RMS St Helena as a floating Merchant Navy museum

Discussion in 'WW2 Museums. Events, & places to see.' started by Roy Martin, Jul 7, 2016.

  1. Roy Martin

    Roy Martin Senior Member

    The retirement of the RMS St Helena; an opportunity for a Merchant Navy museum?

    After twenty six years servicing the Island of St Helena the ship that bears the Island’s name is to be put up for sale. RMS St Helena must be one of the last British built and owned vessels of her type and one of only a few ocean-going ships that still fly the Red Ensign of the British Merchant Navy.

    At the time of the Second World War the merchant fleet was the largest in the world and it played a vital part in ensuring Britain’s survival. At the lowest point merchant ships still brought in more than a third of Britain’s food requirements all of its fuel oil and the majority of its raw materials and war materiel. In addition it transported millions of troops. In doing so the service sustained enormous losses: 4,786 of its ships were sunk and more than 32,000 seamen perished. While the losses seem small compared to the Battle of the Somme its strength was no more than 180,000 and the proportion of losses were greater than those of the ‘fighting services’.

    The fleet played a significant part in all the evacuations and landings that took place during the war. In the three weeks after Dunkirk they, with other Allied merchant ships, rescued about 180,000 service personnel, three quarters of whom were British. A considerable number of civilians were also saved. The MN supplied almost a thousand ships for the Normandy Landings, ranging from half of all the Infantry Landing Ships on the first day, to little coasters who beached themselves to discharge their vital cargoes in the weeks that followed. Among many other operations where they played a significant part were the evacuation of Singapore and the relief of Malta.

    There is no museum dedicated the service and most of what they achieved has been forgotten. Few veterans remain and no British ocean-going cargo ships from that period exist. Other nations still keep units of their wartime fleets. RMS St Helena would be most suitable for conversion to a sea-going museum ship; which could call at ports around Britain, spending, say, six weeks in each port. In this way the ports would be visited at two year intervals giving schools, youth groups and others opportunities to visit.
    Hugh MacLean likes this.
  2. Hugh MacLean

    Hugh MacLean Senior Member

    Hello Roy,

    Despite what Churchill said about the Merchant Service during WW2 it was a quickly forgotten service after the peace was won.
    I think it would be difficult finding anybody with the interest or the deep pockets required for such a venture.

    Sadly, it is as difficult as it ever was to educate the public about the sacrifices of those men and women. Ask them and they will say what's the Merchant Navy? What did they do?

    I for one would love to see something like that rather than have her scrapped for razor blades but I would not be optimistic.

  3. Roy Martin

    Roy Martin Senior Member

    I agree with your thoughts Hugh, but I will keep on swimming against the tide - for one last time! There are several wealthy shipping families who could, or should, contribute and the Heritage Lottery has funded some of what I would regard as less deserving causes.
    Hugh MacLean likes this.

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