The Red Ensign will, for the first time, be flown from the Auckland Harbour Bridge alongside New Zealand’s national flag on Wednesday (3 September) to commemorate the role of the Merchant Navy in wartime.
3 September is known officially as Merchant Navy Day and recognises the contribution and sacrifice made during wartime by the crews of merchant ships.
“The Merchant Navy played a critical role during wartime transporting troops, military equipment and vital cargo around the world under the constant threat of enemy raids, and flying the New Zealand Red Ensign from the harbour bridge would further recognise the contribution made by this remarkable group of people,” says the NZ Transport Agency’s Regional Director for Auckland, Ernst Zöllner.
3 September was also the start of World War 2 in 1939.
“Within three hours of the declaration of war, the first allied merchant ship was sunk in the Atlantic Ocean,” says the President of the Auckland Merchant Navy Association Bill Law. “Merchant seamen were civilians, not military people. Among the 30,000 who died during World War 2, 135 were New Zealanders and flying the Red Ensign from the harbour bridge is a very fitting tribute to them all.”
The New Zealand Red Ensign has been flown on all New Zealand Merchant Navy ships – both cargo and passenger – since 1901. The ensign is also flown on pleasure boats. It is identical in design to New Zealand’s national flag except the background is red instead of blue.
New Zealand’s national flag is normally flown from both flag staffs on the Auckland Harbour Bridge every day of the year. Two exceptions have been Waitangi Day, when the Tino Rangatiratanga flag is also flown, and on ANZAC Day when the Australian flag is raised. The third exception will now be the Merchant Navy’s Red Ensign, which will fly alongside the New Zealand flag every 3 September.
Update: 3 September 2014
PHOTOS: President of the Auckland Merchant Navy Association Bill Law raising the flag at dawn this morning.
For more information please contact:
Auckland/Northland Media Manager
NZ Transport Agency
T: 09 928 8720
M: 027 213 7616