The unveiling of a memorial stone and the raising of the Red Ensign took place in Halton to remember the men and women of the Merchant Navy.

The Red Ensign, the official flag of the UK’s Merchant Navy, is being flown at Runcorn Town Hall to mark Merchant Navy Day, September 3.

Halton’s Mayor, Cllr Margaret Horabin, attended a ceremony at Runcorn Cemetery when she read a citation in honour of Merchant Navy personnel and their families.

“The Merchant Navy played a significant and often critical role throughout the First World War, much the same as it would two decades later. In both World Wars Merchant Navy seafarers and fisherman fought the enemy, the weather and the seas to keep the nation and the armed services supplied and able to defend themselves. Their way of life and conditions of service were austere with seafarers often not returning home for over two years, some having been sunk, survived and transferred to other ships to maintain those lines of support.

“The Red Ensign Flag, or Red Duster as it is affectionately known, has been the recognised flag of the Merchant Navy since 1854. September 3rd is now enshrined as Merchant Navy Day to honour the brave men and women that kept our island nation afloat during two world wars.  

“On this Merchant Navy Day, the Council and the residents of Halton support this campaign by Seafarers UK to remember the sacrifices, salute the courage and support the future of the often unsung personnel of our Merchant Navy. Too often they are the forgotten or invisible service. By raising the Red Ensign we will ensure that at least on this day they are remembered and it will mean so much to their families and to the retired, but most especially to those at sea.”

The Mayor was presented with a memorial stone by Runcorn fundraiser, Tony Miller, Secretary and Founder of the Tom Wilkinson VC Statue Appeal. The stone was unveiled by Geoff Miller, Chair of the Royal Naval Association, Runcorn Branch, accompanied by other members of the Branch.

Mr Miller thanked Northwich Fireplace Centre who donated the stone, in particular Jack Hartley, whose son Gareth owns the company. Jack restored Tom Wilkinson’s grave and arranged for the company to provide the stone.

At a later date, the stone will be placed in a new dedicated seafarers and mariners section being created in Runcorn Cemetery by Halton Borough Council.

Photo: Jonathan Whiteside (Northwich Fireplace Centre), Sarah Philbin (Halton Borough Council), Tony Miller, Cllr Margaret Horabin, Jack Hartley, Geoff Miller, Jimmy Bush, John Pickering and Keith Gilbert.