Battles and diplomacy naturally tend to dominate the narrative of the First World War, but little of either would have been sustained for long without the logistical efforts of the Merchant Navy. For the British this contribution was critical – not just delivering the means to fight to the operational theatres, but underpinning the entire war effort with sustenance and raw materials.
The National Archives has singled out February as a month to reflect on shipwrecks and losses at sea, and this blog, drawing on two case studies, will specifically look at the cost paid by the merchant marine.
A tale of two Laconias
A few years ago I gave a talk on the strange tale of RMS Laconia, a Liner operated by Cunard White Star Line. Laconia was launched in 1921 and had a relatively uneventful service until it was requisitioned in 1939 and converted into an Armed Merchant Cruiser by the Admiralty. It was used as a troop carrier and on one such voyage was used to carry Italian prisoners of war back to Britain. Continue reading »