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We need to fly the flag for Merchant Navy

Friday, September 3 was Merchant Navy Day - yet many public buildings did not fly the Red Ensign. Why?

Our island nation seems to have forgotten about the Merchant Navy and its important part in bringing food to our table and essential goods to our homes.

Ships carry some 92% of our international trade and 24% of internal trade goes by coastal shipping, thus relieving our busy, crowded roads and railways of freight.

The UK population has become sea-blind. Early signs are that the Defence Review will give us a still-smaller Royal Navy, with fewer ships. This, of course, will mean that the Navy's important everyday task, in both peacetime and war, of policing the sea lanes, our nation's lifelines, will be harder to do.

Admiral Lord Nelson wrote in 1804: "I consider the protection of our trade the most essential service that can be performed."

We forget those wise words at our peril, for maritime piracy is a reality and not just the stuff of Hollywood.

The lack of interest in flying the Red Ensign is a signal. It should be a wake-up call.

LESTER MAY (Lt-Commander RN)

London

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