Was the sinking of the SS Athenia the first Nazi atrocity in WW2?

World War 2 officially started on September 3,1939 .Th Nazis wasted very little time in committing their first mass murder during the war. It was only hours after the war was declared.

The S.S. Athenia, was commanded by Captain James Cook, left Glasgow for Montreal via Liverpool and Belfast. She carried 1,103 passengers, including about 500 Jewish refugees, 469 Canadians, 311 US citizens and 72 UK subjects, and 315 crew. Despite clear indications that war would break out any day, she departed Liverpool at 13:00 hrs on 2 September without recall, and on the evening of the 3rd was 60 nautical miles (110 km) south of Rockall and 200 nautical miles (370 km) northwest of Inishtrahull, Ireland, when she was sighted by the German submarine U-30 commanded by Oberleutnant Fritz-Julius Lemp around 16:30.

U-30 tracked Athenia for three hours until eventually, at 19:40, when both vessels were between Rockall and Tory Island, Lemp ordered two torpedoes to be fired. One exploded on Athenia’s port side in her engine room, and she began to settle by the stern.

Chamberlain’s famous “this country is at war with Germany” broadcast was delivered shortly after 11 in the morning. The torpedo from U-30 struck the Athenia at 7:38 that evening. She was slow to go down, disappearing beneath the waves, stern first, at 11 the next morning.

At 7:38, just as the evening meal was being served, a violent explosion destroyed the engine room, plunging the dining room into darkness, sending tables and chairs skidding across the deck, and causing the ship to list to port and begin settling by the stern. The German submarine U-30 had attacked Athenia. The sinking of the S.S. Athenia, was in violation of the Hague conventions. Germany’s responsibility for the sinking was suppressed by Admiral Karl Dönitz and the Nazi propaganda.

While waiting to go to dinner, young Donald Wilcox of Dartmouth, N.S., had made his way to the very peak of the ship’s bow and was watching the waves curl away from the prow when the ship rose up several feet and then fell back down sharply. “I was almost thrown off my feet,” he remembered years later.

All the lights went out and the ship stopped dead in the water and began settling by the stern. The engine room, the galley, parts of the dining rooms and many staterooms flooded. People were separated and groped in the dark to find their way to the open decks before emergency lights came on. Crew members guided people with matches and flashlights, while James A. Goodson, 18, of Toronto, whose holiday in Europe had been cut short, swam through a flooded section of the ship to rescue struggling passengers, guiding them to what remained of the stairs.

All 26 lifeboats were launched, although there were difficulties in getting many of the women and children into them. Fortunately, distress signals were received by ships reasonably close by. Shortly after midnight, Norwegian freighter MS Knute Nelson arrived on the scene, followed by Swedish steam yacht Southern Cross, owned by the Electrolux millionaire Axel Wenner-Gren. They began taking on survivors from the lifeboats, looking after the injured and offering food and hot drinks.

As the night wore on, three Royal Navy destroyers reached the scene, HMS Electra, HMS Escort and HMS Fame. They also picked up survivors and provided food and dry clothing. In the morning, the American freighter SS City of Flint arrived and took people from Southern Cross and the destroyers before heading back across the Atlantic bound for Halifax. the navy destroyers sailed back to Scotland, sending their passengers to Glasgow. At about 11 a.m. on Monday, Athenia heeled over and sank stern first. Knute Nelson took survivors to the Irish port of Galway.

A survivor’s picture of rescued officers of the Äthenia”watching her last plunge from the Norwegian ship “Knute Nelson”

The Knute Nelson radioed to the harbour master, Captain T. Tierney, that they were making for Galway with hundreds of refugees. Captain Tierney quickly informed all the local authorities to be prepared to deal with disaster relief. A committee was formed on Monday evening, including Galway mayor Joseph F. Costello and the Catholic bishop of Galway Dr Michael Browne. The committee alerted Galway County Council, the Board of Health, the Central Hospital, local hotels and the local bus company. The mayoress, Mrs Costello, also organised a committee of 38 local women to lead the volunteers, including the Girl Guides, who would be essential in looking after the specific needs of the refugees. The Irish cabinet met in Dublin late on Monday and made £500 available to the mayor to provide food, clothing and medical care to the survivors.

Survivors ,including a baby from the Athenia being helped to safety by a soldier.

Instructions were also sent to units of the Irish Army and An Garda Síochána(Police) to cooperate with local authorities in providing care and facilities, and the local schools were to be made available to house people. Seán T. O’Kelly, acting for the minister for education, made available the Preparatory College at Taylor’s Hill, Coláiste Éinde, to be used for refugees, as well as Galway Grammar School. The Irish Red Cross also started a subscription to raise money to assist the relief effort.
Shortly before midnight on Monday a pilot boat went out to Black Head to meet the Knute Nelson and steer the ship into Galway roads to anchor. Some time in the middle of the night a tender from Galway, Cathair Na Gaillimhe, under Captain William Goggin, anchored in the roadstead to wait for the freighter. The tender carried a local priest, Fr Conway, Dr S. Ó Beirne and Dr R. Sandys, and below decks were a number of nurses. Units of the 1st Infantry (Irish-Speaking) Battalion were on board to carry the stretcher cases off the ship, and members of An Garda Síochána were standing by. While it was still dark, a launch took out to the tender several more doctors.

Of the 1,418 aboard, 98 passengers and 19 crew members were killed. Many died in the engine room and aft stairwell, where the torpedo hit.The British crews were said to be famous for putting the passengers’ lives before their own, and were expertly trained to handle such “events”; nonetheless, about 50 people died when one of the lifeboats was crushed in the propeller of Knute Nelson. No. 5A lifeboat came alongside the empty tanker and tied up, against advice, astern of No 12 lifeboat.Only 15 feet (5 m) separated the life boat from the tanker’s exposed propeller. Once No. 12 lifeboat was emptied it was cast adrift and began to sink. This fact was reported to the bridge of Knute Nelson. For some reason the ship’s engine order telegraph was then set to full ahead. 5A lifeboat’s mooring line or “warp” parted under the stress, causing the lifeboat to be pulled back into the revolving propeller.

There was a second accident at about 05:00 hrs when No. 8 lifeboat capsized in a heavy sea below the stern of the yacht Southern Cross, killing ten people. Three passengers were crushed to death while trying to transfer from lifeboats to the Royal Navy destroyers. Other deaths were due to falling overboard from Athenia and her lifeboats, or to injuries and exposure. 54 dead were Canadian and 28 were US citizens, which led to German fears that the incident would bring the US into the war. Besides the 28 US citizens who were killed, there were also a great number injured. Like
Mrs. W.B. Sage, of Salt Lake City, Utah, shown here as she was carried from the S.S. Orizaba, which docked at New York, September 27 with 150 American survivors of the Athenia disaster, many of whom, like Mrs. Sage, were injured.

The fact that the first US casualties of war were those 28 civilians, only a few hours after the start of the war, makes me wonder why the Roosevelt Administration did not declare war to Nazi Germany.

A Canadian girl, 10-year-old Margaret Hayworth, was among the casualties, and was one of the first Canadians to be killed by enemy action. Newspapers widely publicised the story, proclaiming “Ten-Year-Old Victim of Torpedo” as “Canadians Rallying Point”, and set the tone for their coverage of the rest of the war. One thousand people met the train that brought her body back to Hamilton, Ontario, and there was a public funeral attended by the mayor of Hamilton, the city council, the Lieutenant-Governor, Albert Edward Matthews, Premier Mitchell Hepburn, and the entire Ontario cabinet.

Margaret Hayworth (left)and her sister

Lemp later claimed that the fact the S.S Athenia was steering a zigzag course which seemed to be well off the normal shipping routes made him believe she was either a troopship or an armed merchant cruiser; when he realized his error he took the first steps to conceal the facts by omitting to make an entry in the submarine’s log, and swearing his crew to secrecy. Adolf Hitler decided the incident should be kept secret for political reasons, and the German newspaper Völkischer Beobachter published an article which blamed the loss of the Athenia on the British, accusing Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, of sinking the ship to turn neutral opinion against Nazi Germany. No one in Britain believed the explanation given by Nazi Germany.

As for my question in the title of the blog “Was the sinking of the SS Athenia the first Nazi atrocity in WW2?” I believe it was because they attacked and murdered men, women and children. Some of them had tried to escape the Nazi tyranny.

sources

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-41503664

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/athenia-anniversary-reunion-1.5302935

https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205085895

Tuam mother and baby home-Interview with Alison O’Reilly.

Tuam is an idyllic town in Ireland. It is second-largest settlement in County Galway. Unfortunately since 2014 it has become know for all the wrong reasons.

The Bon Secours Mother and Baby Home (also known as St Mary’s Mother and Baby Home or simply The Home)that operated between 1925 and 1961 in Tuam. It was a maternity home for unmarried mothers and their children. The Home was run by the Bon Secours Sisters, a religious order of Catholic nuns, that also operated the Grove Hospital in the town. Unmarried pregnant women were sent to the Home to give birth.

In 1975, two boys, ages 10 and 12, were playing at the site of the former Mother and Baby Home. They found a hole or chamber “filled to the brim” with children’s skeletons underneath a concrete slab. One would expect this would have been investigated, but that was not the case.

Locals speculated that these were the remains of victims of the Great Famine, unbaptised babies,and/or stillborn babies from the Home. The number of bodies was then unknown, but was assumed to be small. It was re-sealed shortly afterwards, following prayers at the site by a priest. For the next 35 years the burial site was tended to by a local couple, who also built a small grotto there. The burial site was nothing more but a septic tank.

In 2012, local historian Catherine Corless published an article about the home in the annual Journal of the Old Tuam Society.

At that stage she did not have the names of all of the children who had died there. In 2013, Ann Glennon, a public servant at the Galway Health Service Executive registrar for births, deaths and marriages, at Corless’ request and expense, retrieved the names of the 796 children who had death certificates listing “The Tuam Home” or the “Tuam Children’s Home” as place of death. Most of the children were infants and had died at the Home during its years of operation (1925 – 1961).

In 2014 the story was brought to the attention of journalist Alison O’Reilly. Alison was a reporter for the Irish Mail on Sunday and was documenting the case of Bethany Mother and Child Home, when a woman, Anna Corrigan, read her articles and decided to contact Alison.

Anna Corrigan contacted Alison to tell her that her, Anna, two brothers were buried in a mass grave in Tuam in Co Galway. Two brothers she was not aware her mother had, she believed she was an only child. Her mother Bridget kept that secret for all her life. After that Alison got in contact with Catherine Corless, the story got international attention, even the New York times covered it. Alison also wrote a book about Anna Corrigan’s mother

Last week I interviewed Alison and asked her about the story of the Tuam mother and baby home and the Bafta winning documentary she was involved in about the home. I left the interview unedited, because I think it is important to get the story across with all the emotions that it brings up.

The children are still buried in that septic tank.

sources

https://www.irishtimes.com/tags/alison-o-reilly/

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/oireachtas/excavation-at-former-tuam-mother-and-baby-home-to-be-one-of-most-complex-ever-1.4816734

https://www.galwaybeo.ie/culture/journalist-who-broke-tuam-mother-5967526

https://www.sundayworld.com/showbiz/tv/new-documentary-recounts-the-search-for-truth-behind-the-tuam-mother-and-baby-scandal/41025734.html

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-54693159

The sinking of HMS Mashona

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HMS Mashona was a Tribal-class destroyer of the Royal Navy that saw service in the Second World War.

She was built by Vickers Armstrong, with her machinery supplied by Parsons. She was authorised in the program year 1936. Mashona was laid down on 5 August 1936, launched on 3 September 1937 and completed by 30 March 1939.

Mashona HMS, under command of Cdr. Selby, was one of those taking part in the pursuit of the German battleship Bismarck.

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On May 28th, 1941, the day following the Bismarck´s destruction, the British forces were heavily bombed by German aircraft and HMS Mashona was hit and sunk  off the coast of Galway with the loss of 48 men.

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The destroyer Tartar took the survivors to Greenock.

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Limerick,Dublin,Galway,California and a Prince from Montenegro.

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No this is not a fairy tale. It is something you could refer to as ‘History at your doorstep’It is a local bit of history with touches two sides of the Atlantic ocean and ancient mainland Europe.

Milo Petrović-Njegoš ( 1889–1978) was a prince of Montenegro. He was a direct descendant of Radul Petrović, brother of Prince-Bishopric Danilo I.

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Prince Milo never knew poverty and came from a very privileged background, but as happens so often ,due to circumstances beyond his control his world got turned upside down.

Prince Milo was born in Njeguši on 3 October 1889 to Đuro Petrović and Stane-Cane Đurašković. During World War I, he was the commander of the Lovćen Brigade.

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As soon as the Austro-Hungarian troops began to leave the territory of Serbia and Montenegro in November 1918, the French and Serbian units are immediately occupied the territory of the Kingdom of Montenegro. Montenegrins were initially considered their allies. A newly convened National Assembly of Podgorica  accused the Кing of seeking a separate peace with the enemy and consequently deposed him, banned his return and decided that Montenegro should join the Kingdom of Serbia on December 1, 1918. A large part of the Montenegrin population started a rebellion against the amalgamation, the Christmas Uprising (7 January 1919).

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Prince Milo left Montenegro in 1919 and continued for more than a half century all around the world to struggle for Montenegrin rights and renewal of Montenegrin statehood. He married Helena Grace Smith in Santa Barbara, California, U.S., on 3 September 1927. On 23 October 1928, his only child, Milena was born in Los Angeles, United States. He left his family the following year and settled in London.He later moved to Dublin, Ireland where he owned an antiques shop. Later in his life he moved to Clifden county Galway.

In 1978 he ended up in Limerick,how or why he was here is unclear. he died in the Barringtons Hospital  Limerick on 22 November 1978.

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At his request he was buried  buried in a plot he had purchased in St. Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick. It is a very unassuming grave not something you expect a grave of a Prince would look like. Many times I have walked by it without realizing who laid there.

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A small plague has been erected in front of the grave, giving a short history of the Prince.

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His Daughter ,Milena Thompson, attended the funeral. She published a book called “My father the Prince”

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