Those who served in the “Fourth Service” during both world wars felt Merchant Seafarers had been largely unacknowledged and certainly undervalued for far too many years, especially the Arctic Merchant Navy Veterans. The Merchant Navy Association (MNA) was “launched” in 1989 and established a unique opportunity for seafarers to get together to form a countrywide consensus on a range of issues and ideas.Much has been achieved during the intervening years including:•The establishment of MNA Branches in Great Britain and Overseas (currently 39 are listed on the MNA website) •The National Merchant Navy days•The Merchant Navy officially marching with the RBL to the London Cenotaph•The definition of an MN Veteran•Acceptance that MN Veterans were under command of the Admiralty during WW1 and WW2 convoys•The acceptance of MN vessels under the Military Remains Act 1986•The MN Seafarers Veterans badge•The Arctic Emblem•The Arctic Star•The erection of memorials to MN Veterans all over the UK and overseas.
The Merchant Seafarers' bravery and sacrifice in assisting HM Armed Forces in military operations has been formally commemorated with the launch of a UK Merchant Seafarers Veteran’s Badge.The badge is available to all Merchant Navy seafarers and fishermen who served in a vessel at a time when it was operated to facilitate military operations by UK Armed Forces.
In 2006 the UK Government agreed to produce an Arctic Emblem in the form of a white enamel star to represent the Polar Star and the ice. It has a red centre symbolising Russia and recognises the Arctic Campaign and those serving in that area of operations. It also has the word ARCTIC in small gold letters in a semi-circle around the red centre to symbolise that the convoys and others served in the northern region of the world. The Arctic Emblem’s design is for use as a lapel badge but the MNA have been advised that the MoD will not prohibit Veterans wearing the emblem on the 1939-45 Star or the Atlantic Star. The Arctic Emblem was designed as a pin and of suitable size for the purpose of wearing on a medal ribbon.
The Arctic Star is granted for operational service of any length north of the Arctic Circle (66 degrees, 32’N) from the 3rd September, 1939, to the 8th May, 1945, inclusive. The Arctic Star is intended to commemorate the Arctic Convoys and is designed primarily for the ships of the convoys to North Russia and their Escorts.
The original Medal was rhodium-plated cupro-nickel and rounded in shape. On its obverse side was a profile portrait of Admiral Lord Nelson inscribed with THE MERCHANT NAVY MEDAL around the top and 1805 TRAFALGAR 2005 around the bottom. The reverse face features the Merchant Navy logo and the inscription reads FOR MERITORIOUS SERVICE.The ribbon, bordered in gold, was vertical striped red, white and green to represent the traditional colours of the Merchant Navy (which depict the port, masthead and starboard navigation lights of a ship). The name of the recipient was inscribed along the outer edge. Miniatures were also available to recipients. Those medals awarded for courage afloat had, in addition, a small silver anchor attached to the ribbon. This medal was superseded by a State Award, the Merchant Navy Medal for Meritorious Service, in 2016.In 2015 Her Majesty The Queen graciously signed the Royal Warrant for the Merchant Navy Medal for Meritorious Service. The first of these prestigious State Awards were presented by HRH The Princess Royal at a ceremony in Trinity House on Tuesday 15th November 2016, superseding the previous Merchant Navy Medal, details of which can be found here.The names of the first recipients were announced on Merchant Navy Day, 2 September 2016, by Shipping Minister John Hayes who went on to say: "This new state award, with a place in the order of wear, is being awarded to those who are serving or have served in the Merchant Navy and fishing fleets of the UK, Isle of Man or Channel Islands for exemplary service and devotion to duty, rewarding those who have set an outstanding example to others. Coinciding with Merchant Navy Day, it provides an opportunity to remember the sacrifices of our brave seafarers of the past and to show our appreciation for British shipping today and in the future."