|Birth: ||Dec. 26, 1872|
|Death: ||Sep. 3, 1939, At Sea|
Casualty of WWII,Hannah was a Canadian national,a civilian waitress from Montreal, and according to a newspaper report at the time, was the first Canadian to be killed in the war.She was a stewardess in the Canadian Merchant Navy on the S.S.Athenia (Glasgow, Scotland)
She was travelling back to Canada on the S.S. Athenia which was sunk by torpedo fired from U30, an enemy submarine in the Atlantic Ocean, 250 miles off the north-west coast of Ireland during the night of 3rd/4th September. Britain declared war on Germany on Sunday 3rd September 1939 and Athenia was the first British ship to be sunk by Nazi Germany in World War II.
Athenia was launched at Govan, Scotland in 1923.She was built for Anchor-Donaldson Ltd.'s route between Britain and Canada. For most of her career she sailed between either Glasgow or Liverpool, and Quebec and Montreal.During the height of winter, she operated as a cruise ship. After 1935, her owners became the Donaldson Atlantic Line Ltd. Athenia carried 516 cabin class passengers and an additional 1,000 in 3rd class. Under Captain James Cook, she departed Glasgow for Montreal on 1 September 1939, via Liverpool and Belfast, carrying 1,103 passengers, including more than 300 Americans, and 315 crew. She left Liverpool at 13:00 on 2 September, and on the evening of 3 September was 60 miles south of Rockall (250 miles northwest of Inishtrahull, Ireland), when she was sighted by the German U-boat U-30 commanded by Oberleutnant Fritz-Julius Lemp who later claimed that the fact that she was a darkened ship steering a zigzag course which seemed to be well off the normal shipping routes, made him believe she was either a troopship, a Q-ship or an armed merchant cruiser. U-30 tracked the 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. The first struck home and exploded, while the second misfired. Several ships, including HMS Electra, raced to the site of the attack. The destroyer HMS Fame was sent on an anti-submarine sweep of the area, while Electra, another destroyer, HMS Escort, the Swedish yacht Southern Cross, the Norwegian tanker MS Knute Nelson, and the American tanker S.S. City of Flint, rescued the survivors. Between them, about 981 passengers and crew were rescued. The German liner Bremen en route from New York to Murmansk, also received Athenia's distress signal, but hardly surprisingly, ignored it. The City of Flint took 223 survivors on to Halifax, and the Knute Nelson landed 450 at Galway. Athenia remained afloat for over fourteen hours after being torpedoed, until she finally sank stern first at 10:40 the following morning. Of the 1,418 aboard, 98 passengers and 19 crew members were killed. The toll in lives included fatalities caused when the torpedo struck, and from accidents and other misadventures during the evacuation. Most of the fatalities occurred in the engine room and after stairwell, where the torpedo hit, though other sources dispute this. Some died later when one of the lifeboats was crushed in the propeller of the Knute Nelson In this case No. 5A lifeboat came alongside the empty tanker and made fast astern of No 12 lifeboat against advice, and only 15 feet from the tanker's exposed propellor. Once No. 12 lifeboat was emptied it was cut adrift and began to sink. This fact was reported to the bridge of Knute Nelson. For some reason the ship's telegraph was then put at full ahead, and 5A lifeboat's warp parted under the strain, resulting in the lifeboat falling back into the fast revolving propellor. This caused about 50 deaths. A second accident occurred at about 0500 hrs when No. 8 lifeboat capsized in a heavy sea below the stern of the yacht Southern Cross causing ten deaths. Three passengers were crushed to death while attempting to transfer from lifeboats to the RN destroyers. The other fatalities were due to falling overboard from Athenia and her lifeboats, or to injuries and exposure. Twenty-eight of the dead were American citizens, which led to German fears that the incident would bring the US into the war.The sinking caused dramatic publicity throughout the English-speaking world, with the front pages of many newspapers running photographs of the lost ship alongside headlines about Britain's declaration of war. As an example, the Halifax Herald for 4 September 1939 had a banner across its front page announcing "LINER ATHENIA IS TORPEDOED AND SUNK" with, in the center of the page, "EMPIRE AT WAR" in outsized red print.When Grand Admiral Raeder first heard of the sinking of the Athenia, he made inquiries and was told that no U-boat was nearer than 75 miles to the location of the sinking. He therefore told the US chargé d'affaires in good faith that the German Navy had not been responsible. When, on 27 September, U-30 returned to Wilhelmshaven, Lemp reported to Admiral Dönitz that he had sunk the Athenia in error. Dönitz at once sent Lemp to Berlin, where he explained the incident to Raeder. In turn, Raeder reported to Hitler, who decided that the incident should be kept secret for political reasons. Raeder decided against court-martialling Lemp because he considered that he had made an understandable mistake, and the log of the U-30, which was seen by many people, was altered to sustain the official denials. A month later the Voelkischer Beobachter, the Nazi party's official newspaper, 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. Raeder claimed to not have known about this previous to publication and said that if he had known about it, he would have prevented it appearing.In the US, 60% of respondents to a Gallup poll believed the Germans were responsible, despite their initial claims that the Athenia had been sunk by the British for propaganda purpose, with only 9% believing otherwise. Some anti-interventionists called for restraint while at the same time expressing their abhorrence of the sinking. Boake Carter described it as a criminal act.
Some were not completely convinced that Germany was in fact responsible. Herbert Hoover expressed his doubts, saying, "It is such poor tactics that I cannot believe that even the clumsy Germans would do such a thing", while North Carolina senator Robert Rice Reynolds denied that Germany had any motive to sink the Athenia. At best, he said, such an action "could only further inflame the world, and particularly America, against Germany, with no appreciable profits from the sinking." He added that Britain could have had a motive - "to infuriate the American people".
It was not until January 1946 during the case against Admiral Raeder at the Nuremberg trials, that a statement by Admiral Dönitz was read in which he finally admitted that Athenia had been torpedoed by U-30 and that every effort had been made to cover it up. Lemp, who claimed he had mistaken her for an armed merchant cruiser, 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.
As Athenia was an unarmed passenger ship, the attack was in violation of the London Naval Treaty of 1930 which allowed all warships including submarines to stop and search merchant vessels, but provided that passengers and crew must be transferred to a "place of safety" as a priority if it was decided to sink their ship. Although Germany was not a signatory to this treaty, the German 1936 Prisenordnung binding their naval commanders copied it almost verbatim. After the Athenia was sunk, comparisons were instantly made with the Lusitania, similarly destroyed by a U-boat in 1915. Both ships were unarmed and carrying civilian passengers. Both attacks were ready-made for highlighting German iniquity. The Lusitania's sinking was seen as a crucial step toward bringing the United States into the war two years later, for 123 Americans died when she went down; the Athenia's sinking, it was thought, would similarly sway Americans away from their isolation. Most historians of the first Great War cite the Lusitania's sinking as an outstanding example of the savage stupidity of German submarine warfare - a 'victory' that gained nothing and lost much. The story of the Athenia has a curious footnote. Despite his blunder in sinking her, Oberleutnant Lemp was not court-martialed and was eventually given command of a new submarine, the U-110. In May 1941, he attacked an Allied convoy off Iceland but was forced to bring his submarine to the surface when it was damaged by depth charges. Sailors from HMS Bulldog rushed on board to capture her. Vastly more important, they also captured the top-secret Enigma coding machine she carried.Instantly, Britain had a window through which it could view what the Germans were up to. Lemp was under no illusions about how vital the stakes were. In one version of events, he was shot by his captors when he rushed back to the U-110 to destroy its Enigma machine; in another, he committed suicide by drowning himself.The Bulldog tried towing the damaged U-boat back to England, but it sank a day later. This was just as well for the Allied cause. For all the Germans knew, they had lost a submarine; they never knew the Allies had gained a far greater prize.
Nova Scotia, Canada
Plot: Final resting place unknown. Name listed at Panel 17 on the Memorial.
Maintained by: geoffrey gillon
Originally Created by: CWGC/ABMC
Record added: Aug 06, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 56170637
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Added: Oct. 4, 2013