Merchant Seamen's liability to do National Service after the war

Discussion in 'War at Sea' started by Roy Martin, May 17, 2017.

  1. Roy Martin

    Roy Martin Senior Member Patron

    Some years ago several MN veterans told me that merchant seamen who had served for less that three (?) years in WW2 were required to do two years National Service after the war. Unfortunately most of these grand old chaps are no longer with us. My question is, am I right with the three years, or was it more or less?

    Part two: when I finished my first trip on a merchant ship my father put me up for membership of the British Legion. They declined me as a 'non-combatant'; did the same apply the merchant seamen who had served in WW2?

    Any help appreciated,

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  2. Hugh MacLean

    Hugh MacLean Senior Member

    I am not sure Roy, but I do know of two merchant seamen who I have corresponded with that did have to serve in the Army after the war - not sure of the duration though so will try and find out for you..
    Regarding the British Legion, again not sure but in recent times I have heard of MN veterans being snubbed by the organisation.

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  3. Roy Martin

    Roy Martin Senior Member Patron

    Thank you Hugh. I have remembered one friend down here who had to do a few months after the war to avoid National Service; I think he joined the MN in 1943. I will check with him tomorrow and post what I learn.
  4. Hugh MacLean

    Hugh MacLean Senior Member

    I put the question to a MN WW2 veteran and he came back with this
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  5. amberdog45

    amberdog45 Senior Member

    That's an interesting question you posted Guy. Hadn't even thought about my uncle had he survived the war being forced to do national service. Very thought provoking. Mind you I'd have preferred he had survived, done his service and we had had a chance to get to know him. Quite sad how little the Merchant Seamen were thought of at the time. Thanks for posting Guy and to Hugh for his input.
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  6. Roy Martin

    Roy Martin Senior Member Patron

    I have talked to my friend about having to National Service if he didn't complete a minimum time in the MN during the war. He is sure that the period was five years. He went to sea in 1941 and left some when after V J Day. He got himself a shore job, but later received a call from the 'Shipping Office' (the MMO?) to say that he needed another three months sea service if he was to avoid the call-up. It beggars belief doesn't it!
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  7. Tricky Dicky

    Tricky Dicky Well-Known Member

    Some further info here - Oral Answers to Questions — National Service (Merchant Navy): 9 Nov 1948: House of Commons debates - TheyWorkForYou

    MERCHANT SEAMEN (NATIONAL SERVICE) (Hansard, 21 June 1955)
    The call-up for National Service of young men between the ages of 18 and 26 is suspended so long as they are employed as merchant seamen. If they cease to be so employed for whatever reason, they are called up in the normal way.

    Some interesting chat on the subject here - National Service in Merchant Navy? Bernard Reed


    edited to add:

    National Service Act 1948 - Wikipedia
    The act also changed the trades considered essential services to the merchant navy, farming and coal mining (previously, essential services were coal mining, shipbuilding, engineering-related trades and—to a limited extent—medicine). Young men working in the essential services were exempted from National Service for a period of eight years. If they stopped working in these industries before this period of eight years ended (that is, before turning 25), they could be called up for National Service.
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  8. Harry Ree

    Harry Ree Very Senior Member

    Four of my engineering colleagues served in the Merchant Navy 65 years ago in lieu of N.S.As far as I know they were not subject to any commitment to N.S having served two years in the Merchant Navy.

    Such circumvention could be resented by former National Servicemen who had to endue two years of reduced earnings....but that is another story.
  9. Hugh MacLean

    Hugh MacLean Senior Member

    It does indeed Roy, especially after the attrition rate of merchant seamen during WW2.

  10. Roy Martin

    Roy Martin Senior Member Patron

    Thanks to all,

    The requirement to serve until the age of 26 was in force when I went to sea in 1953. In some quarters we were regarded as National Service dodgers; but I don't know why anyone would go to sea for nine to ten years, just to get out of two years square bashing.

    The situation at the end of the war seems to have been different.



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