September 3rd each year is Merchant Navy Day.
On September 3rd, 1939, the transatlantic passenger liner, Athenia, was torpedoed and sank just hours after World War II was declared.
So September 3rd is the day chosen to honour all those seafarers who sailed, and died, in commercial vessels in times of war.
In the extremes of temperatures, they laboured. In terrible sea conditions, they laboured. Under the fearful gaze of the enemy, they laboured.
They laboured so we could receive those vital goods, foodstuffs and medicines that were so desperately needed in a time of war.
And some of them never came home.
According to the Australian Government Department of Veteran’s Affairs, over 3,000 Allied merchant ships were sunk and 30,000 Allied sailors and merchant mariners died at sea in the Battle of the Atlantic alone. The Australian War Memorial estimates that over 800 Australian merchant mariners died in World War I and II.
We, today, owe so much to those men who went down to the sea in ships and did business on great waters.
So, on September 3rd, we remember them, we thank them and we honour their memory and their sacrifice.