This is the first post on my Athenia Blog. I plan to post blogs periodically on my website, where you can learn more about the British passenger ship Athenia, the first Allied ship sunk in World War II. My forthcoming book, Without Warning, tells the story of nine people whose lives were dramatically altered with that fateful U-boat attack on the first day of the war, Sept. 3, 1939.
Athenia’s story sounds a lot like the tragedy of the Lusitania, a British passenger liner sunk by a German U-boat in World War I. Most people are familiar with the Lusitania because it was credited with eventually bringing America into World War I. Certainly, the attack on Athenia galvanized Great Britain and made headlines on both sides of the Atlantic. By the end of 1939, however, the headlines had disappeared. Other events eclipsed the sinking and America, this time around, decided against entering another world conflict.
While Athenia’s demise lacked the scale of the Lusitania tragedy, it was no less dramatic for the people who experienced it. And it is their experiences that I seek to bring out of history’s shadows with my book and in this blog.
My blogs will cover aspects of Athenia’s story that will add further context to my book and its characters, explore events that followed the period covered in Without Warning, recount interviews I conducted with survivors, and discuss various aspects of the research and writing processes.
Bringing history to life can be controversial. Often times there are conflicting accounts of historic events, and the torpedoing of Athenia is no exception. You may have insights and opinions about these events. Perhaps, like me, you had a relative who was aboard Athenia that fateful evening nearly 75 years ago. I hope you will share your comments and observations on this blog, and I look forward to your participation.