Remembrance Day: 100 years of pride, sorrow, gratitude, and questions

Today we remember our veterans, and we include our merchant navy veterans who have often been and continue to be forgotten and excluded, although their valour, sacrifice, and contribution isn’t less.

Every year we stand in silence, wear a poppy, hear the bugal and pipes, say “thank you for your service.” We recite In Flanders Fields, and put a wreath at the foot of a cenotaph or in a cemetery. We watch our leaders visit villages in Europe on TV. And everyone says, “we will remember them.” But they don’t remember merchant mariners.

Why is that? I think its the numbers. In WWI, the newspapers had what they called anxiety reports: they would say, such-and-such a ship is overdue and there’s no word. They rarely reported losses. They were censored from reporting losses in the merchant fleet because it was seen as demoralizing propaganda. We are overwhelmed by the sadness and the waste when we think about the military losses and our capacity for sorrow is saturated. We can’t bear to look at the Merchant Navy losses: we couldn’t bear it then and now, after all the years of not looking we can’t bear it now because of our shame in not honouring them sooner. John said in his podcast that he thinks that Merchant mariners don’t want to be recognized as veterans. I think that’s only part of it. The little school here in the outport where we stay at night had a Remembrance Day assembly and the Royal Canadian Legion sent veterans in uniform over to talk, carry flags, answer questions, and accept the thanks from the kids and the community. Our crew attended. I wore my uniform… but I almost didn’t. I was afraid that people wouldn’t understand, that they’d accuse me of stolen valour or something. No one did. Our intention was to honour merchant veterans, but there weren’t any there. My crewmates have fathers and uncles and grandfathers who were merchant mariners lost during the wars, nearly everyone in this part of the world does… but its a sort of private family grief, its not a public mourning like for the military members.

From Canadian Veterans Affairs website

It more complicated now that it used to be. I have never been in combat. I’ve sailed in three different active war zones. But it wasn’t in support of a war effort, not directly. It wasn’t on a ship flagged by a combatant country, if we were ever targets we didn’t know. It wasn’t to do with belief in freedom or patriotism or peacekeeping. When the Yemen-base terrorists hit a tanker with an RPG, do we call those crew members veterans? When a Greek fishing boat picks up refugees fleeing from war, not knowing who they are and what their intentions may be, are they veterans?


the great irony to the end of having great world wars is that while nations no longer must suffer the losses of so many good men nor the privations of shortages, nations no longer have the impetus to rise to great heights of industrial effort nor the coming together as one people against a common enemy bend to destroy them. everyone here must know by now my great awe at how the USA was able to rise to the challenge of WWII but I am equally in awe of how the USSR and Britain also met the threat of Germany in those years.

I have often thought what if the earth were to become threatened by some outside civilization? how would mankind react? could the people of the planet put aside their differences in the same way that say Britain, the USSR or the USA did in WWII? Luckily that is far too remote a possibility to worry over where we sit today but someday I could occur? I’d say a more likely scenario is a sudden global pandemic or maybe a meteor aiming directly for the planet. Those potential global disasters are both very real possibilities we could face in our lifetimes but what could people do to try to avert them? Not the same as a war scenario to face?

the one that we are facing is of course the future effects on humanity caused by a warming planet but that one is happening in such slow motion that it is rather the frog in the pot of water getting steadily closer to boiling. the threat is just not there today but in the future it will grow more towards so much of the population of the planet living close to sealevel or in regions presently arable which will become less so as the earth warms up. here, I do not see humanity coming together to fight this because it means the rich nations would need to give up using cheap energy to protect the planet and we know that won’t happen nor can anyone say with certainty that even if ending of the use of fossil fuels would actually be effective to stop the rise in temperatures? I am of the opinion that the genie is out of the bottle on climate change and mankind can’t stop it from getting worse so better to try to allay the symptoms rather than to cure the disease.

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I agree with most of what you say, but not on the warming of the planet. It is not something to worry about in the future, it is happening now and it is man made, not just a cyclical phenomena. Just look at what is happening in California right now and the strengthening of the tropical cyclones (by whatever name).

It is most noticeable in the Arctic, with the temperature increasing much faster than in temperate and sub-tropical zones. Longyearbyen, at 78 degr. N., has hardly had freezing temperatures yet this year. Yesterday they enjoyed a balmy +7C. But it is forecast to be -10C in a couple of days, which is still warm for the season.

Places like New Orleans, Houston etc. can probably afford to build protective dikes against rising sea levels, but Bangladesh which consists mostly of a low lying delta does not have that luxury, nor does small island states.

BTW; Rich Singapore built their protection in 2007:

All present and future reclamation around the coast of Singapore also take a sea level rise of 1.2 m. into consideration.
That is ample in a place with no danger of high waves, storm surge of tsunami, but would be totally insufficient in many other places. Alaska already experience erosion because of rising sea level of a few cm.

Luckily a lot of Americans are not ignorant of this fact and do not get taken in by the propaganda put out by the deniers and from Washington.

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Hey Norway,

What ended the Ice Age???

Rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere, but slowly over millenia, not rapidly over a few centuries:

It’s the rate of change that they are worried about. The most rapid changes have occurred in the period since the start of the Industrial Age.

by the jesus. this is not the place for this.

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So, getting back on topic, what many people do not realise I don’t think is that during the time when the U-Boat packs would follow a convoy and decimate it, the guys who ended up in the lifeboats would be picked up by the last ship in the line and, once back home, would, in the ordinary way of mariners, take whatever leave they were due and then join another ship, often to end up in the boats again, or to be lost, and perhaps their sacrifice has not been sufficiently recorded or acknowledged. For those interested in what could happen to a merchant ship, its crew and passengers I attach a link to an article I wrote about the City of Cairo which, unusually, has its own website, and was in the news in 2015 when treasure hunters found the wreck.(


For British mariners the day the ship went down their pay stopped. A clerk from one company went to the house of a widow in the UK to demand that she repay one days pay because the payroll people had made a mistake with the date the ship had been torpedoed.

True, but look who did the derailment. The usual suspect.

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Thanks for the link- I bookmarked it.

I was part of the crew of the research ship that found a U-boat off the coast of North Carolina in 2014.

The reader can do the googling to see which research ship and U-Boat.

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