In Portsmouth at this time of year our thoughts invariably turn to the thousands of Royal Navy sailors who died serving their country in two world wars and numerous other conflicts.
The navy at war conjures up Boy’s Own images of warships engaging each other in battle or, more likely these days, firing missiles or acting as platforms for amphibious assaults.
But there is a less glamorous, often invisible side to the daily work of the Senior Service, one that is nonetheless equally valuable and vital in our recession-hit world – the defence of our economy.
As Portsmouth North Tory MP Penny Mordaunt says in her Off The Fence column today, if the sea lanes, along which so much of our trade is dependent, were scuppered we would soon be on our uppers.
It is a surprising figure, but 95 per cent of this nation’s trade – imports and exports – is still reliant on the sea. By tonnage our ports are the largest in Europe.
As she says: ‘If the safe passage of our exported goods and those which fill our shops was jeopardised and ultimately disrupted, life would become unrecognisable in a matter of weeks.’
She is lobbying for new Ocean Patrol Vessels to be built in Portsmouth to protect the 10,500 miles of our coastline, our fish stocks and offshore energy supplies.
Of course, we agree with her. UK plc is far more likely to prosper with a strong Royal Navy acting as a marine enforcer.
However, these are no more than well-meaning words. Words which we are used to hearing.
Ms Mordaunt talks about new Treasury minister Sajid Javid’s Trafalgar Night speech in which he paid a ‘fulsome tribute’ to the navy and its work.
Which would be all fine and dandy if only there were positive signs that governments of every hue actually valued the navy and the work it goes about quietly and efficiently day in, day out.
Cutting thousands of jobs, axing aircraft carriers and the very aircraft which flew from them hardly gives us the confidence to believe that politicians care deeply about the Royal Navy.