Spiro Ark

Registered Charity No 1070926

Jews in the Merchant Navy in the Second World War

Martin Sugarman  (BA Hons, Cert Ed) was born and brought up in Hackney and graduated from Bristol University. He was a Senior Teacher for over twenty years in Secondary Schools and then an Examinations Officer in Further Education. Archivist of AJEX, he helped to set up the Jewish Military Museum and was active in The Soviet Jewry Campaign and Holocaust Education in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Author of five books on Jewish military history. he served in the IDF Gunners in 1976. He is  married with three children and a small ‘platoon’ of grandchildren.

For those who served in the Merchant Navy in the Second World War there has always been some resentment that they were disregarded as the ‘forgotten 4th service’, yet it is true to say that without their movement of material and men, the war would have been lost. Their slow, vulnerable and poorly defended vessels were open to attack by land, sea and air. Living conditions, weather and pay were frequently appalling. Tens of thousands were killed outright, or, if their ship was sunk, suffered terribly in open boats where survival rates were low.

Jewish participation was, as ever, out of proportion to their share of the population. Many won awards, were ships’ masters, and the recruits came from all over the Commonwealth and Israel, the latter being especially air-brushed out of the picture. As Jews, they were often subjected to racial discrimination from other crew.

Martin Sugarman’s book details the heroism and sacrifice of these volunteers.  Nothing has been written about Jews in the Merchant Navy until now, in this hidden and secret history. This book is a tribute to them.

Invited guest speakers include Admiral Lord West of Spithead and Prof Colin Shindler. 

Event Gallery