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When many became few

by Mark Johnson, Bootle Times
At its peak there were many Bootle members of the Merchant Navy Seafarers' mess at the Eldonian Village in Liverpool. Today, there are only a handful.

On Sunday they will come out in force to remember the merchant seafarers' bravery and sacrifice in assisting Britain's armed forces and helping the country's allies during wartime.

One such ex-merchant seafarer who meets with old comrades every other Thursday is Bootle-born Jim Belleu.

Jim, 79, who served in the Merchant Navy at the end of the Second World War, said: Remembrance Sunday is very important as it remembers those who have served and died during war.

Hundreds of tankers transported the oil and aviation spirit home in the Second World War. The price paid by merchant mariners was huge. They were very brave men.

To be a merchant mariner in either war meant you were far more likely to die than if you were serving in uniform on a naval vessel.

Jim, now of Walton, has been married to Elsie for more than five decades and spent a total of 22 years in the Merchant Navy.

He added: I remember my family never had a permanent address in Bootle because of evacuation.

I went away in 1945. I was not frightened because it was my ambition to be in the Merchant Navy and to go away to sea.

I came from a seafaring family; my father was in the Merchant Navy and my brother was in the Royal Marines.

My son James served as a steward in the Merchant Navy and so did my daughter Sharon.

At 11am this Sunday Bootles King Gardens will fall silent in remembrance of those who died in conflict.

In attendance will be the Mayor and Mayoress of Sefton Cllr Richard Hands and Katy Hibbert, deputy mayor, councillors and council officers.

Mayor of Sefton, Cllr Richard Hands, said: Remembrance Sunday is a very important day in the calendar as we pause to reflect and remember those who lost their lives in conflict past and present.

We all owe a huge debt to those who died and they should all be remembered in the true honour they deserve.

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