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Don’t speak to me of heroes
Until you’ve heard the tale
Of Britain’s merchant seamen
Who sailed through storm and gale
To keep those lifelines open
In our nation’s hour of need
When a tyrant cast a shadow
Across our island breed.

Captains, greasers, cabin boys,
Mates and engineers
Heard the call to duty
And cast aside their fears.
They stoked those hungry boilers
And 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
And crossed the western ocean,
Never seeking thanks.
They sailed the South Atlantic
Where raiders lay in wait
And kept the flood lines open
From Malta to the Cape.

Tracked by silent u-boats
Which hunted from below,
Shelled by mighty cannons
And fighters flying low.
They clung to burning lifeboats
Where the sea had turned to flame
And watched their shipmates disappear
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
Or marching bands and victory
And glory and the rest.
The ocean is their resting place,
Their tombstone is the wind,
The seabirds cry their last goodbye
To family and friend.

Freighters, troopships,
Liners and tankers by the score,
Fishing boats and coasters,
Two thousand ships and more
Flew the proud red duster
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
From Britain’s merchant navy
Who died to keep us free.

( Written by David Partridge )

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Beautiful poem. Their legacy was indeed freedom. I’ve never heard it put better.

  2. So true and painful, not much thank you, lost memories refound, thanks for reminding us. RIP.

  3. Composed from the heart ! I’m sure those heros in spirit have read this poignant poem.

  4. Absolutely inspiring and soul tugging. Truth of many that stood tall and proud for their country. In death they gave their life so that others may live and be free. We must never forget but continue to pay homage to those that cared. True heros from many walks of life. Raise the flag in honor.

  5. This is a very moving tribute to the tens of thousands of men, British and American, who were not only ignored at the time but who are largely forgotten by the societies they suffered and died for.
    The British would have starved without the transatlantic convoys bringing food from America – and military hardware for the war effort.
    Thank you, David Partridge. An excellent poem.

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