Wreck of first UK ship sunk in WW2 ‘discovered near Ireland’

The Athenia, which was built in Govan, was the first UK ship to be sunk by Germany during World War II. Picture: Wikicommons
The Athenia, which was built in Govan, was the first UK ship to be sunk by Germany during World War II. Picture: Wikicommons
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The wreck of a liner built in Glasgow that became the first British ship to be sunk during the Second World War has reportedly been discovered on the Atlantic seabed.

The transatlantic passenger liner Athenia, which was built at Fairfield’s in Govan, was torpedoed by a German U-boat just hours after Britain declared war on Hitler on September 3, 1939.

More than 100 people died as a result of the attack, with the Nazis initially denying responsibility in fear of provoking the US to join the war.

Now shipwreck-hunter David Mearns says sonar data released by the Irish Government proves the wreck has been found.

“Can I go into a court of law and say, ‘100%, that’s Athenia?’ No. But barring a photograph I can say in my expert opinion there’s a very, very high probability that that’s Athenia. Everything fits,” Mr Mearns told the BBC.

He added that rthe elatively shallow water on Rockall Bank means it should be reasonably straightforward to send down a remotely operated vehicle to investigate.

The SS Athenia was launched in 1923 for the Anchor-Donaldson Line, which later became the Donaldson Atlantic Line, and worked between the United Kingdom and the east coast of Canada until her sinking in 1939.

The sinking of the Athenia accounted for the Donaldson Line’s greatest single loss of life at sea. 117 civilian passengers and crew were killed with the sinking condemned as a war crime. The dead included 28 US citizens, leading Germany to fear that the US might react by joining the war on the side of the UK and France.