerated loved ones.
In this regard and sadly 32 foreign and Australian Seafarers were lost on the Yugoslav iron ore carrier RECINA as noted in the program. Their young Cadet was a Newcastle Boys High former student.
These young Deck Boys, Ordinary Seamen and Cadets were of the same age as you Senior High School students that have spoken today and they became unheralded losses except to their grieving Families, victims of the sea, so close in our waters just off our East Coast .
The Australian Wartime fleet was made up of ships, predominantly antiquated coal burners , with hard lying uncomfortable living conditions, slow steaming, obvious to the smoke they produced and were poorly defended . They were ‘sitting ducks’ for the fast modern Japanese submarines that patrolled off our coast . Even when the convoy system was set up following the losses of IRON CHIEFTAIN and IRON CROWN on the 3rd &4th June 1942 although the IRON KNIGHT , RECINA and other ships still became victims to the Japanese Subs.
Significantly the Battle of the Atlantic in 1941-42 with its disastrous loss of so many merchant ships as was exemplified with the total fleet loss by the Company featured this year, the Hain Line, (24 of their ships sunk in the Atlantic) proved crucial to the eventual winning of WW2. The United States’ effort even before its formal entry into the war saw America (and Canada) building and supplying emergency cargo ships and tankers to replace the critical losses in order to sustain Great Britain which was on its own and almost on its knees by the decimation of the vital Allied Shipping by the German U-Boat fleet.
Today we acknowledge the Seafarers of the world who through their efforts still ensure that 98% of all Australian exports and imports flowing in and out of our ports and arrive safely at their various destinations. Sadly these days the Australian Shipping is a mere shadow of its former self.
Finally please note the Seafarers Service Port of Newcastle Anglican Cathedral 22nd June at 1800 and our MN Service next year 1st June 2019 at the Memorial subject to weather