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Flying the Red Ensign on Merchant Navy Day

31 August 2023

Merchant Navy Day 2023 will be the first commemorated under the anticipated new Master of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets – King Charles III – and guests have been invited from across the UK to remember hardworking seafarers at a commemorative service and reunion in London.

On Merchant Navy Day, 3 September 2023, Merchant Navy Association (MNA) president Vivien Foster and chair Captain Ian Hodge will welcome guests to a reception at Trinity House in London, before the annual Merchant Navy Day Commemorative Service and Reunion.

Guests invited from across the UK include many representatives of shipping-related industries and associations and Merchant Navy veterans.

For the first time, the Lord Mayor of London, Alderman Nicholas Lyons, will attend, as will the Member of Parliament for Tower Hamlets Apsana Begum. The focus in 2023 is on the 80th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic, commemorated in May in Liverpool. The President of the Coastal Command and Maritime Air Association Air Vice Marshal Andrew Roberts will also attend. Coastal Command provided the air cover for the many convoys that crossed the Atlantic during World War Two.

The hereditary title Master of the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets is assumed to pass to His Majesty King Charles III. The title has been hereditary since the former Queen, Elizabeth II's grandfather, King George V instituted it.

Trinity House weather vane

After the gathering of invited guests inside Trinity House there will be a parade starting about 12:30.

There will also be a march past of the Royal British Legion standards, and the Merchant Navy veterans will also parade past the guest of honour, deputy master of Trinity House Captain Ian McNaught, who will take the salute. He will be accompanied by Lord West of Spithead, a Falklands veteran.

The music will be provided by the massed bands of the Royal Navy, and a Guard of Honour will be provided by HMS President and overseen by parade president RFA Commodore David Eagles.

In excess of 50 wreaths will be laid by the veterans and guests, including Nautilus International, at the First World War memorial, the Falklands Memorial and in the Sunken Garden of the Second World War Memorial on London's Tower Hill. The standards and veterans will take their place in the Sunken Garden at Tower Hill and the invited guests will line the top area in front of the WWI memorial.

Nautilus assistant general secretary Olu Tunde lays a wreath during a previous Merchant Navy Day at the Merchant Navy Memorial in London's Tower Hill.

The service starts at around 13:00 and takes about 45 minutes. It follows the standard Remembrance Day format, with the Homage, Kohima Epitaph and the Last Post.

Members of the public are welcome to attend the service and watch the proceedings and it is hoped a large number of Merchant Navy veterans will also attend and renew acquaintances from past years.

There is also a post-service reception and this and the pre-service reception are by ticket only. Find out more on the MNA website, or the MNA Facebook page.

Fly the Red Ensign

Everyone is also welcome to get involved in the annual Fly The Red Ensign campaign by raising a red Merchant Navy flag on Merchant Navy Day, 3 September.

The Red Ensign raising ceremony at Nautilus Mariners' Park 2022.

The Seafarers' Charity organises the annual Fly The Red Ensign campaign to honour and remember the sacrifices of Merchant Navy seafarers.

The campaign was started in 2015 to address 'sea blindness' that appeared to afflict a huge proportion of the population, with widespread public ignorance about the UK's ongoing dependence on merchant seafarers who are responsible for more than 90% of the UK's imports. The Union's own Maritime Barometer survey has also confirmed the need for more awareness of seafarers and maritime careers, so encouraging your local councils and organisations to raise the flag is a great way to counter sea blindness.

Nautilus Welfare Fund traditionally holds a flag raising service and ceremony at Nautilus Mariners' Park in Wallasey, and the Union will also be represented by officials at various wreath laying ceremonies on Merchant Navy Day in London and other parts of the UK.

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How to get involved

Whether you are organising a Red Duster flag-hoisting ceremony at your workplace or proudly displaying a flag at your window at home or a sticker in your car, we'd love to hear about it!

Encourage your councils

If you are organising a flag-hoisting ceremony, you could consider involving local dignitaries, Merchant Navy veterans, Sea Cadets, etc. This does not have to be on Merchant Navy Day – you may prefer to schedule your event during the week or the weekend of 2-3 September. The Red Ensign may be freely flown ashore anywhere in the UK at any time of the year.

New Nautilus Council member Allan Dickson and member of a new branch of the Merchant Navy Association in Edinburgh, has for example, used Linkedin to ask people to let him know ways they have encouraged their local councils and other organisations to raise the Red Ensign.

'What do you see in your town on merchant navy day? Do public buildings fly the Red Ensign? Is there a service or ceremony? I'd love to know what goes on in other cities,' he said. 

To ensure Edinburgh has a flag to fly this year and in the future, the Edinburgh & Forth Branch of the MNA is presenting the Edinburgh City Council Chambers with a new Red Ensign on Saturday 2 September at a ceremony at the Chambers.

Take part on social media

You can also get involved by flying the Red Ensign digitally on your social media accounts using the hashtag #MerchantNavyDay.

Nautilus members can let the Union know about their activities by emailing us at by Monday 4 September and our team will be happy to share any images sent on our social media channels.

Make a donation

The Seafarers' Charity also encourages a donation to the Merchant Navy Fund in support of active and retired UK Merchant Navy seafarers and their families.

Make a MND appeal donation Merchant Navy Day resources


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