Lest we forget – those in peril on the sea
Last week’s visit to HQS Wellington moored in Central London’s Embankment (just by Temple Station) needs to be recorded while it is still fresh in my mind. The WW2 sloop is open to the public only on Sundays and Mondays and it really is a privilege to view the convoys exhibition so skilfully displayed in London’s only floating Livery Hall – which is usually fully used as the HQ of the worshipful Company of Master Mariners – hence the rather odd opening times.
A unique opportunity to inspect the ship and its wonderful maritime treasures on board should be seen now. It’s interesting that the well tried convoy technique of protecting valuable cargos was first used by the East India Company.
In WW1 the disastrously successful German attacks mainly by U Boats horrify – where over 3,300 ships were lost with a loss of 12,000 crew still astonishes me, whilst in WW2 4,786 merchant ships were sunk and 24,000 men lost.
The convoy system managed to lower the onslaught – ships similar to the HMS Wellington escorted convoys from mid-Atlantic and off Freetown conveying essential commodities for the UK as well as the necessary troops and armaments to launch the D-Day offensive into Europe.
Back in Greenwich a fascinating memorial in the RNC chapel records the loss of naval personnel serving on board merchant ship coordinating the convoy system. On board Cutty Sark there is a significant memorial to personnel of the Merchant Navy worth inspecting.
The Merchant Navy now has memorials in many ports. The national memorial is in London’s Trinity Square Gardens close to the Tower of London and records both ships and their crews that were lost in both wars – a very sobering list of casualties can be viewed at Trinity House upon demand.
Upon returning I felt obliged to use the new Blackfriars Station as per my previous blog. There the famous gold incised European city destinations wall has been preserved and will amuse Europhiles. I decided to alight at the Elephant and Castle and crossed the road to catch the famously wandering 188 bus which also links Tower Bridge to Surrey Docks and Deptford to Greenwich and the O2 – all very useful!!