The Watch Ashore, an organisation established in 1933 to provide support for wives and partners of Merchant Navy officers, has turned to social media to raise its membership and campaign more effectively. With branches in six UK ports and membership around the country, providing mutual support for those whose loved ones are away at sea, Watch Ashore is launching a new website, a forum for its members and is reaching out to a younger generation with cheap and effective social media.
Working with the Merchant Navy Welfare Board and with financial support from the Merchant Navy Fund, short training courses in the use of social media are being provided in a project that aims to help the organisation raise its profile, improve its outreach and increase its membership.
Watch Ashore was founded 82 years ago when the Merchant Navy was suffering from the worst of the Great Depression. Providing support and friendship for “wives, widows, mothers, sisters and daughters of all Merchant Navy officers and anyone with an interest in the Merchant Navy”, it grew to sixteen branches around British ports. It also lobbied effectively over the years for reforms that would improve conditions for Merchant Navy personnel.
Six branches are active today, in Plymouth, Southampton, Glasgow, London, Edinburgh and the Humber. Country members who do not live close to the branches are welcomed and there is a programme of meetings. The branches also help the maritime charity sector with fund-raising and other support.
“The Watch Ashore is a valuable support network for all those whose loved ones are serving at sea, but we would greatly welcome more members who might benefit from belonging to our organisation”, comments Watch Ashore Chair Mrs Chris Rankin. A busy social programme, soon backed up with the new website and forum will hopefully attract new members. Mrs Rankin added that there remain important reforms needed to make life better for serving seafarers and their families. Families for instance, were experiencing difficulty with the “hard line” being currently taken by head teachers over children being taken out of school when seafaring fathers were on leave in term time.