During the 100 years between 1910 and 2010 it can be assumed from records that of the order of 47,000 British Merchant Navy personnel gave their lives in conflict. Scottish seafarers made up a significant proportion of all British registered ships' crews and therefore the loss of Scottish lives is of considerable relevance. The actual recorded losses in two World Wars is 6360, almost 14% of all those who died at sea, however, it is recognised that there were many more lives lost which may not be recorded.
On 3rd September 1939 S.S. "Athenia" of the Donaldson Line, Glasgow, was sunk by U boat U30 and was the first casualty on the first day of World War 2.
3rd September has now been recognised since 2000, as "Merchant Navy Day" and the Red Ensign can be flown from all public buildings.
So far it has not proved possible to identify the large number of Scottish fishermen who have died at sea, including those lost whilst on service in time of war, both at sea as fishermen and also attached to the Royal Navy on other duties.
A plaque will be displayed on the Memorial Chapel at the Scottish Fisheries Museum, Anstruther, Fife. This will refer to the Memorial at Leith.
Although it is just one illustration of the whole epic story of wartime losses of which there are innumerable examples, perhaps the attached signals from Captain D.K.C. Macgregor during Operation Torch in November 1942 and the subsequent report of the sinking of "Benalbanach" two months later, are testament to typical heroic wartime actions and losses by the Merchant Navy.
Exploded and sank on 7th January 1943 after being hit by an aerial torpedo 150 miles north east of Algiers, whilst on passage from Greenock to North Africa with military supplies including ammunition, petrol and troops. Survivors numbered 40 but a total of 410 lives of troops and crew were lost, including Captain Macgregor.
This one instance is not to demean the huge losses and immense bravery of all at sea during the Battle of the Atlantic and in all other conflicts.
On D-Day, out of a total strength of 14,300 all ranks, some 12,700 were actually serving afloat. Maritime Gunners served in every theatre of war, from Arctic convoys to the supply of 14th Army in Burma. They had fought in every action involving merchant ships from Dunkirk to Normandy and they were continuously engaged in the longest battle of all - the Battle of the Atlantic. Over 1,300 Maritime Gunners gave their lives during World War 2.