Flag is flying to honour seamen

A flag has been flying to honour seafarers on Merchant Navy Day.

North Tyneside Council supported a call from the Seafarers UK charity and Merchant Navy Association to fly the Red Ensign – the UK Merchant Navy’s official flag – on public buildings and flagstaffs.

Officials raise the Red Ensign. Picture by Jane Coltman.

Officials raise the Red Ensign. Picture by Jane Coltman.

A ceremony was held at the council’s headquarters on Cobalt Business Park last Thursday involving the Deputy Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear, civic leaders, Merchant Navy and veterans’ groups.

They honoured the brave men and women who helped keep the nation safe during the two world wars.

Council chairman and Armed Forces Champion, Coun Gary Bell, hoisted the flag. He said: “I am delighted we are continuing our support of this campaign in honouring the brave Merchant Navy men and women who provided the lifeline which kept Britain alive, fed and armed during conflicts and who still support the nation today.”

“This was a particularly poignant event as the borough has a long maritime history – not only did we build and repair ships in our yards, we also provided the men who operated them and sadly we lost them too in large numbers.

“The Tynemouth Roll of Honour for World War 1 contains the names of 204 members of the Merchant Navy and fishing fleets lost in the Great War through enemy action.

“Another tragic loss to the area was 18-year-old James Forsyth Fell of Queen Alexandra Road in North Shields, who was an apprentice on the SS Vedamore in February 1917 when it was hit by a torpedo.

“James gave his spare lifejacket to the ship’s Engineer and then gave his own lifebelt to another man who was unable to swim.

“In a great act of heroism he refused the chance to get into a lifeboat and stayed aboard the ship to help others to safety.

“Tragically James and 22 other crewmen lost their lives when the ship sank in just five minutes.

“He was a brave young man who paid the ultimate price in order to help others.

“This event marked our immense respect for James and for all the thousands who served, and continue to serve, in the Merchant Navy.

“We will remember them with as much pride and honour as we remember those in the uniformed services.”