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Nautilus at BoA80 commemorations

31 May 2023

Nautilus members and staff were proud to represent the Union as the UK expressed its gratitude to veterans of the Second World War, writes Deborah McPherson.

Nautilus members did the Merchant Navy proud by organising, hosting and attending events commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic (BoA) held from Friday 26 to Sunday 28 May 2023.

The bravery and resilience of Merchant Navy crew during the most decisive and longest-fought battle of the Second World War was commemorated in twinned events in Liverpool and Hull from Friday 26 to Sunday 28 May 2023.

Nautilus member Keith Thompson, a Merchant Navy Medal recipient and Falklands Merchant Navy veteran, helped organise the combined Hull Drumhead service for the Battle of the Atlantic and the Atlantic Conveyor from the Falklands conflict, held at the same time as a drumhead service on Mann Island, Pier Head in Liverpool on Sunday 28 May. 

Mr Thomson said afterwards: 'It was an honour to do this service twinned with Liverpool, which linked both great maritime cities and remembers the sacrifice of the those who served at the Battle of the Atlantic and for those who served on the Atlantic Conveyor During the Falklands conflict 1982.'

Nautilus staff members also represented the Union or attended key events for the Merchant Navy, including Nautilus Welfare Fund head of welfare and care Andrew Jones, executive officer Martyn Gray and strategic organiser Rachel Lynch.
Residents and staff from Nautilus Mariners' Park did their bit too, including Mike Feltham and activities coordinator Roger Cliffe-Thompson. The events spanned the unveiling of the long-awaited national Atlantic Memorial and Garden of Reflection, the March for the Medals, Drumhead ceremonies and a commemorative dinner.

Nautilus executive officer Martyn Gray attended the commemorative BoA80 dinner on Friday 26 May. Also, that day Nautilus Welfare Fund's director of welfare and care Andrew Jones represented the Union at a royal unveiling of a new national memorial and Garden of Reflection for the Battle of the Atlantic at Our Lady and St Nicholas’s Church (St Nick’s) in Pier Head.

Princess Anne in the Garden of Reflection. Image: Nautilus International

Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, who is patron of the Battle of the Atlantic Memorial charity formally unveiled the memorial after meeting a selection of BoA veterans in the Church's Maritime Chapel, along with senior Merchant Navy and Royal Navy representatives. After the unveiling, the Bishop of Liverpool gave a blessing and the service concluded with a much anticipated spectacular flypast by historic aircraft, including Swordfish, Poseidon, and the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

The memorial is one of two new memorials which was unveiled during the weekend to those who were lost in the BoA: as well as the Pier Head BoA memorial, a light installation called Atlantic Lights was launched on the shores of the River Mersey at Woodside.

Mr Jones and Mr Gray also visited a military village set up for the commemorations on the Mersey waterfront on Saturday 27 May, and in the evening, they attended His Majesty's Royal Marines Band at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall.

L-R: Retired master Captain Michael Feltham, Nautilus Welfare Fund's director of welfare and care Andrew Jones, and Nautilus Mariners' Park activities organiser Roger Cliffe-Thompson at His Majesty's Royal Marines Band concert held for BoA80 at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall. Image: Nautilus International

Over the holiday weekend the city of Liverpool hosted a series of other family friendly BoA-themed events. In Hull, the commemorations were also marked with the combined Drumhead service organised by Mr Thompson. Mr Jones also represented Nautilus at the Pier Head service and a March for the Medals afterwards. BoA veterans then took the salute from a dais on Princes Parade in Liverpool during a flypast.

The Union's women's lead Rachel Lynch attended a talk hosted by long-time Nautilus member, David McNamee, who is also skipper of restored former art deco steamship SS Daniel Adamson. The vessel had a role at the Manchester Ship Canal during the Battle of the Atlantic of towing into port the vessels that had safely crossed the Atlantic destined for Manchester. Mr McNamee's talk was held onboard the vessel at Canning Dock in Liverpool at 14:30 Saturday 27 May.  Nautilus Mariners' Park members were also invited onboard the vessel for a different talk by historian David Hearn about the role of the MN during the BoA at 14:30 on Friday 26 May.

Daniel Adamson 1.jpg
Nautilus member, Captain David McNamee and skipper of the restored SS Daniel Adamson, hosts a talk about the vessel's role in the Battle of the Atlantic. Image: Nautilus International

A week later Ms Lynch and Nautilus head of organising Garry Elliott planned to visit members on Cunard Line vessel Queen Victoria which joined further BoA commemorations during a day call at Liverpool's Cruise Terminal. A public Cunard Service of Commemoration and Thanksgiving was held at St Nicks at Saturday 3 June 2023.  During the service, a tribute was placed at Cunard's company memorial inside the church to honour the sacrifices of hundreds of officers and crew onboard dozens of Cunard ships who joined perilous transatlantic convoys during the Battle of the Atlantic.

Battle of the Atlantic veterans who responded to a call in 2022 to come forward for interviews have had their experiences of the war recorded in podcasts which will be uploaded on the Company of Makers website during the event.

Commemorations concluded in Liverpool on Sunday 28 May, with attending merchant and naval vessels leading a convoy down the river Mersey, while a beat retreat is performed at Pier Head.

Cunard Line flagship RMS Queen Mary 2 also marked the Battle of the Atlantic 80th anniversary with a commemoration service onboard mid-Atlantic enroute from New York to Southampton on Monday 29 May, a date that coincided with the US Memorial Day.

Guests on the aft deck watch the service. Image Cunard Line

Guests and members of the ship's company gathered on the aft decks to attend a service conducted by Captain Aseem Hashmi,MNM, and a minutes silence was then observed with the Red Ensign at half mast followed by the singing of the US and British national anthems. 


Captain Aseem Hashmi with two US WWII veterans Steven Melnikoff (103) and Donald Cobb (98). Image: Cunard Line

Six US WW2 veterans aged between 98-103 were also onboard, many of whom sailed on the original Queen Mary as part of the D-day landing force during the Battle of the Atlantic.

Two veterans Steven Melnikoff (103) and Donald Cobb (98) committed a wreath to the ocean in memory of all sailors lost in the Battle of the Atlantic.

Captain Hashmi also recited the names of the 7 Cunard ships lost in the Battle of the Atlantic.

The veterans were on the cruise as part of The Greatest Generations Foundation which supports combat veterans to emotional closure by sponsoring their return to former battlegrounds, cemeteries, and memorials where they served.