Heroes - By David Partridge

The following poem was read at the Raising of the Red Ensign at the Mansion House, Cardiff, by Gilbert Lloyd, High Sheriff of South Glamorgan, on Saturday 1st September 2017. The members present were so impressed with it that we decided to include it on our website.

Don’t speak to me of heroes until you’ve heard the tale
of Britain’s merchant seamen who sailed through storm and gale
to keep those lifelines open in our hour of need
when a tyrant cast a shadow across our Island breed.

Captains, greasers, cabin boys, mates and engineers
heard the call to duty cast aside their fears

They stoked those hungry boilers and stood behind the wheel
while cooks and steward manned the guns on coffins made of steel
They moved in icy convoys from Scapa to Murmansk
and across the western ocean, never seeking thanks.

They sailed the South Atlantic where raiders lay in wait
and kept the food lines open from Malta to the Cape.

Tracked by silent U-boats which hunted from below
shelled by mighty canons and fighter’s flying low.
They clung to burning lifeboats when the sea had turned to flame
and watched their ship mates disappear to ever lasting fame.

I speak not of a handful but 30,000 plus, some whose names
we’ll never know in whom we placed our trust.

They never knew the honour of medals on their chests
or marching bands and victory and glory and the rest.

The ocean is their resting place, their tombstone is the wind
the seabird’s cry their last goodbye to family and friend.

Freighters, troopships, liners and tankers by the score.
Fishing boats and coasters, 2000 ships and more.

They flew the Red Duster as they sank beneath the waves
and took those countless heroes to lonely ocean graves.

Their legacy is freedom to those who hold it dear
to walk with clear horizons and never hide in fear.

So when you speak of heroes remember those at sea
from Britain’s Merchant Navy who died to keep us free.