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Ensign Of Gratitude To Merchant Navy

3rd September 2016

Ensign Of Gratitude To Merchant Navy
A former Merchant Navy sailor, who was aboard one of the first ships to enter Nagasaki in Japan after it was destroyed by an Atomic Bomb during World War II, will raise the Red Ensign flag above County Hall to mark Merchant Navy Day.

Merchant Navy Day is an annual, national event which recognises and remembers the sacrifices and courage of the Merchant Navy, the role they played in keeping Britain's supply lines moving during conflicts and, in peace time, battling the regular perils of the sea.

This year, Merchant Navy Day falls on Saturday 3 September but Nottinghamshire County Council and Rushcliffe Borough Council will be hosting a joint event to commemorate the day on Monday 5 at County Hall, starting at 12 noon.

Bill McConville, aged 80 from Kirkby-in-Ashfield is being given the honour of raising the Red Ensign.

The son of a Royal Navy Sub-Mariner, Bill joined the Merchant Navy in the 1950s as a 17 year-old and served as a cook on passenger, troop and cargo ships around the world for 13 years.

Troop missions included moving approximately 1,500 Australian troops to Malaysia and returning members of the Foreign Legion from Saigon back home to France.

He was aboard one of the first ships to arrive in Nagasaki, Japan in the 1950s to deliver supplies to help in the rebuilding of the area after it was reduced to rubble by an Atomic bomb, dropped by the US Airforce in 1945.

After leaving the Merchant Navy, Bill retained his affinity with the sea, going on to work for the National Coast watch.

Mr McConville remembers his time in the Merchant Navy with great affection and is an active member of the Mansfield and Ashfield Branch of the Merchant Navy Association.

He said: “As a 17 year-old going out to sea for the first time, I remember suffering from illness and sea sickness terribly for the first few days, but once I’d found my sea legs I really enjoyed my time in the Merchant Navy. I have some great memories.

“The opportunities for young people to have a career in the Merchant Navy are more limited these days, but we always try to encourage and help them find opportunities when we can through the work of the association.”

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