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Previous Ministers' releases and speeches - Senator The Hon. Michael Ronaldson

Senator the Hon. Michael Ronaldson
Minister for Veterans' Affairs
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC
Special Minister of State

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Wednesday, 3 September 2014
VA066

REMEMBERING OUR MERCHANT MARINERS

Today, on Merchant Navy Day, we remember the largely unsung heroes of war, the Australian Defence Force personnel and civilian seamen who served in Merchant Navies across the world.

Their service during the Second World War is especially significant today as we also mark the 75th anniversary of the start of Australia’s involvement in the war.

On 3 September 1939, following Great Britain’s declaration of war on Germany, then Prime Minister Robert Menzies was heard on every national and commercial radio station across Australia declaring that we too were at war.

The Merchant Navy was made up of commercial vessels, assembled as part of the war effort to act as hospital ships, carry supplies and patrol our waters. Their job was perilous, often carrying valuable cargo and ferrying troops to and from warzones around the world. They were under constant threat from enemy fire from ships, submarines, aircraft and mines.

More than 400 Australian merchant mariners are known to have lost their lives in the line of duty, some aboard the hospital ship Centaur. Of the 332 people on board the ship, there were only 64 survivors who clung to debris for about 35 hours before being rescued.

Today we remember those who served our country as part of the Merchant Navy, their sacrifices will never be forgotten.

During the Centenary of Anzac, we mark a century of service and sacrifice, encompassing all wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations in which Australians have been involved.  The Centenary will be the most significant period of commemoration in our nation’s history and the Government is committed to providing opportunities for all Australians to participate.

For more information please visit www.ww2australia.gov.au/waratsea or www.dva.gov.au.

Media inquiries: 
Ronaldson: Brad Rowswell 6277 7820 or 0417 917 796
Department of Veterans’ Affairs Media: 02 6289 6203

Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Service (VVCS) and Veterans Line can be reached 24 hours a day across Australia for crisis support and free and confidential counselling. Phone 1800 011 046

PDF version (46 KB) | Back to Media Releases & Speeches entry page