Thomas Graham’s Diary – 4th September 1939

The day after war has been officially been declared by Britain, Thomas responds to the news that the passenger liner ‘Athenia’ had been suck by a German U-boat.

The S.S Athenia was a passenger liner built by Fairfields in Glasgow. It was designed for transatlantic voyages and despite the impending threat of war, it set out on 1st September 1939 from Glasgow via Liverpool to take passengers to Montreal.

With over 1000 passengers on board, the boat was spotted by a German U-boat 70 miles south of Rockall. After tracking the vessel for three hours, the U-boat was ordered to fire at the vessel. Athenia managed to stay afloat for 14 hours allowing several passing ships to rescue the majority of those on board. Of the 1418 on board, 117 were killed in the incident.

The actions of the German U-boat were reckless and rallied Canada to war. Thomas, however, reported that ‘Rosevelt had proclaimed American neutrality’. The sinking of the vessel was a clumsy move by Germany and in order to cover itself, reports began to circulate that Britain may have been behind the sinking in order to force their potential allies to war.

Thomas continues his entry by writing that he has begun to dig shelter trenches outside his house. He expects air raids to happen and wants to be prepared when they do.

Thomas finishes this entry with concerns that the A.R.P arrangements for the area are inadequate and dangerous. Thomas remarks that he has to be near his telephone all day and night in case he receives from Gartmore Police. As Head Warden for the area, he would then need to pass the warning on to Cardross via telephone. Thomas, however, remarks that he is ‘as deaf as a haddock’ and hardly ever hears the phone during the day!