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Last Word: Lest we forget

UK Chamber publishes a history of its work in the First World War

TO commemorate its role in the terrible events of the 1914-1918 war, the UK Chamber of Shipping has been delving into its history.

The Chamber of Shipping and the First World War is a well-written account by the chamber’s Tim Reardon, launched at the organisation’s London office earlier this month. While there are a reasonable number of accounts of the U-boat war that nearly brought the country to its knees, the impact of the raiders and the important role of the merchant marine itself, there is a great deal of “background revealed” in this interesting small book.

When war broke out the chamber was almost a one-man band, but was forced to expand with the manifold demands put upon it as it sought to represent British owners. Relations with the government and the Board of Trade, the congestion in British ports, the shortage of seafarers and the freight rates at a time of huge shipping demand were important matters.

There is light shone on the debate about convoying to counter enemy attacks on shipping and the colossal effort to ship military stores to the various war fronts. There are also some fascinating insights into the vital role of the owner Sir Joseph Maclay, appointed by Prime Minster Lloyd George as the government’s Shipping Controller, regulating the entire fleet for the duration of hostilities.

The fate of captured masters who might have defended their ships, the requisitioning of ships and the emergence of the merchant service as the fourth arm of defence as the Merchant Navy are all covered in this very readable commemorative book, available from the UK Chamber of Shipping.

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