Original Marconi grams that I have concerning the sinking of the SS Athenia

January 22, 2009


You might have heard of this already, but I recently featured on an edition of the BBC’s Antique Roadshow programme from Belfast in Northern Ireland. I brought along to it the original Marconi grams that I have concerning the sinking of the SS Athenia. My Grandfather, James McClelland, was the captain of the Southern Cross that came to the rescue of the passengers and crew of the SS Athenia. I have the original SOS message and his responses plus telegrams to the Merchant Navy advising them of the outbreak of war. I was advised that they were important historical documents proving that the Athenia had been torpedoed by a U-boat that the Germans subsequently tried to cover up. The Imperial War Museum in London wants to borrow them for an exhibition commemorating the start of WWII and I have just received a letter from the daughter of the actual radio officer who sent the original SOS from the Athenia that my grandfather’s ship subsequently picked up.

If you are interested, I could scan the telegrams and send them to you for use on your site.



Greg McClelland

Northern Ireland

Dear Greg,

You have indeed some very historical documents relating to the sinking of ATHENIA and rescue of her survivors.

I would love to have copies please and thank you for your generous offer to share your treasures, so we may add them to AHOY.

I was aware of the IWM holding an exhibition in this the 70th. anniversary of that tragic sinking, and the start of WW2, as they have been in touch with me about their proposed exhibition.

Best regards,

Dear Mac (or should I say G’Day!)

Thanks for this – Since the programme was broadcast, I have been amazed with the responses I have received and also it is quite scary when you delve into the history of the owner of the Southern Cross, Axel Wenner Gren who owned Electrolux and Bofors, and discover his Nazi leanings!

I have attached a few of the telegrams for you to use on your web site if you wish.  It may be worthwhile to watermark them as I now realisethere is a substantial monetary value attached to them!

Athenia Telegram

Athenia Telegram

Southern Cross

If you want any more information, please get in touch

Best regards,


Thank you for the Marconi Gram copies, indeed a fascinating record of an amazing event on day one of WW2.

My webmaster Terry Kearns in Atlanta Georgia is also suitably impressed, and also adds his thank you.

We will add them to the AHOY Athenia Pages.

Best regards,

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