Monday 23 September 2019

Wreckage off west coast believed to be first British ship sunk in WWII

SS Athenia in 1933. Photo: National Archives of Canada
SS Athenia in 1933. Photo: National Archives of Canada
Ryan Nugent

Ryan Nugent

Wreckage of the first British boat to be torpedoed during World War II is believed to have been found off the coast of Ireland.

The SS Athenia was sunk off the west coast of Ireland mere hours after Britain declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939.

The German commander of U-30, Oberleutnant Lemp, is understood to have believed the boat to be a troop ship.

However, it turned out to be a passenger ship.

The ship had been on the way to Canada at the time it was torpedoed.

Shipwreck hunter David Mearns is understood to have located the body of the ship.

More than 110 crew and passengers are believed to have lost their lives following the torpedo attack.


Mr Mearns said that while divers were yet to visit the wreckage which is 650m under water, he was almost 100pc confident this is the Athenia.

"I can't put my hand on a Bible in front of a judge and say 100pc this is the Athenia, but all of my experience says it's a very, very high probability," he said. "I am 98pc-plus certain," he added.

The shipwreck hunter began searching for the ship 12 years ago.

"Only passenger liners and perhaps warships are that large," he added.

"The more I looked at that image, it was clear this had a really good chance of being the Athenia."

Irish Independent

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