This episode from the acclaimed BBC history series Timewatch investigates the role of British merchant seamen in World War II. One in four of them lost their lives in battle, killed by strikes from German U-Boats, or victims of burning oil and freezing seas as they sought their escape in packed lifeboats. While the Battle of the Atlantic (1939-1945) itself is not always remembered, less still do we remember the men of the Merchant Navy and the important part they played in Great Britain's survival in World War II. Britain's dependence on merchant shipping was an economic fact and never more evident than in total war. Huge quantities of food and raw materials had to be imported and soldiers and airmen shipped overseas and sustained. Over 190,000 people were employed on British merchant ships in 1938, some 50,000 of whom were Indian and Chinese. 150 ships were sunk in the first nine months of the war. By the end of the war, nearly 32,000 merchant seamen had died and 4,786 ships flying the British flag had been sunk. This Timewatch episode tells their story.