The Merchant Navy refers to a nation's commercial shipping and crews. Although not a branch of the Armed Forces, the Merchant Navy is often referred to as the Fourth Service for their help in the fight.
During wartime, commercial ships and crews were often called on to help transport troops and cargo to or through areas of conflict. This made them an essential part of any country's ability to fight a war, but also meant they ran the same risks as the fighting forces. In fact, during the Second World War the Australian Merchant Navy suffered higher fatality rates than the Royal Australian Navy.
Reviewed 01 February 2021