Donít speak to me of heroes until youíve heard the tale
Of all those merchant
seamen who sailed through storm and gale
To keep the lifelines
open in freedomís hour of need
When a tyrant cast a
shadow over every nationís creed.
cabin boys, mates and engineers
Heard the call to duty
and cast aside their fears.
They stoked those hungry
boilers and stood behind the wheel
Whilst cooks and
stewards manned the guns on coffins made of steel.
They moved in icy convoys from Scapa to
And crossed the western
ocean, never seeking thanks.
They sailed the South
Atlantic where raiders lay in wait
And kept the food lines open to Malta and the Cape.
Tracked by silent
U-boats which hunted from below,
Shelled by mighty
cannons and fighters flying low,
They clung to burning
lifeboats where the sea had turned to flame
And watched their
shipmates disappear to everlasting fame.
I speak not of a handful
but thirty thousand plus,
Some whose names weíll
never know in whom we placed our trust.
They never knew the
honour of medals on their chests
Or marching bands and
victory and glory and the rest.
The ocean is their
resting place, their tombstone is the wind,
The seabirdsí cry their
last goodbye to family and friend.
liners, and tankers by the score,
Fishing boats and
coasters, two thousand ships and more
Flew their countryís
ensign as they sank beneath the waves
And took those countless
heroes to lonely ocean graves.
Their legacy is freedom
to those who hold it dear,
To walk with clear
horizons and never hide in fear.
So when you speak of
heroes, remember those at sea,
Defiant merchant seamen who died to
keep us free.
David Partridge October 2002