By Derek Schlennstedt
The red ensign has been raised in Upwey to honour seafarers from world wars and modern mariners who brave the waves.
As a means of commemorating the week of Merchant Navy Day, the flag of the Australian Merchant Navy was flown at the Upwey roundabout.
Upwey-Belgrave RSL held a special service on 3 September to commemorate the 80th anniversary of World War II as well as marking Merchant Navy Day and paying tribute to the significant contribution of the Merchant Navy.
Merchant Navy Day coincided with the outbreak of the WWII and the Upwey-Belgrave RSL unveiled a new plaque at the cenotaph that commemorates the Merchant Navy and their involvement in WW2.
One in eight Australian merchant seafarers sacrificed their lives during WW2 — a casualty rate that was higher than those suffered by any of the armed forces — in an effort to maintain supplies of goods and materials vital for the war effort.
Upwey-Belgrave RSL Vice President Anthony Stewart told the Mail it was important that Merchant Navy veterans got the recognition they deserve.
“The plaque was a merchant navy plaque and it’s been placed on our cenotaph to show respect to the merchant navy,” Mr Stewart said.
“We have quite a few members here who served in the merchant navy, so it’s important that they felt more like they belonged with us.”
Mr Stewart said that despite being in the theatre of WW2 many Merchant Navy serviceman were not welcome to join RSL’s on their return and they went without acknowledgement for many years.
“A lot of them weren’t welcome back, similar to Vietnam veterans.”
“They transported a lot of equipment and soldiers too, but they never got the respect that they deserved.”
“These people who went to sea during this enormously difficult time volunteered. It’s important that we commemorate them and their sacrifice.”