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This is the sternly factual account of the first sea-casualty of World War II, the torpedoing by German submarine of the Donaldson Line passenger ship Athenia off the Irish coast at 7:39 p.m. on Sept. 3, the day England declared war on Germany. Carrying 1102 passengers, most of them women and children, Athenia, bound for Canada from Glasgow, Liverpool and Belfast, left Belfast two days before the declaration of war, but for a week German submarines, awaiting its certain arrival, had been patroling Atlantic shiplanes under orders to sink no passenger liners and no merchant ships without warning. However, when Oberleutnant Lemp of U-30 sighted Athenia about sundown he at once launched a torpedo at her; he may also have shelled her. The torpedo struck Athenia in a vital spot, killing and injuring many of the passengers and crew, but there was no panic, thanks to boat-drills, and the ship was quickly cleared, the survivors, stunned and shivering, waiting in lifeboats for rescue; in all 112 were killed, of whom 93 were passengers and 85 women or children. Refusing to accept blame for the disaster Germany blamed it on the British themselves; not until the Nurmberg trials was the truth revealed. Carefully documented but over-heavy with accounts of survivors, this book fails to meet the standards of A Night to Remember, but it should appeal to armchair addicts of sea- disaster and to some lending-library readers, and will be of documentary value to war and naval libraries as well as to historical collections of World War II.

Pub Date: Feb. 25th, 1959
Publisher: Norton