Britain declared war on Germany on 3 September 1939. That very evening, the first merchant ship to fall victim to the war was sunk.
The steam passenger ship Athenia was torpedoed without warning in the Atlantic, west of Ireland. The U-boat captain had believed the ship was an armed cruiser. Most of the 315 crew and 1103 passengers abandoned ship in 26 lifeboats. 19 crew members and 93 passengers were lost.
A total of 30 merchant ships were sunk by the end of September.
By the end of the year, a total of 96 ships had been sunk. And by the end of the war the total figure was 2429*.
|Merchant Shipping Vessels sunk by enemy action in WWII|
*Note: These figures are approximate, since exact records from wartime are difficult to verify. The figures do not include fishing vessels lost by enemy action.
A feature of the Abandon Ship! exhibition is the Casualties Database, generously loaned to the Wellington Trust by the Maritime Memorial Trust. It lists names and details of thousands of Merchant Navy personnel who served during the wars. This Sunday, 23 July, will have a special focus on family history research, so come along and join us to learn more about how to research your Merchant Navy ancestors.
There will also be another opportunity to see the live performance based on survivors memoirs.
Written by SNiF