On the Group’s blog much has been written about Goole’s Street Roll of Honours but as yet no explanation has been made for the formation of the memorial for the Mercantile Marine. The creation of the Mercantile Marine memorial is itself an interesting subject as it demonstrates the politics and society of the period. The first point of note is that the creation of a separate shrine for the Mercantile Marines marks a clear distinction between those serving in the Armed Services and those serving in a volunteer capacity. Secondly the creation of shrine demonstrates a clear hatred of the German nation in 1918, and that this ultimately led to the saga of “Made in Germany”.
The origins of the Mercantile Marine memorial lay in the creation of the Goole Street Shrines. In February 1917 it was decided by the Goole Church of England Men’s Society to create “Rolls of Honour” for the men and women of Goole serving in the Navy or Army. The criteria for those to be included upon the Rolls, and indeed their creation, created much debate within the town. The main point of argument was whether to include the Mercantile Marine, and also who had the idea first. Despite letters in favour of including the Men, and Women, of the Merchant Navy the Men’s Society preferred to include only those men and women serving in mine sweepers, transport (in uniform), army, navy and army nurses. It was suggested that a separate memorial be created for the Mercantile Marine. The debate was thrown open to the public with letters published in the Goole Times and Goole Journal.
The debate continued into March 1917 when the Reverend Curzon intervened to state that there was “no intention of denying the honour to any man – or woman – who in these days of self-sacrifice has responded to the call of honour” and that Goole should rightly be proud of the Merchant Seaman. The Reverend further demonstrated a common religious theme reported throughout the First World War of a religious revival by stating that the “desire to the remembered in the prayers of the town, is surely a striking instance of the recovery of prayer”. Reverend Curzon concluded that it must be considered how the Merchant Marine could be included. In contrast a further letter regretted the tone expressed and declared that Street ‘shrines’ were first suggested by the workers in connection with the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Families Association, and before the idea was completely carried out, the vicar and the members of the Church of England Men’s Society decided to take it up. Unfortunately there is no surviving documentary evidence to confirm these allegations. Ultimately it was decided that the Mercantile Memorial would be honoured on a separate memorial.
The decision to exclude the Mercantile Marine demonstrates the strict social politics of the period. Within Society there was a clear hierarchy defined by your occupation during a period of war. It was common for men out of Uniform to be accosted in the street and as a result of many embarrassing scenes badges for wounded men, men in reserved occupations and those who had been called up but were yet to be enrolled were issued. Even for the men and women serving within the armed forces or within essential Civilian roles there was much stigma from the general public for those who were seen to be “not doing their bit” or having “a cushy number”. Quite clearly in Goole there was a division made by the town’s people for those serving for His Majesty’s Armed Forces and the civilians in the Mercantile Marine.
Whilst the names for the Street Rolls of Honour were being gathered throughout March and April of 1917 the names of the Mercantile Marine were also collected. The erection of a Merchant Marine memorial would however take a further year with the next reference to the Shrine in a Goole Time’s article dated 28th June 1918. The article announced that the shrine had be organised by the Church of England Men’s Association and that it had been erected. A description of the Shrine was provided.
The erection of the Shrine was to lead to near riots within the town. On 29th June 1918 [The Daily Mail] it was reported that “an outbreak of public feeling of a remarkable character” occurred at Goole yesterday. Whilst in the course of erection it was noticed that the centre section, which contained a picture of Jesus at the Sea at Galtree, was embossed with the mark of a Berlin photographic company. This caused resentment within the town and upon this being brought to the attention of the Vicar of Goole it was decided to remove the picture. When the picture was not removed it was reported that during the following evening a large crowd gathered around the memorial, which made threats. Mr Fred Brunyee, noted as a prominent townsman, appealed to the crowd and it was decided that the crowd would wait till the following morning to remove the “Made in Germany” picture. Without the intervention Mr Brunyee the memorial may have been damaged. The next morning the Vicar instructed the removal of the picture. The actions of the crowd show a clear resentment of the German nation after the First World War perhaps invoked by the association of a “German” picture with the British War dead.
The Goole Times, reporting a week later, provides further details of the affair which adds a humorous twist. One of the chief agitators against the shrine visit the Vicar of Goole on the Saturday evening and having noted the Vicar’s remarks on the difficulty of finding an appropriate replacement for the banned picture said that a friend of his had a collection of pictures which he thought might be suitable. Unfortunately upon the Vicar examining the pictures it was discovered that everyone one of them bore the stamp of the Berlin Company! As the article detailed it was the Vicar who had made the original choice of image and he stated that there was a great difficulty in finding a suitable image as the majority of religious images were printed in Germany.
On the Sunday morning a further Goole resident offered the Vicar an illustration from a book which he had collected as a youth. The Vicar, expressing thanks, declined the offer of the illustration not wishing to spoil the man’s relished book by removing the picture. The matter of the banned illustration was resolved by the Church of England Men’s Society who resolved that a Red Ensign, the flag of the Mercantile Marine, would be painted on to the Shrine.
The official unveiling of the shrine took place on the 6th July with a service by the Reverend Curzon. The Church of England Men’s Society and the Goole Sea Scouts were present. The memorial was draped with a Red Ensign and an Anchor formed of laurel leaves was place on the cross. The Reverend sought to made amends for the mistaken image and passed on his deepest apologies. In addition Mr Winterbottom, Steamship Manager of the Lancashire and York Railway (Goole Steam Shipping Co), considered head of the local Marine, gave an address where he marked the devotion of the men of the Mercantile marine. Further tributes were paid to the Men of the Mercantile Marine.
Sadly the Memorial is another of Goole’s missing shrines and as no picture survives only a written description can be portrayed. It is described as a structure of simple design made of polished teak, surmounted by a cross. Its position is described as commanding the attention of all those who pass it. It consisted of three glass panels, which contained the names of nearly 800 serving men, in alphabetical order. In the centre was a list of 37 men who had made the ‘Supreme Sacrifice’ marked with the inscription “Faithfull unto death”. Above the rolls were panels with the announcement and extracts from Psalm CXIII in gold lettering - “Men of the Mercantile Marine from the Parish of Goole who served their country on the high seas during the Great War” and “They that go down in their ships and occupy their business in great waters, these men see the works of the Lord and His Wonders in the deep”. Originally at the top and centre of the panel was ‘a beautifully finished print depicting Jesus and His Disciples on the Sea of Galtree’, later to be replaced by the Red Ensign. A flower bowl and permanent flower guard were provided close by. The location of the memorial is described as being just inside the Railway Station wall facing Boothferry Road. The lettering was executed by Mr Alfred Haigh, construction was undertaken by Messrs S.R. and T. Kelsey and the Goole Times printed the names.
The creation of the Mercantile Marine memorial demonstrates the great need to commemorate the men and women who had served in the Armed Forces and within a Civilian capacity throughout the First World War. However the creation of the shrine also demonstrates the divisions within society and the politics and debates of the period. The shrine further demonstrates the culture of hatred created throughout the war against the German nation and the creation of a patriotic society. The sense of farce is also evident but above all the need to commemorate the men and women of Mercantile Marine and the men and woman that served is truly demonstrated.