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Official Presentation of the Memories of Wartime Merchant Navy Veterans to Manx National Heritage 22 June 2007

The Formal Presentation of the 'Cruel Sea' reminiscencesThe Reading Room at the Manx Museum was the venue on the 19th June for the formal presentation to Manx National Heritage of the recorded reminiscences of Merchant Navy veterans on the Isle of Man who served aboard British ships during the dark days of World War Two.

In front of a packed invited audience, Douglas Cannell, Harry Crawley, Geoffrey Harrison, Gerry Tierney and George Thompson formally presented a bound copy of their ‘Cruel Sea’ reminiscences to Martin Moore, Chairman of the Trustees of Manx National Heritage, who accepted it on behalf of Manx National Heritage for permanent preservation in the national collection for the benefit of present and future generations.

‘Cruel Sea’ began as a reminiscence project, recording the memories of wartime Merchant Navy veterans in the United Kingdom. The aim of the project was to document the wide-ranging experiences and recollections of local men who served in the British Merchant Navy during the Second War, for preservation in local and national maritime museums.

Pupils from St Ninians High School and Hector DuffThe Liverpool Culture Company, Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse, Age Exchange and Age Concern Liverpool then jointly launched a major reminiscence project in Liverpool to ensure that the experiences of surviving veterans from the city’s culturally diverse communities were recorded for posterity. In 2005, Merchant Navy veterans were interviewed from Liverpool’s Chinese, Somali, Caribbean, Malaysian, West African, Arab and Yemeni communities; which, together with locally born seamen involved over 700 participants.

During 2006, with the help of the Isle of Man Arts Council in collaboration with Manx National Heritage, the project was extended to the Isle of Man and the reminiscences of Manx veterans were recorded by Rebecca Ross and Jacqueline Skinner of the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse. It is these reminiscences which are now held by Manx National Heritage.

Commenting on the reminiscences Martin Moore, Chairman of the Trustees of Manx National Heritage, said:

“It gave me enormous pleasure to receive these reminiscences; they are tremendously important because they record the experiences of local Merchant Navy seamen who displayed great courage when facing terrible conditions at sea during wartime enemy actions as the Merchant fleet doggedly shipped vitally important supplies of food and materials which enabled Britain to endure, at a time when defeat and not victory seemed almost inevitable. There can be no doubt that Merchant ships and seamen kept the country alive at an appalling cost in ships sunk and lives lost. This was an astonishing feat which should never be forgotten”

The Cruel Sea document may be consulted on request from the National Heritage Library at the Manx Museum, between 10.00am and 5.00pm, Monday to Saturday.

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