On Wednesday 3 September we remembered the bravery and sacrifices of the civilian seamen known as the Merchant Navy. They were not a military force; they were the men who sailed the civilian ships requisitioned by the New Zealand and British Governments for war service. Thousands of New Zealanders served with the Merchant Navy during World War Two, working on the vessels that carried troops, military equipment, fuel, food and raw materials to Britain, America and the battlefields of Europe.
The work of the Merchant Navy during wartime was vital for the continuation of the Allied war effort. Britain relied heavily on the supplies shipped through treacherous waters; the sailors were in constant danger of attack by enemy vessels. During World War Two more than 130 New Zealand Merchant Navy sailors and officers died and around 140 were taken as prisoners of war. There is no other group of New Zealand civilians who faced such danger during wartime.
To commemorate the bravery and sacrifice of the Merchant Navy, we would like to share some of the treasures from the Museum's reserve collection.