Margaret Ray Hodge and Jocelyn M. Hodge survivied the sinking of Athenia


My memory has deceived me. The diary of the Athenia sinking, a copy of which I have in my possession was that of a woman who lists her fiancé as Mr. Andrew Allan, the son of Reverend William Allan, and I'm sure you already have this document. If by some chance you don't, please email me and I'll forward it to you.

The girls, who are both alive and well, are Margaret Ray (Peggy) Hodge (b. 28 Sept. 1921), and Jocelyn M. (Joey) Hodge. ( b. Jun 1 1925). 

Mary (Wight Moffat) Hodge, their mother, was lost. Their father, Dr. William Ray Hodge, a leading medical researcher, died of pneumonia Sat. Nov. 2, 1924. He had been gassed in the trenches during WW I, a contributing factor in his death. (b. London, ON, 4 Mar 1890)


David Fleury

Here is Joey's account of the sinking, transcribed in 2000.

"The Athenia" by Jocelyn M. Lee, April 2000

Mary Hodge, my sister Peggy and I were on board the Athenia, a Donaldson Line ship - the same ship on which we had crossed the Atlantic a month earlier - and landed in Glasgow. It was Mother's plan to travel in Britain and then in Europe with us as she wanted very much to give us the same experience she had had when she and her mother traveled abroad. Mother had planned this trip to begin in September 1938, but friends were alarmed at the thought of her travelling with us at that time as the threat of war with Nazi Germany seemed great. Consequent1y Mother postponed the trip for a year, but in the autumn of 1939 she was determined to carry out her plan, as the Nazis had not yet ignited a European war. However, by the last week in August., when we were travelling in Scotland with Mother's friend Elsie Watt, (Elsie had rented a small car and taken us to see the Scottish Highlands), it became apparent that this time the Nazi aggression in Europe had become too grave a threat for Neville Chamberlain (then Prime Minister of Britain) to ignore, and Britain declared war on Germany, September 3rd. 1939.

I believe it was a Sunday, and a very beautiful day it was, the sun was shining and the Atlantic was serene. My sister Peggy had a cold and remained below deck in our cabin. Mother and I spent the day on deck walking, or reading in our deck chairs. Later in the early evening, it was not yet dark, Mother and I went below for dinner and began to enjoy what appeared to be a good meal. Within a half hour or so there was a tremendous THUD following which the dining room slanted peculiarly and there was a tinkling of broken glass (the overhead lights had shattered when the torpedo struck). Over the loudspeaker (or whatever that is called on ships) we were told to go straight to the lifeboat stations. There had been a lifeboat drill that morning, which Mother and I had attended, (Peggy remained below because of her cold). As I remember, we stopped at our cabin to pick up Peggy, but the cabin was empty so we proceeded to our station, hoping Peggy was already there. She was not, and Mother I am sure was very alarmed. We joined a crowd of people at the lifeboat station and we watched as the lifeboat was lowered, then we were helped to climb onto the rope 1adder, and so into the boat. It was evident as we pulled away that the lifeboat was densely packed with people - whether more than should have been in it I don't know.

By this time it was dark. Many people, including Mother, took a turn at one of the huge oars. Eventually a ship loomed in the darkness and our boat pulled alongside. Unhappily, probably because the lifeboat was overloaded, as the sailors on board the rescue ship attempted to pull our boat up to the deck level, our lifeboat capsized, and all on board were dumped into the sea.

This is where I lost Mother. In the dark night she disappeared. She was wearing a lifejacket, of course, but she couldn't swim. I swam around calling to her, but no answer. 10 days later, after landing in Halifax, I tried to describe to my uncle Ambrose the events leading up to her disappearance. He believed that, as she had high blood pressure, she had had a heart attack or stroke, and therefore drowned.

Later, probably only a short time later, I was pulled up into another lifeboat, and this one was soon (safely) pulled up the side of a Swedish yacht, "The Southern Cross", and from thence, sometime later still with other passengers I was transferred to the "City of Flint", a freighter out of Flint, Michigan. This freighter had been headlong home to Michigan, when (I suppose) it heard the SOS call, and stood by to take on some of the survivors. Eventually, I remember sitting on the floor of a cabin on the City of Flint, with other survivors, all of us in oil soaked clothing and a state of shock. After a time the Third Officer appeared. His name was Howard Dodge, and he came from Flint, Michigan. He suggested that another girl and I - (her name was Betty and she came from Montreal) might like a change of clothing. Of course any of the survivors would - our clothes were oil and salt caked. He took us below deck to the machine shop where he and his mate (can't remember his name but he was equally kind and helpful) provided us with clean dry clothes (their own) and a small pail of water for washing. All of this was like pure gold to us in our shipwrecked state. And they had rigged up canvas beds on little legs, and they told us we could sleep there if we wished - rather than in the crowded cabin. It was a kindness I'll never forget. In the machine shop all kinds of parts of machinery were hanging from the ceiling and day and night they clanked as the ship rocked, but the noise was music to Betty and me as we slept soundly at night.

Food on board had to be rationed carefully of course, but shortage of water was more serious. I remember helping with washing the dishes. We couldn't change the water, and when the dishes were done" the water was thick with uneaten food. I believe we were 10 days on board, and luckily we had no storms at sea during those days, nor were we torpedoed (as we were aboard a US vessel). And so we landed safely in Halifax harbour. My Uncle Ambrose Moffat, my mother's brother, was there to meet me. Unfortunately the list of survivors was not correct, and so Uncle Ambrose was expecting to meet his sister Mary, and I think it was a terrible shock for him to realize she had probably drowned. The lifeboat Peggy was in had transferred passengers to a ship en route to Glasgow. And so, Peggy arrived safely back in Scotland and was met by friends we had met on board the Athenia on our first ie transatlantic passenger planes. It took a long time - many hours longer than it now takes. And it must have been an extremely harrowing experience for Peggy.

Mother's second cousin, Moffat Dunlap, and his wife Peggy arrived in Halifax the next day. (Peggy had brought clean clothes, for Mother, which I put on after a bath in the hotel). The next day we all boarded the train for Toronto - I think it took two or three days. In Toronto I went to stay with Great Aunt Jessie Dunlap until I moved to live with Don and Mary Fraser and their family of three (Donnie, Nancy and Ian) in Wychwood Park (Toronto).

This happened because Mother had - perhaps years before - asked the Frasers in the event of her death, if Peggy and I were not yet adult - to take us into their family. (Don Fraser, and my father Ray Hodge, had gone all through University of Toronto medical school together and had graduated just as World War 1 began in Europe. Together they took ship for England, where they joined the Royal Army Medical Corps - there was as yet no Canadian Army Medical Corps. They returned safely to Canada at the end of the war, and remained close friends until Ray's death in November 1924). And so Peggy and I came to live with the Frasers. And we were loved and raised as if we were their own.

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