Unsung Heroes: The British Merchant Navy WW2

Unsung Heroes

By Andrew Wrenn, published 27th September 2013

The British Merchant Navy was a term that applied to the employees of British shipping companies whose vessels ranged from the sleekest ocean liners to obsolete tramp steamers. Merchant seamen already included contingents of Black, Asian and Arab sailors and the British Merchant Fleet was swelled between 1939 and 1945 by the vital addition of ships and crew from the Nazi occupied countries of Europe. Around 30,000 merchant seamen perished yet their major contribution to Allied victory in campaigns spanning the globe has often gone unmarked.

These educational resources have been written by Andrew Wrenn.

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Introduction & Battle of the Atlantic

  • Introduction
  • Battle of the Atlantic
  • The Impact of Enigma
  • Enquiry Questions

Everyday Life

  • The British Merchant Navy - Everyday Life WW2
  • The culture of employment
  • Conditions on board
  • Attitudes to war and politics
  • Personal Experience

Wartime Propaganda

  • The British Merchant Navy in wartime propaganda
  • The resilience of Merchant seamen
  • Merchant seamen in film
  • A realistic portrayal?

Convoys to Malta

  • The British Merchant Navy in convoys to Malta 1940 to 1942
  • Malta 1942-43
  • Enquiry Questions
  • Teaching Activities

Arctic Convoys

  • The British Merchant Navy in Arctic Convoys 1941-1945
  • Arctic Convoys and Relations with the Soviets
  • Relations between Merchant Seamen and the Royal Navy
  • Contribution of Arctic convoys to Allied victory
  • Enquiry Questions

UK Coastal Convoys

  • UK Coastal Convoys
  • Lessons from the First World War.
  • The aftermath
  • Enquiry Questions

Black, Asian and Arab Seamen

  • Black, Asian and Arab seamen
  • Chinese merchant seamen
  • Lascars and Indian merchant seamen
  • Enquiry Questions