During World War 2 several thousand New Zealanders served in the Merchant Navy. Many braved the deadly German U-Boats during the Battle of the Atlantic and sailed in convoys to Arctic Russia and Malta. Others manned transports and hospital ships or ferried troops and supplies across the Pacific and Indian Oceans. At least 120 were killed and another 128 taken prisoner. The vital contribution of this "fourth" service has never before received the recognition it richly deserves.
Neill Atkinson is an historian with the History Group of the Ministry of Cultureand Heritage. His previous books include Crew Culture (2001), a social history of seafarers under sail and steam in the century before the Second World War.