Don't talk to me of heroes...
The starting point for our project was to meet with the men of the Merchant Navy Association (Bristol & District) who shared their stories with us and also the poems of Bristol Merchant Seamen - below is one of our favourites.
Don't talk to me of heroes until you've heard the tale, Of all those Merchant seamen who sailed through storm and gale To keep the lifelines open in freedoms hour of need. When a tyrant cast a shadow over every nation's creed.
Captains, greasers, mess boys, mates and engineers, Heard the call of duty and cast aside their fears, They stoked those hungry boilers or stood behind the wheel, While cooks and stewards manned the guns on coffins made of steel.
They moved in icy convoys from Scapa to Murmansk, They crossed the widest oceans, never seeking thanks, They sailed the South Atlantic where raiders lay in wait, And kept the food lines open to Malta and the Cape.
Tracked by silent U boats that hunted from below, Shelled by mighty cannon and bombers flying low, They clung to burning lifeboats when sea had turned to flame, And watched their own shipmates sink to everlasting fame,
I speak not of a handful but thirty thousand plus, Some whose names we'll never know, in whom we placed our trust,
They never knew the honour of medals on their chests, Of marching bands and Victory or 'glory' and the rest. The Ocean is their resting place; their tombstone is the wind, The seabirds cry their last goodbye to family and to friends.
Freighters, troopships, liners, tankers by the score, Fishing boats and coasters four thousand ships and more, Flew their county's ensign 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, And thank those Merchant seamen, who died to keep you free.
Dave Partridge, 2002 Perth, Western Australia The Merchant Navy Association (Bristol & District)