Unveiling of NMA Memorial on Weymouth promenade
The end of a "long voyage"
Was how Captain Paul Compton described the journey from inception to delivery of Weymouth and Portland’s Merchant Navy Memorial.
In a poignant ceremony on Weymouth Esplanade on Wednesday 9 November, the lives of brave men and women who lost their lives at sea were remembered.
Captain Compton began proceedings by reading a letter from HM The Queen who sent her warmest wishes for the day.
Members of the Merchant Navy Association (MNA) attended the ceremony and HM Lord Lieutenant for Dorset Angus Campbell Esq unveiled the memorial from under a Merchant Navy flag: “If ever a town, borough or port deserved to have a memorial like this, it has got to be Weymouth and Portland. I take my hat off to all those involved.”
Retired Bosun Tony Cash joined Bethany, the daughter of a fisherman who lost his life at sea, to lay the very first wreath on the memorial. Mr Cash, who joined the Merchant Navy in 1939, said it was a proud moment: “It is so important that we remember the sacrifice of all those men and women who lost their lives at sea in the First World War, Second World War and other conflicts around the world. I have waited a long time for this day. It is very moving to see the memorial on the Esplanade, a permanent reminder of their sacrifice.”
Captain Compton explained how everything on the memorial was made in Dorset, from the Portland Stone, to the bronze fittings moulded in Bridport to the railings, made in Weymouth. David Kennett, a former Chief Engineer in the Merchant Navy came up with the idea for the shape of the memorial which depicts the raised bow of a sinking ship.
Weymouth, Portland and District branch of the MNA raised over £20,000 for the memorial through local fundraising and they expressed their deepest thanks to the individuals, businesses and organisations that donated as the ceremony came to a close.
Britain’s merchant fleet was the largest in the world during both world wars. During the First World War, more than 3,000 British merchant and fishing vessels were sunk during Germany’s ‘unrestricted submarine warfare’ policy. Nearly 15,000 merchant seamen died. In the Second World War, 4,700 British-flagged ships were sunk, resulting in the death of more than 29,000 merchant seamen.
The Weymouth, Portland and District branch of the Merchant Navy Association was founded in 2010 to promote comradeship and welfare of both retired and serving members of the Merchant Navy. The branch meet on the 2nd Thursday of every month at the Royal Dorset Yacht Club, Custom House Quay, at 7.30pm. They are always keen to hear from new members.