A Red Ensign will be flown over Medway Council’s Gun Wharf building in May to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic. The Battle is known as the “longest, largest, and most complex” in naval history and continued throughout the Second World War. During this time, pitched battles were carried out on the high seas to win control of the Atlantic and maintain vital supply routes between Britain and America. Huge convoys of Merchant Naval vessels sailed under the protection of British and Allied navy and air forces while under attack from German U-boats and other parts of the Nazi military machine.

These intrepid journeys provided Britain with the vital raw materials it needed in order to stay in the war and not surrender to the Axis powers. But they were obviously fraught with danger and between 1939 and 1945 more than 30,000 merchant seamen were killed. In order to commemorate the bravery of these souls in this anniversary year, Medway Council will now proudly raise the ensign in their honour between 8 and 11 May in Chatham.This year, 2013, is seen as the 70th anniversary year as the battle of the Atlantic was at its most fierce between mid-1940 and the end of 1943.

Chatham has played an important part in naval history since the 16th century and the Medway branch of the Merchant Navy Association asked the council to fly the ensign flag for this reason. Throughout May a series of major ceremonies will be held to mark the 70th anniversary in London, Liverpool and Londonderry – the three main ports from which the Royal and Merchant Navies sailed on the convoys. Cllr Rodney Chambers, the Leader of Medway Council, said: “With such a strong naval history here in Medway, particularly in Chatham, it will be a great honour for Medway Council to fly the Red Ensign to remember those who did so much for our country.” Ralph Collins, Chairman of the Merchant Navy Association Medway Branch, said: “We have a 30 strong Navy Association in Chatham and we want to commemorate those who died and make sure they are remembered on this important 70th anniversary. “If it hadn’t been for them, the world would be very different today.”