Naval Connections

In other sections of this website you learned that, for centuries, merchant seamen manned British commercial shipping vessels. Here you will discover that, in wartime, the use and methods of deploying merchant seamen changed. At the outset of the First World War, the British government requisitioned thousands of commercial vessels to transport and supply troops. In fact, during the South African War (1899-1902), commercial liners were used as troopships travelling in convoy across thousands of miles. But the response by both companies and government to the dangers of war, principally German submarines, was inadequate. The Maritime History Archive's Crew Agreements show that merchant seamen filled a variety of roles unforeseen in pre-war planning. To meet the threat posed by German submarines, many seafarers, including those belonging to the dominions, were involuntarily reallocated into naval or quasi-naval service.