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We were victims of Nazi frightfulness

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We were victims of Nazi frightfulness

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We were victims of Nazi frightfulness.
Athenia, first victim of Nazi frightfulness on the high seas. Below is an amplified account supported by a number of first-hand survivors stories.

When Mr Winston Churchill answering from his place on the Treasury bench in the House of Commons questions directed to that board of Admiralty of which he was head more than 20 years before Rose to make his second statement regarding the sinking of the Athenia, he declared that it was now clearly established that the disaster was due to an attack without warning by a submarine.
At 1945 hrs local time, he proceeded on the night of Sunday 3 September 1939 a torpedo struck the ship abaft the engine room on the port side, when she was 250 miles north west of the coast of Ireland. Soon after the torpedo struck the ship, the submarine came to the surface and fired a shell which exploded in the middle deck. The U-30 cruised around the sinking ship and was seen by numerous persons including American survivors, a considerable number of whom. I think 12 or more have given affidavits to this effect.

After a statement concerning the number of survivors who had been picked up by the rescue ships, the first Lord of the Admiralty went on to deny that the Athenia was defensively armed on the contrary, not only did she carry no guns but her decks had not even been strengthened for this purpose. A little later in the sitting. Mr Churchill said that it was quite clear that before the Athenia left on her peaceful mission. And before war was declared, the submarine must already have taken up her position waiting to pick up a prey. Of the witnesses mentioned by Mr Churchill, the fact that the Athenia was torpedoed, the first was the captain of the ship, Captain James Cook, who in a statement declared emphatically that there is no doubt about it. My ship was torpedoed. The passengers were at dinner at about 1930 hrs when the torpedo struck the ship and the explosion killed several of them. The torpedo went right through the ship to the engine room. It completely wrecked the galley. The submarine fired a torpedo and rose above the surface and fired a shell, which was aimed at the destruction of the wireless equipment, but it missed its mark. An officer of the Athenia said he saw the periscope of the submarine clearly, and also a line coming along the water as a torpedo approached the ship. Several members of the crew testified to the same fact.

John M'Ewan said there was a great deal of smoke with a torpedo struck the ship, but through the smoke we could see the submarine break surface, and then before we knew where we were the commander had turned a gun on us.

Claud Barrie, a bedroom steward, said that he was in the pantry helping the waiters when there was a violent explosion. The lights went out, the ship gave a lurch. I am an old soldier, and that once smelt cordite. It can't be, I thought to myself but my mate said, the swine has hit us. The ship suddenly took a list. We ran to the alleyways to warn passengers and then up on deck in time to see the periscope of the submarine disappear. Then one of the Czech refugee boys on board, described in graphic fashion how he saw a machine suddenly come up some distance away. There was a column of water near the ship, and a black thing like a cigar shot over the sea towards us. There was a bang and then I saw men on the submarine turn the gun and fire it.

In the light of the statements such as these, it is difficult to understand the pertinacity with which the German authorities maintain that the Athenia could not have been sunk by a German submarine, and that if it had been sunk by a submarine at all. It was probably a British one!
In our earlier account of the torpedoing of the ship we gave an impression of the terrible hours that followed, as the boats overloaded with passengers rowed here and there across the open sea. When the survivors were landed by the rescue ships, the three destroyers, the Norwegian merchantman Knute Nelson, the Swedish yacht Southern Cross, and the American steamer, City of Flint at Galway and Greenock, there were heart rendering scenes. Many were so injured that they were hurried by waiting ambulances to hospital. Most of the others were able to go to their hotels had black eyes, cut cheeks, bruised arms and legs. Some had been injured when lifeboats were caught in a swell and dashed against the side of a rescue ship. Others had crashed into bulkheads as they hurried to the lifeboats or made for the boat stations. Several of those who were picked up died before landing. Many of the women and children wearing clothes borrowed from men in the destroyers. Several had still their night clothes on, with a sailors greatcoat thrown over them. Somewhere in stokers uniforms and war sailors boots. Two or three little boys were dressed in sailors uniform. Not for some days, was it possible to estimate the full extent of the disaster in terms of human lives. Then it was stated that the Athenia had on board 1418 persons of whom over 300 where Americans, and of this total 128 were unaccounted for after the disaster

Other:
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The dastardly sinking of the Athenia
We were victims of Nazi frightfulness

Gallery

U-30 picture 1

Athenia picture 2

Athenia Survivors picture 1

Athenia Survivors picture 2

Athenia Survivors picture 3

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Sources

The Second Great War.
Edited by Sir John Hamilton

The War Illustrated.
Edited by Sir John Hamilton

2194 Days Of War.
ISBN-10: 086136614X

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