Merchant Navy honoured with Auckland Harbour Bridge flag

By: NZTA


The Red Ensign will be flown from the Auckland Harbour Bridge alongside New Zealand’s national flag today (3 September) to commemorate the role of the Merchant Navy in wartime.

Merchant Navy honoured with Auckland Harbour Bridge flag
The New Zealand flag is normally flown from both flag staffs on the Auckland Harbour Bridge

Every 3 September is known officially as Merchant Navy Day and recognises the contribution and sacrifice made during wartime by the crews of merchant ships. 

NZ Transport Agency’s Auckland regional director Ernst Zöllner commented: "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."

This day is also recognised as the start of World War 2 in 1939. Within just three hours of the declaration of war, the first allied merchant ship was sunk in the Atlantic Ocean.

Auckland Merchant Navy Association president Bill Law said: "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. 

The New Zealand 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.

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