Seafarers or war sailors? : The ambiguities of ensuring seafarers’ services in times of war in the case of the Norwegian merchant fleet during the Second World War
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This PhD thesis covers the following overall questions: With what means were the services of the seafarers in the Norwegian merchant fleet ensured in the Second World War, and what consequences did those efforts have for different groups of nationalities onboard Norwegian ships? These questions are discussed through three separate articles alongside an introductory section. The three case studies show how strongly the changing historical circumstances throughout the war influenced how the different groups of nationalities employed in the Norwegian fleet were mobilised. The first article explores the mobilisation of Norwegian seafarers and concludes that their service was ensured through a wide range of means, including both push and pull measures. The second article concerns the general use of foreign seafarers and finds that few war-related measures were proactively taken to mobilise foreign seafarers. In the third article, the large and atypical group of Chinese seamen on Norwegian ships is explored. They achieved higher salaries and better conditions because of their protests during the war. As a consequence, the Norwegian merchant fleet nearly stopped hiring Chinese seafarers, despite the increasing need to recruit foreign crews. This study concludes that the British influence on the mobilisation and management of seafarers on Norwegian ships was more profound than previous research would indicate. The United Kingdom was both setting the premises for and making a direct impact on the Norwegian policy. British support was also crucial to be able to enforce the increased control over seafarers. The increased state control in the Second World War politicised the shipping economy and the use of seafarers, and their conditions became diplomatic issues. The seafarers’ civilian status came under pressure in various ways during the war and this contributed to an ambiguous Norwegian policy towards them. They were sometimes treated like “seafarers” and at other times like “war sailors”. This is a constructed dual terminology, used to explore the complex and shifting relationship between normality and war in the case of the Norwegian merchant fleet.