Back in June of 2003 our federal government declared that the 3rd of September that year, and forever more, would be a day of celebrations. A day to share memories and prayers for our men and women of the past who had served in the Merchant Marines. A day to acknowledge their sacrifices in the battle to secure our freedom and democracy.
About 500 of these lost soles gave their lives in WWl, and according to the Merchant Navy Book of Remembrance in the Peace Tower at Ottawa, a list gives names of about 2200 who gave their lives in the two world wars for Canada, Newfoundland and our allies.
The day set aside to honour these heroes was not plucked from a hat. It has incredible meaning!
It fired two torpedoes, surfaced, noticed one had hit and the other missed, Fearing that the torpedo would circle about and strike the U Boat, it submerged briefly. On surfacing again, it fired 2 more torpedoes. A second shot struck the merchant ship SS Athenia and soon after the passenger liner sank.
Protocol at the time required it to fire a shell over and ship that may have not been the enemy, but the sub failed to do this. A further requirement to aid these victims struggling in the water was ignored. It just sailed off in another direction, and years later was held accountable in the war trials.
The sinking passenger liner was the SS Athenia, shown above. She was carrying over 1400 soles en-route to Montreal, Canada, but in English waters of the coast of Ireland at the time. 112 lost their lives while about 1300 were rescued by allied vessels.
When the Canadian government heard of the disaster, it went into Parliament and on September 9th advised Britain that Canada had that day entered WWll.
The US Ambassador to Great Britain immediately sent his son off to assist those Americans that were rescued. The Ambassador's first name was Joe, and his son's was Jack... Kennedy.
Hannah Baird, a stewardess from Quebec was working on the Athenia and died on the 4th of September 1939. She is said to be Canada's first Merchant Navy fatality of the war.
Note Hannah Baird's name, and as the first in WWll. Note also that there where three Merchant Navy women killed in the first war and five in WWll.
Of further interest is the fact that at the start of WWl 45,000 tonnes of supplies were carried to various ports. By that war's end some 351,000 tonnes were carried in that year alone.
In WWll the 38 vessels started with, more than doubled by war's end, and that was after having performed duties in over 25,000 voyages serving Britain, Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, New Zealand and even into the Far East.
Incredible numbers for less than 15,000 men AND WOMEN!
Lest We Forget.....
Back on Sunday the 19th...