Athenia Survivor: Mrs. Kate Williams of Victoria, BC - deceased

August 28, 2012


I have recently begun to consolidate collected historic facts from the Williams (and Martin) line of our family genealogy. It has been long known and documented within our family that my great grandmother Mrs. Kate Williams (nee Martin), of Victoria, British Columbia Canada (born Surrey England) was a survivor of the sinking of the Athenia, September 3, 1939.

She was returning to Canada following a visit to family in England subsequent to the death of her husband (Mr. Ernest Allen Williams) earlier that decade.

Like you and many others, I have continued to research the documentation from all sources in an effort to determine exactly which vessel rescued her, and where she spent her convalescence.  Sadly, since she is long deceased along with her surviving daughter and granddaughters, we may never know that point of historic fact.  I can only confirm that she was neither rescued by the City of Flint nor the Knute Nelson.

I have been examining your site and that of secondworldwar.org.uk over the last number of days, and next year will travel to the UK to do a final check of PRO files and any surviving logs of HMS Escort, Electra and Fame in a final ditch effort to determine her rescuers.

In the interim however, I do have scanned copies of newspaper articles from both Victoria BC and Seattle Washington interviewing my great grandmother and other survivors from Seattle. These I will package in PDF format and subsequently forward to you for display in your Ahoy site.

Since many of the Athenia letters and articles on your site portray feats of personal strength and endurance during that ordeal, I will offer your readers the following verbal documentation of Kate Williams’ own personal feat of endurance and compassion.  In all her years following the tragedy, she never spoke of the ordeal, save this one incident.

At the time of the sinking, Kate Williams was 66 years of age. (As summarized from an oral communication of Mrs. Kate Williams to her daughter, Mrs. Gladys Dawkins, circa 1950):

 As our lifeboat was released into the water alongside the Athenia, I saw a young girl splash into the water some distance from the lifeboat. Her lifejacket brought her to the surface and she started to thrash wildly in an attempt to reach our boat. She managed to grasp the rope on the side of the boat just where I was seated. But because the boat was full, and the weight of her clothes prevented her from scrambling over the edge, I feared the cold water would take what strength she had left, she would let go of the rope and be lost from any hope of rescue. Without thought, I did the one thing I believed would save her from such a fate. I grabbed her long hair, entwining my hand in it, and vowed not to let go until we were rescued. After holding her this way for some considerable length of time, those around me in the boat managed to adjust their seating in such a way that a sufficient space was made to bring her into the boat. With the help of two other women in the boat, we managed to drag her over the side, and she spent the remaining hours until rescue huddled between myself and the passenger beside me, shivering and utterly devoid of conversation. I never learned her name.

Larry Stanley MA, RPF
Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Canada
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Dear Larry,

My thanks for your mail .

I am surprised that so many survivor stories are still surfacing so far on from the tragic sinking of Athenia.

I also cannot understand why a consolidated list of survivors picked up by the three British destroyers and taken to Scotland has never been published.

I look forward to your package to add to our Athenia Pages on AHOY.

Best wishes from Australia.


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