Cruiise history looks at the first civilian casualty of World War II. The passenger ship was the Anchor-Donaldson liner RMS ATHENIA which was chartered to the Cunard Line. She was sunk without warning west of Scotland by the German submarine U-30.
The German U Boat U-30 had been at sea for several days, under strict orders to avoid contact or discovery. On September 3rd 1939 she received notification that Germany was now at war with Great Britain.
World War II marked the end of the British Empire. This is great newsreel footage from You Tube.
The U boat’s commander was Lieutenant Fritz-Julius Lemp. He had been in command for almost a year, therefore was not unaware of the “rules”. According to Admiral Doenitz at his trial at Nurenberg, Lemp had been under orders, when notified of the outbreak of hostilities, to keep a lookout for Armed Merchant Cruisers. Doenitz is not specific as to why this should be a priority at the outbreak of war. Germany had invaded Poland on 1st September 1939 and on 3rd September 1939, at 1115 hrs, Britain declared war on Germany. [Read more...]